Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Moving Past Grief
The four of us (five including the dog) sat quietly around the campfire, staring vacantly into the flames. We had just successfully completed yet another assassination. That was how it was in anbu, one assassination to the next. Though this mission hadn't been an anbu ranked mission but a jounin, so we didn't have to worry about those damn stupid masks. The three guys sat around in the blue shirt, green vest and blue pants that were the uniform. Me, I was stubborn like Kurenai-sensei had been way back when; I was wearing a black clan shirt, my medic skirt and black shorts, just like my chuunin days.
The four of us had been a team for two years now, we were all really close. Hell, we even lived together. Most of the village thought that I was a whore and that I went from one guy to the next. But that wasn't the case, we all had separate rooms that we slept in alone (unless someone was brought over; Kiba is a total womanizer who gives Genma a run for his money). Not that I wouldn't mind living up to the reputation, but it would mess with team dynamics. It was a good thing that we were on a team because I could never chose between the three of them, this way I chose no one.
"I am going to go smoke," Nara Shikamaru said getting up and reaching into his pocket pulling out a pack and a lighter; the lighter.
"Don't go too far," Hyuuga Neji, our team captain said with a curt nod.
"And don't be long," Inuzuka Kiba added, "We still need to assign guard duty for the night."
Shikamaru just nodded shortly as he headed into the woods away from us.
I just watched him go sadly, someone needed to stop this. But no one wanted to get involved, since they felt they had no right to interfere. But it had been four years now, this wasn't healthy at all, in more than just the physical sense.
"Someone really needs to talk to him about that," I said shortly.
"It is not our place to interfere," Neji pointed out.
"We are his team and his friends," I retaliated, "If we don't who will?"
"But Sakura," Kiba said, "It is just his way of cooping with what happened. Just like Kakashi and the monument."
The name Kakashi left a sharp pain in my chest. No one except my former teammates Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke knew that I hadn't seen or spoken to our former leader Hatake Kakashi in four years. Right after the same incident that started Shikamaru's nightly smokes. If only I had been there, I might have been able to do something to save him. Shikamaru, Yamanaka (or Akimichi now) Ino, and Akimichi Chouji had all been inconsolable for the longest time. So had Yuuhi Kurenai, Maito Gai, Genma, Anko and Kakashi. The rest of us had felt the pain as well, though not as acutely as his former team and friends. To the rest of the village, it was just another name on the memorial.
I slowly got up, "Well I am going to talk to him," I said shortly.
"Sakura, you know how he gets when you mention…him," Kiba pointed out.
"Someone needs to," I said, "He needs to move on."
"Scream when he tries to kill you," Neji said shortly.
"Funny Neji," I muttered as I began to head in the direction that Shikamaru had disappeared in. Though Neji was probably right, he was more likely than not going to attack me when I brought up his old sensei.
It was really stupid of me to do this; you think I would have learned my lesson the first time I tried to interfere with a man and his ritual suicides.
It took me five minutes, but I finally found him, sitting on a log near a stream. He was a pretty good distance from camp, despite Neji's orders.
"Hey Shika," I said softly as I approached and stopped about ten feet behind him. I looked and saw the already lit cigarette in between his fingers as his hand rested on the log as he leaned back some to help sturdy himself.
"What are you doing out here Sakura?" he asked shortly.
"I wanted to talk to you," I said uneasily, taking a couple small steps forward.
"Can't it wait till I am done?" he asked putting the cigarette to his lips and taking a long drag.
I watched in silence as I saw the smoke snake its way up towards the full moon. "That is what I wanted to talk to you about," I confessed.
"Really?" he said shortly.
"Shikamaru, it is not a healthy habit," I told him.
He just kept his gaze in front of himself, towards the water.
"You know better than most people that smoking is a deadly habit," I told him.
"Hump," was his reply.
"Perhaps, it is time to quit. It really isn't good for you," I suggested timidly.
"The smoking or the reason why I am smoking?" he asked shortly.
He was the genius of the village after all.
"The reason why is what concerns me the most," I said.
He took another drag.
"Shika, there are other ways to deal with what happened. This is not healthy. I am not saying that you need to quit grieving, but perhaps you need to find a healthier way of going about it," I said.
He took one last drag and stood up and flicked the butt off to his right.
