Holy moly. After nearly a month-long dry spell of not writing anything new (the DeiTobis I posted were all written previously), I produced this piece. And NaruSaku, too! I know it's not an update of Festival, and I'm sorry about that. As I'm sure you've all realized, I am the worst updater on the planet. (That's why I like oneshots.) Anyhow, this was inspired by the holiday. As always, I hope everyone enjoys!
"Naruto…did you boil those eggs first?"
Judging from the guilty look he shot her, complete with a healthy blush that spread to the roots of his hair, her teammate had been so eager to dye the eggs that cooking them didn't even cross his mind.
"Oh, Naruto." Shaking her head, Sakura grinned and walked the rest of the way into his tiny apartment, closing the door behind her. She nudged a pile of weeks-old (and unopened) mail and a few instant ramen containers out of the way with her forearm and set a bulging brown paper bag on the counter. "You're not supposed to color them raw. What if one of them cracks in the dye?"
After a brief period of silence while he processed this information, he made a defeated noise, and when she peeked over her shoulder at him his head was bowed.
"I hadn't thought of that," he said gloomily, eyeing the paper towel he'd spread out on the kitchen table for the eggs to dry on. So far, he'd only managed to dye two of them, though more of the dye wound up on his fingers than the eggs.
Sakura bit her lip to ward off laughter and began unloading the contents of the bag, reminding herself that, unlike her, Naruto's childhood hadn't included family-oriented activities like coloring eggs. Which was why she suggested making baskets together for their friends and Kakashi-sensei. Of course, the eggs wouldn't go in the baskets. Those were something fun for the two of them.
"I know," she said, stacking boxes of hollow chocolate bunnies next to bags of jellybeans. "But it isn't the end of the world. Fill a pot with water and put it on the stove, would you? A big one."
"Sure, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, sounding both relieved and pleased. He'd probably expected her to yell at him. Sakura was known to do that on occasion.
She still yelled at him if he rubbed her the wrong way, and sometimes she used her fists to vent, but things change when you grow older. Opinions change. Absence makes the heart and all that. She really missed Naruto during the three years they were apart, missed his stupid jokes and his cheeky attitude and his unshakable confidence.
In other words, she missed her friend.
"Look what I found."
At the sink, Naruto swiveled his head in her direction. Sakura held out a candy dispenser shaped like a pug. He cackled.
"Hey, it's Pakkun! Kakashi-sensei's gonna love that."
Kakashi technically wasn't their sensei anymore, but it was awkward to refer to him as just Kakashi.
They were his team. Team 7. They would always be his team. Naruto, Sakura….
"Mm. There were a bunch of different kinds. I got one for Kiba, too." She put the pug down and dug around in the bag for the dog that sort of resembled Akamaru.
Naruto grinned when he saw it. "I like this." He turned off the tap and carried the full pot carefully across the kitchen to set on the stove's front burner. "Doing things for people you care about. It feels good."
The statement was so childlike Sakura couldn't help but laugh.
"It's even better that you're here to help me, Sakura-chan" he continued, sidling up to her and leering.
She gave him a long, level look, then slapped her hand over his face and shoved. Lightly.
A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Sure, she enjoyed knowing her presence was desirable by someone, though she wasn't going to tell him that.
He had a lot to learn about women. Better to let him do it the hard way.
"Ouch," he grumbled once he recovered his balance. His forehead and nose were red.
Sakura beamed at him.
"Serves you right," she said, and turned back to unload the rest of the bag. "Watch the water."
He'd thank her someday, for treating his education with such meticulous care.
As soon as the water boiled, Sakura showed Naruto how to cook the eggs, and she put them in a bowl to cool in the fridge afterward.
"Want to work on the baskets while we wait?" Sakura motioned to the candy on the counter. "The eggs should be ready when we're finished."
Naruto went into his room and brought out the baskets Sakura had dropped off that morning, and they got started, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor.
Assembling the baskets took a bit longer than she anticipated, partly because Naruto kept goofing around with the candy dispensers and the plastic grass meant to line the baskets. His playfulness didn't last, however.
"There aren't enough."
"There aren't enough baskets."
Sakura's chest tightened.
They had a basket for Tsunade-shishou, Iruka, Kakashi-sensei, Kurenai, Konohamaru and his gang, Lee, Tenten, Neji, and, excluding themselves, every member of the Rookie Nine…but one.
She'd hoped, irrationally, he wouldn't notice. She knew perfectly well when she bought the baskets that she was leaving one out. And it had hurt. It had hurt worse than any physical wound she'd ever received.
"It hurts worse for you, doesn't it?" she whispered.
Sakura had no siblings, no brothers. She couldn't imagine what it was like to lose one. Especially if that brother was the brother of your soul, and he had chosen to sever the bond that tied you to each other.
Naruto tried to hide it behind smiles, but Sakura wasn't stupid. She saw how bruised he was, how heartsick. He would get Sasuke back, because he'd die if he failed. She knew that. But she hadn't been prepared to face it, hadn't wanted to.
No choice, now.
Scooting forward, Sakura reached out and took both of his hands. They were cold. She rubbed them.
He blinked, his eyes slowly traveling up from the ground to look into hers.
She smiled shakily.
"He'll be with us next year, and we'll make him a basket."
Naruto's fingers closed around hers. "How do you know?"
There were many things she could've said, soothing things, meaningless things.
Instead, she said what she knew.
"His brother is Uzumaki Naruto."
They stared at one another.
"Sakura-chan, c-can I put my head on your shoulder?"
He hiccupped. Male for, "I'm trying not to cry, so please let me save face, here."
She released his hands and opened her arms. "Go ahead." She'd cry later, when she was alone. It upset him to see her crying.
And later, it turned out, would be tomorrow. She didn't think she'd be going home tonight. They still had eggs to color, after all, and it'd be a long time before Naruto relinquished her shoulder.