A/N: Just something written to blow off some confused feelings I have toward chapter 355 of Naruto… Nothing more. I'm neither proud nor disappointed in this oneshot. Frankly, I can't find the will to care anymore.
They had called it "Naruto's Row." Always his row. Inside of the Konoha Library, it was always that one row that was never occupied by anyone except for Naruto. It was situated in the very back of the library, where there was never too many people.
Uzumaki Naruto, age four.
He used to sit in that row and read all the time. Once he walked into the library, patrons would move out of that row.
In the very beginning, they moved out because they hated that boy. Such bright hair, such bright eyes, such a bright smile. Too bright, too obnoxious. They hated him. And he never understood why. But everyday, he would go into that row and read. He always leaned against the shelves and crossed his legs, reading. Always a meter away to the right of the center of the row.
Then one day, another boy walked into the row and sat down. He sat down diagonally across from Naruto. Always a meter away to the left of the center of the row. The boy had been puzzled at first. Nobody ever wanted to sit near him. That very first day that the boy sat down, Naruto found himself very distracted.
He kept asking himself, "Why is he here?" He observed the boy for a very long time, failing to hide his curiosity and spying when he dropped his scroll onto his lap and just stared. He was a strange boy, so pale and quiet, as if he had a sickly life. But he didn't appear sick. He was strong and defiant.
At first, Naruto nearly laughed at his strange hair, which stuck out at the back, just like a chicken's rear end. It appeared to be very dark, but in the fluorescent lights of the library, they shone blue. The blackest eyes scanned the pages of his scroll, and he did not appear to notice Naruto's presence.
The blond had thought that it was going to be a one-time only sort of event. Just that one day, and the next day, the boy would be gone. But he wasn't.
When Naruto had plopped himself down the very next day, he began to read, his mind not lingering on the mysterious boy any more. But suddenly, a shadow passed by him and situated himself a meter away from him. Always diagonally, always face-to-face. Always, always.
Soon, Naruto learned to accept that presence, although he never asked for his name. He didn't have to. After all, it was the oh-so-popular Uchiha Sasuke who had sat down across from him. Naruto didn't like him all that much. Always the stick in the mud.
So several years passed and now he was seven.
He had entered the Academy already, and he had been able to learn more about Sasuke. He grew to dislike the boy who excelled in everything. He, so perfect, did not seem to care. To Naruto it was so annoying. No matter how hard he trained, he could not achieve that level of strength and accuracy. He hated Sasuke.
But he still went to the library, even though he had finished all the books in that row. He still sat there, and people still avoided him. All except for the ever so silent Uchiha Sasuke. For someone whom he hated so much, Sasuke didn't seem to be too bad of a guy.
Then there was one day when Naruto sat down on the floor and began to read. But as the hours passed, his reading buddy did not appear. He was confused. Did that mean that Sasuke had finally grown to realize that Naruto was not fun to be with and left him? He grew to be very depressed. Or as depressed as a seven-year-old could have gotten.
But the next day he was walking to the Academy, he heard rumors. Terrible rumors. The Uchiha family had been killed, all except for Sasuke. At first, Naruto did not believe it. That's stupid, he had thought. But his doubts were confirmed when he entered the classroom and saw a dead looking Sasuke. All of his usual primness was drained from him. And it was then when Naruto felt a pang of pity for the boy.
Many weeks passed before Sasuke returned to the library, but often he would just sit there with his arms wrapped around his knees, staring at the books in front of him. And again, it distracted Naruto. To have such a sad looking boy sitting right across from him made Naruto feel distressed, but he made no move to comfort the boy.
Even more time passed, and coincidentally, they found themselves in Team Seven. They fought and bickered, punched and kicked, yelled and spat, hated and hated. But they still went to the library. And it was still that same row. And it was always that same spot. Always a meter away, always diagonally, always to Naruto's left, always face-to-face.
Now, patrons would still move out of their way when one of them entered the row, but now it was out of respect. Ever since they were four, they had claimed the row. Somewhere between then and now, they changed the name to "Naruto's Row" to "Naruto and Sasuke's Row."
It was humorous actually. If someone asked for a specific row, the librarian may answer, "Oh that? It should be in Naruto and Sasuke's row…" and everyone would know where it was. Because there were always there, reading silently, ignoring each other, yet acknowledging each other.
There was a time period when Naruto entered his crazy hormonal stages of life, when once again, Sasuke became a distraction. He kept finding himself peering over the edge of his book or scroll just to look at the young boy. Always staring at his lowered eyes, meticulously scanning over the words and lines. Sometimes, Naruto discovered, Sasuke would even move his lips to read the words. And he would never finish the scroll he was reading.