"Well I am done, let's head back now," he said slowly turning around.
I could tell in the bright moonlight that his eyes were red, from tears or smoke, I couldn't tell. "I am not done yet," I told him.
"Well I will meet you back at camp then," he said as he started to head back.
I quickly reached out and grabbed his right forearm. "Asuma-sensei.."
"Don't mention him to me!" he snapped pulling his arm away from me.
"He wouldn't want this from you," I told him.
"How would you know!?" he snapped, "You didn't know him."
"I know that he cared for you three like you were his family," I said, "And I know that no one wants to see their loved ones suffer."
He began to walk past me again.
"Shikamaru," I said reaching out to him.
He backhanded my hand away violently, "You don't understand how I feel!" he snapped and glared at me, his eyes full of hate now. "You still have Tsunade and Kakashi!"
"Right, I still have Kakashi," I said shortly. "You know what, forget that I said anything! I should have learned the first time that it was stupid to care about men and their need to kill themselves!"
I turned on my heel and headed towards the river. I was so angry that I wanted to destroy something. I clenched my fist tightly, luckily I had on gloves to prevent me from breaking the skin and drawing blood.
I could sense that he was still here. He must be pondering how troublesome it would be to enquire about my comment.
"Just go on and head back to camp," I said shortly, "I don't give a damn anymore."
I thought that he would have felt absolved from having to talk to me or care about what was going on, but instead it appeared to have the opposite effect on him. I heard him sigh as he came over and stood about five feet behind me.
"What did you mean, you should have learned the first time?" he asked.
"It is none of your damn business," I said shortly.
"You brought it up and made it my business, especially since you said it in regards to me," He said, "Does this have to do with Kakashi? Did something happen that you never told me about?"
"You said I don't know how you feel, that I still have my senseis," I said shortly.
"Yes," he said shortly waiting for the point.
"Well I don't have both of them," I snapped, "I have been dead to Kakashi for four years now."
"What happened?" he asked.
"Your sensei died," I said shortly. I turned around and began to head back to camp.
"You are still alive," Kiba pointed out the obvious when I stepped into the clearing, "We were about to come and retrieve your body."
"Didn't really get the chance to talk to him," I said shortly, "He refuses to talk about it at all."
Neji was studying me closely, "You are ok right?" he asked.
"Just fine," I said shortly.
"I can tell that you are really upset about something," he pointed out.
"You try talking to him about Asuma-sensei and we'll see if you are upset afterwards," I said shortly.
"I imagine it is like talking to Kiba about Kurenai-sensei," Neji mused.
Kiba let out a low growl, "We are not going to talk about her. The issue is Nara and…" he trailed off when he saw Shikamaru appear.
They both noticed that he was pissed as hell two, but they had already figured that that would happen.
"Let's assign guard duty for the night," Neji said.
Two days later.
"I don't know why I bothered," I muttered to Ino.
"Him and sensei were really close," Ino said softly. Asuma was still a slightly taboo term for her and Chouji, but they could talk about him now and they weren't killing themselves over his death.
"I thought that maybe if he realized that we all still cared about him and what he was doing to himself, he might at least consider what he is doing to himself," I rambled on.
"He is just like Kakashi and the monument," Ino pointed out, "Everyone knows he goes there everyday and stands there for an hour or more. People just grieve in different ways and it is silly to try to make them change."
"You are right," I sighed as I stared down at my drink. The two of us had met up in a bar that was frequented by a lot of the shinobi of Konoha, including Kakashi. In fact he was sitting at a table with Gai, Genma, Anko, and Iruka. To this day, I still keep expecting Asuma and Kurenai to approach their table with apologies over being late.
"To think," I began, "Life would have been so much simpler if we had decided to become models like we dreamed of when we were little."
"I'd miss being able to eat," Ino joked.
"That's what you get for marrying Chouji," I smirked, "And when am I going to get a little niece or nephew?"
"Not for another year or two," she said, "I am not quite ready to retire."
"You know, some women still remain kunoichis after they have kids," I pointed out to her.
"About three percent," she filled in the rest of the fact.
"You and Tenten would make four percent," I teased.
"Yeah but she is going to take a two or three year maternity leave once she has Lee jr." Ino reminded me, "How much time does she have left?"
"She is seven months in," I said with a sigh.
