Title: Shadows on the Grave
Theme(s): 30deathfics LJ Community #22: Resemblance
Characters: Haruno Sakura, Uzumaki Naruto, Team 10
Rating: PG
Warnings: To be safe, spoilers up to Manga chapter 342.
Disclaimer: Kishimoto's characters and my words.
Summary: Inevitably, this grief, they will all one day partake in it.
From a distance, Sakura could imagine herself rather easily at that familiar stone slab. She could see her shadow falling into companionship with the hunched figures of the three already there. The scent of cigarette smoke wafted by so softly that it was like a ghost was standing by her side. Nobody was crying at the memorial, they were all quietly solemn and still. And while tears welled up in Sakura's own eyes in empathetic pain, she was also a little envious of her friends (even if she'd never wish this fate on anyone). They were still together and their pain bound them closer, this Sakura knew to be a fact. They still had something she had already lost, though they have just lost something she still had.

The sight of the battered teammates together brought only a soft, nostalgic pang to her heart - dulled by distance and circumstance.

From her place under the shades of the great bowed trees, Sakura imagined her shadow stretching next to Ino's, her hand on Ino's shoulder in warm comfort. It would never be. They didn't trust each other like they used to nor were they a part of each other's lives like when they were small... But Sakura imagined for a moment that she could still be a friend close enough to give comfort. She didn't need to, because on Ino's right, Shikamaru was still smoking a cigarette and on Ino's left Chouji was not carrying any form of food, for once, and just silently bowed his head at the name all three had been looking at. Their shadows stood by each others, sharing that bond built on trust and death and revenge fulfilled.

In this somber silence, a small, warm finger wrapped around her own limp pinkie and Sakura turned sharply. Her breath was in her throat, her eyes were bright and searching to the young man standing next to her. She had forgotten he was even there.

Naruto didn't speak or react and was surprisingly silent throughout her scrutiny. His usually wide and sunny expression was instead solemn and resolute. It didn't suit him. When Sakura saw this, she forced herself to relax her shoulders and turned back to observe their friends. This way he wouldn't notice her own worries and maybe, if she was strong enough for the both of them, he would smile a little sooner rather than later.

They watched as Team 10 completed the ritual, eyes following the trio as they slowly walk away. Their friends' small, broken conversations were formed and carried over to them by the wind. Finally, they were alone again.

"That won't be us," Naruto promised her as shadows and smoke and loss left imprints on his face before fading into sunlight. Life moved on with neither haste nor a backward glance. His smile had been forced, showing teeth when his eyes had quietly followed the backs of their friends and now his voice was rough with unspoken things. How much he believed in his own words then, Sakura would never know.

But even then, despite this fragile contact between them and, perhaps, because of their growing bond, Sakura didn't let Naruto go. She wouldn't let him go. Not even, when she admitted quietly beside him, her own denials and all the fears that she didn't have the courage to entertain.

"It won't," she promised back.