One day, Sasuke finally became fed up with Naruto's staring and looked up from his book, staring straight at Naruto.
"Distracted much?" he scowled.
"What makes you think that, teme?" Naruto whispered feverently, embarrassed at the sudden question.
Sasuk rolled his eyes. "Your book is upside down, dobe," he lifted his hand with too much grace and carelessly pointed at the book.
And the boy could do nothing but to look away quickly, trying not to humiliate himself further.
A day passed when suddenly, patrons of the library were interrupted from their quiet activities when two very angry boys argued somewhat loudly in their row. The entire argument was done in loud and harsh whispers, but it was still distracting enough.
Nobody heard the beginning of it, but they certainly heard the end.
"Shut up, teme!" Naruto half-whispered, half-shouted.
"Oh, yes, just demand me to shut up, like you have the power to!" Sasuke hissed back.
The blond grew indignant and retorted, "I have everything to stop you!"
"You have nothing!"
There was a short pause.
"No, Sasuke. You have nothing."
And with that, Naruto stood up and left silently, fuming.
It was a double-edged sword. Yes, it was effective in hurting Sasuke by reminding him of his loner status. No friends, no family. Nothing, no one.
But after he had said it, Naruto felt so guilty. But he never apologized. He felt sick and terrible after he said it. But still, he refused to apologize.
Then so much happened, and soon, it was once again "Naruto's Row." Only Naruto. Sasuke had left. Naruto had failed in keeping him in Konoha.
For a long while, it was nobody's row. It was empty and lonely. When Naruto returned, he sat down and buried his head into his hands. Day after day, he sat down like that. Sometimes, if Sakura, Kakashi, Jiraiya, or Tsunade went looking for him, they would find himself sitting with his eyes covered with his hands and a crumpled piece of paper placed on the floor. Always a meter to the left of the center of the row. Always with the three characters which spelled out "Sa-Su-Ke."
But times passed and for two and a half years, it was nobody's row again. Naruto was gone. Sasuke was gone. And none of the library patrons felt right going into that row. Even newcomers to the library avoided that row, feeling as if there was something special about it that would not accept them. Only two people, but they were both gone.
When Naruto returned to the library, he immediately went to his row and looked at it, filled with nostalgia. He ran his hands over the low shelves, going straight to the middle of it. No, not quite the middle. A meter away from the middle, always to the right. Not quite the middle. He crouched down there and stayed there for an entire day before he stood up and left.
From that day on, he would pick out an appropriate book or scroll he was interested in and sit back down. It was an odd sight, to see a nearly grown man sitting there, reading in that row. A row filled with children's book. But it was once again his row. And if you ever went into that row when he was not there, and you peered at the wood on the shelves, you could have been able to find a small carving on the once-shiny surface.
Sa. Su. Ke. A meter to the left of the center of the row.
When Sasuke miraculously returned from his crazy adventures, Naruto didn't seem to pay attention to him any more, inside or outside of the library. He seemed broken, as if Sasuke had betrayed him. And he had. He did.
He never expected Sasuke to return to their row again. He expected him not to dare to go there. It was his special place now, and he had silently banned Sasuke from that place. But Sasuke dared to go there. A meter to the left of the center of the row. Right there, just like before. He waited.
Naruto had been looking for a suitable book for himself to read, and when he found it, he slowly walked toward his row. His mind was filled with complex thoughts and he knew that the book in his hand would never be finished at that rate. He wondered if it was right for him to be angry at Sasuke. He wondered why he was so concerned with the boy. He wondered what was wrong with himself. And he stopped wondering when he turned into the row and saw who was sitting there.
Always a meter to the left of the center of the row. Always, always.
Sa. Su. Ke.
He immediately turned around to get out of the library, but he found that he could not move. He was frozen in place. Behind him, he heard Sasuke stand up slowly and walk toward him, his shoes crushing the plush carpet.
Naruto could feel his breath on his neck, and his body stiffened. His breath hitched when he felt Sasuke's right hand move along his hips, toward the front of his shirt, where he accidentally lifted up the cloth a bit, his fingers brushing against Naruto's stomach. The fabric fell again when Sasuke's hand moved up, eventually reaching the middle of his chest, where he grabbed a bunch of the fabric in his fist. He couldn't move, even when Sasuke's left arm snaked under his own arm and hugged his right shoulder. It was a strange hug. It certainly felt strange when Sasuke placed his forehead onto his shoulder and stood there, hugging an immobilized Naruto.
And he said it very quietly. Very, very quietly. So softly that no one but Naruto heard.
"I have something. I have you, Naruto…"