"Forehead, we need to get you a man," she sighed.
"I have three haven't you heard, I go back and forth," I mocked the rest of the village.
"I know damn well that you don't, so don't try to lie to me," Ino said pointing a finger at me. "What about Sasuke-kun? Didn't he ask you to help him revive his clan recently?"
"Yeah, but I don't want to play housewife to Sasuke," I sighed, "Whoever marries him is doomed to spend the rest of her life barefoot and pregnant at home raising the kids."
"Why do you have a problem with that?" Ino asked.
"I am a medic and a kunoichi of Konoha," I said, "My duty is to the village first."
"God, you sound just like Asuma when we asked him why he hadn't married Kurenai," Ino said sadly.
"I won't…" I was going to say end up like him, but I couldn't bring myself to finish the sentence.
"Well, let's at least get you laid," Ino said as she began to look around the bar. Her eyes rested on a table I wish they wouldn't have, "How about Kakashi, sure he is fourteen years older than you, and used to be your sensei, but he is hot."
"There is no way, move along," I told her.
"How about Genma?" she suggested, "He is legendary."
"I would rather do Kiba," I said shortly.
"Why don't you?" she asked.
"It would mess with team dynamics," I told her.
"So it is Kiba you like?" she said with a raised eyebrow.
"And Neji and Shika," I sighed, "You know I can't decide between them."
"Just draw a name out of a hat," Ino suggested.
"Team dynamics," I reminded her.
"There is more in life than team dynamics," she said, "Just request to be on a different team."
"I couldn't do that," I said horrified, "We have a really good team going."
"Then just do all three of them like the rumor says," Ino groaned as she rolled her eyes.
"That would make me a whore," I argued.
"That is it," Ino huffed flailing her arms around, "I give up."
A burst of fresh air swept across the room as someone opened the door.
"Chouji-kun! Shikamaru!" Ino cried jumping up and waving them down, "Come on and join forehead and me!"
The two sauntered on over and Ino jumped up and gave Chouji a kiss.
Shikamaru sat down next to me, while Chouji was next to Ino of course.
"So what were you two talking about?" Chouji asked.
"Trying to get forehead laid," Ino blurted out.
I turned bright red as I smacked my forehead in embarrassment. "Pig, you have way too big of a mouth," I muttered.
"And you are way too picky," Ino huffed.
Chouji looked around the room, "There is Kakashi, I hear he is good," he said.
We all looked at him skeptically, wondering how he heard.
"I am not getting with my former sensei," I muttered.
"Well you should at least go over and say hi to him," Ino pointed out.
"Maybe later," I muttered as I began to take a drink.
"Come to think of it Sakura, I haven't seen you two talk in a long time," Chouji pointed out.
I just took another drink, "Perhaps I should get going," I said. I noticed that I had to get past Shikamaru to get out of the booth, and he was in the process of reclining back.
"How about Genma then?" Chouji shrugged.
"No, she said she would rather do Kiba if she was going to go the easy and womanizing route," Ino told them.
"Why not Kiba then?" Chouji asked.
I could sense that Shikamaru was getting tense next to me. "Don't want to compromise team dynamics," I said.
"You know the whole village thinks that you are passed off between your teammates," Chouji said.
"We all use separate rooms," I muttered.
"You know that just about every woman in the village wishes she was you," Ino said.
"Can't imagine why," I muttered pouring myself some more sake to drink.
"Cause you live with three hot guys," Ino reminded me.
"Can we move on?" Shikamaru asked shortly.
"Right, two hot guys and a lazy bastard," Ino corrected.
Chouji was still looking around the room, "How about that guy? He would make a good one nightstand," he said.
"I think I am going to take Sakura home now," Shikamaru said getting up and pulling me up as well by my arm, "It has been fun," he muttered before he dragged me out of the bar.
"Well that was masterful," I muttered as we stepped outside.
"I wanted to talk to you," he said.
"What now?" I asked.
"What did you mean the other night about Kakashi?" he asked crossing his arms over his chest as we began to walk home.
"It is nothing," I muttered.
"I haven't seen the two of you together in a long time," he pointed out, "What happened?"
"I told you, your sensei died," I spat.
"That doesn't explain why there is something going on between you and yours," he said.
"It is none of your business," I spat.
"You are my friend and teammate, I am concerned about your welfare," he said.
"Then take my advice and never try to get involved in someone else's affairs and grief," I muttered and teleported out of there.
The down side of living with a guy that you want to avoid, is that they live in the same place you do, so it is hard to avoid him.
I had gone home, having nothing better to do. Neji was over at the compound tonight and Kiba was out philandering. I huffed as I went over to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water out. As I turned around I was suddenly pinned by an arm on either side of my head, to the fridge.
"What?" I huffed.
"Tell me about you and Kakashi," Shikamaru ordered.
"I told you," I began.
"I don't want to hear that crap!" he snapped, "Do I need to go and talk to that moron teammate of yours?"
"Naruto doesn't know the whole story," I pointed out.
"Well he knows more than I do," he began to move closer so that his body was now touching mine.
"All he knows is that we aren't talking anymore," I said shortly, "There now you know more then him because at least you know the reason why."
"That doesn't make sense," he snapped.
"Your sensei died and mine grieved," I said shortly.
"Let me guess, you thought that what he was doing wasn't healthy and tried to talk to him," Shikamaru said shortly, "Which is why you said you should have learned the first time."
"What is it with men and their self destructive ways to grieve over their loved ones!" I snapped angrily, tears in my eyes.
"It is the only way we know how to deal," he said shortly.
"But don't you realize that your hurting everyone else," I snapped.
"It is not intentional," he said moving away.
"Don't you realize how much it hurts us to see you go off and smoke every night and to be too scared to say anything to you because we know that you are still grieving and don't want to upset you?" I snapped. "Everyone is worried about you Shika! It has been four years since Asuma died," he began to walk away from me. I grabbed his arm and held on so tightly that I knew his arm was bruising. "You are going to hear me out this time," I said shortly.
He just glared at me.
I reached into his pocket and pulled out his cigarettes, "These are not healthy!" I snapped waving them in his face before I threw them on the ground, "And neither is this routine that you have developed. Asuma-sensei died! It sucks and it's not fair, but that is how life goes sometimes. You cannot live in the past mourning and cut yourself off emotionally from everyone. What is next, a mask and a visit to the memorial everyday!?"
He tried to yank his arm away from mine, but I was not about to let go.
"Do you think that you are the only one who has ever lost someone?!" I snapped, "What about Tsunade-shishou? She lost her brother and lover and she is Hokage now. What about Kiba, Hinata and Shino? They had to watch as Kurenai let herself be killed! It is about time you moved on and started living in the present with the people who are still here and love you!"
He yanked out a kunai. He looked from my hand on his arm to my face.
"This is what it comes to?" I asked shortly, "You attack someone who is trying to help you and cares about you?" I paused for a second as I stared up into his eyes, "You don't have to forget about Asuma-sensei, but don't forget about the rest of us here that still love you and are worried about you."
He lowered his gaze so I couldn't see his eyes.
His other hand grabbed a handful of my shirt and shoved me harshly back into the fridge. I cried out, momentarily startled. But my cry was hushed as his mouth came crashing down on mine. I was startled for a good thirty seconds before I realized that his tongue was now in my mouth, and began to kiss him back.
The kunai in his hand that had been threatening me before, turned out to have only been a threat to my clothes as they were cut off.
I woke up later that night naked in his bed. I stared at the ceiling for a moment, blushing as I remembered the incredibly hot sex we had just had. Screw team dynamics is all I will say.
I looked to the side and saw him sitting on the edge of the bed naked as well. Sitting up I saw that he had the lighter in his hand. He kept flicking it, but all he was getting was sparks. I crawled over on my knees and stopped right behind him. I slowly reached out and touched his shoulder. My hand slowly slid down his arm and rested on his hand, stilling his movements and closing the lighter.
"Four years," he muttered.
"Humph?" I asked resting my chin on his shoulder.
"Four years and tonight it runs out of fluid," he said.
I slowly took the lighter from his hand and placed it on his nightstand, "Let it stay empty then," I said softly as I wrapped my arms around him, "It is Asuma's way of telling you to move on."
He leaned back into my arms.
"Thank you," he said softly.
"What for?" I asked.
"Caring about me," he said turning around in my arms. He began to kiss me again as he slowly lowered us onto the bed.