Do you notice when you don't talk to somebody that you were close with for a long time it's harder to strike up conversation with them than a casual acquaintance? With the casual acquaintance is easy to talk to, you ask simple questions and get simple answers. But that person you used to hold dear, it's impossible. You already know their deepest darkest secrets, their dreams, and most importantly what they think of you. So there is just awkward silence. You can't act as if the past few years didn't happen, and you were both there so you don't want to talk about the past few years either. You just stare and stare into his blue eyes and see he hates you, that his dreams are gone, he is empty, petty, and cynical. You wonder how much the rest of his face has changed, but you will probably never know since he is always wearing that infernal ANBU mask. You want to take his mask off and touch his face, and beg for forgiveness. You want to hold him and never let him go. But, no, he will turn to leave and you'll let him, just like all the other times when you passed by each other outside the Hokage's office.
Then as if it had moved on its own, Sakura's arm reached out and her hand seemed to be in on to the arms plan, because it grabbed his hand. Then when he swivels his head around to look at her, her neck betrays her as well, and movers her head to look at him. They stare, and stare. He then breaks the silence they have held for 3 long years.
"What do you want Haruno-san?" His voice is brutally mono-tone. There is no cheerfulness, no immaturity, and worst of all there is no Sakura-chan.
She doesn't know how to answer his question. What does she want? She thought she knew at one point. She wanted to be a kunoichi, she wanted to marry Sasuke-kun, and she wanted to live happily ever after. But then, all of a sudden, there was no more Sasuke-kun, he had left her, betrayed the village. Naruto, he had been there, she asked him to bring back Sasuke, bring back what she wanted. He had failed, she then began to search with him, and together they could do it, right? Still they failed, and as she grew closer to Naruto she began to become confused. She would catch herself wanting new things, wanting Naruto, wanting to be by his side as he had been by hers. She wanted to defeat Akutski so that he could be safe, she wanted him for herself. Then, when the time came to choose between the two paths, she chose wrong.
"Haruno-san?" That damn Haruno-san again.
"Naruto" was that all she could say? She didn't exactly plan this conversation, even though she had rehearsed her apology thousands of times, she was completely lost.
"Stop calling me that!" She didn't mean to yell like that, but it just seemed to happen. He wasn't startled, and he still hadn't moved since she grabbed his hand. "Can we talk someplace?" That seemed like a good start.
"No." Well maybe not such a good start. "I am tired, I am going home."
"Well, I'll walk you then." She wasn't going to have this be the last things they said to each other in their lives. He remained still, his eyes blank, un-readable. But then they wavered, he took his hand out of hers, and her hand felt extremely cold.
"Fine." It was barely audible but it was there non-the-less. He began to leave and she quickly caught up to be at his side.
They walked silently through the streets. It was early in the afternoon, the sun was high in the sky and peeking through the leaves of the trees lining the streets over their heads. The weather was fair, a nice warm day. They could hear the markets busy with mothers and wives buying the groceries for tonight's dinner a few blocks over. If one was to see them strolling together they would think nothing of it. The Hokage's assistant and an ANBU walking together. They seemed to fit somehow.
A few Ninja sitting in a BBQ restaurant across the street saw the two walking together and were perplexed. The gossip moved her honey blonde bangs to the side to get a clearer look. The fat one was busy piling food off the grill into his mouth but starred out of the corner of his eye at the odd pair walking down the street. The genius was the one that seemed most interested. He had not seen this move coming for a few more years, he had predicted that one day they would set aside their problems enough to at least talk to one another. But he was off on the time frame, and he wondered what exactly was going on. The three of them watched the two walk by and promptly paid and went off to find a certain six ninja.
Sakura didn't know what was happening, they just kept walking, he had a deliberate pace. He wasn't even acknowledging her, he seemed as if this was the same walk he took every time he headed home from a debriefing with the Hokage. She was afraid to be the first to talk again, but he seemed as if he didn't care if this was going to turn into any kind of conversation.
"So, do you live in the same apartment?"
"Yes" Well that was a lame attempt to begin the conversation she wanted to have for the past 3 years, she chided herself.
They remained silent for the rest of the walk, she had no idea what to say, and it didn't seem that he was going to start any sort of exchange of words. They walked the dirt streets of their home town, and came to his door. He put the key in the doorknob and began to turn it. Then he stopped, sighed and looked at the girl that had accompanied him home.
"Would you like to come in?" He was still mono-tone, but at least he didn't call her Haruno-san.
"Sure" she replied. He continued to open the door and they stepped inside.
His place was different than she remembered, it was simple still but it was much cleaner. She stood in the living room, somewhat afraid to leave the place where she stood. He walked in and began to take his armor off. The chest plate followed by the gauntlets then the shin protectors. He threw them carelessly on the floor by a couple of other objects that seemed to be his Jonin vest and forehead protector. Then he moved his hand to his mask. He held it there for what seemed like an eternity, she wanted to see his face, but he seemed unsure of what to do. Then slowly, very slowly his hand came down with the mask in it. His hair had grown, it was still golden but not the vibrant color she knew before, it was dull and plain. His hairs came down into his eyes, and around his face shadowing his features, but she did see the whiskers. The six lines that marked him, made him stand out. It was Naruto all-right. He then looked at her and threw the mask into the pile of his other things, he was just left in his black ANBU tank-top and baggy black pants. He then walked over to a bench under a window and sat down to look outside.
She slowly moved around the room inspecting things, he had nothing that she could really look at though, blank walls, blank table. She then looked at his pile of ninja belongings and picked it up, she then sat down on his couch and began to place his ANBU armor in the table, followed by his Jonin vest, then his Hite-ate, and finally his mask, it was a fox, beautifully carved, and painted red. She looked down at her handy work. If you put a glass cover over his coffee table it would look like a fancy display case. The she looked up and on a dusty shelf way up high she saw an item that surprised her.
It was the picture of team seven they all had a copy of. She stood up and made a b-line for it. He was watching her out of the corner of his eye. She picked it up and wiped the glass. She softly smiled at the three boys and herself. The ill tempered rivals, their famous Sensei, and herself.
"We, made one lousy team didn't we." he said from his seat under the window.
"Lousy?" She asked a little irritated. "We were the best, we were the next Sannin, and everyone said we were the best three of our generation." She proclaimed boastfully.
"Yes, each of us became exceptional ninja, but after the team disbanded." He was right, she looked back down at the frame. They split up and was each taught by one of the original Sannin.
She looked back at him, his attention was back outside the window. Her eyes came to his left shoulder. The ANBU tattoo, the symbol given to the village's elite ninja entrusted as the personal bodyguard of the Hokage. A few of her friends that also were in the black ops gave her tid-bits about how he was doing, Neji, Kiba, and Shino. The others had become Jonin instructors while she and Ino headed up the medical corps. They were heralded as the greatest generation in Konoha history, the 11 that saved Konoha in the great war. The 11 that could not be stopped. But they had fallen apart. Barely seeing each other. And he was the one she never spoke to. She sighed at the state of the fabled 11.
"I miss you." It was sudden, it was impulsive, it was completely unlike her, but it had to be said. He didn't move, "Did you hear me?" She was becoming more and more angry, why couldn't he just accept her apology and everything could go back to the way it was.
"I think you should leave." This just made her more irate.
"No, we can't just not talk to each other, pretend we don't know each other!" She felt her cheeks become wet with hot salty tears. "We were a team, we were comrades, we were-"
"We were what?!" He was suddenly standing, yelling, shaking. "You were my love, and I was just your tool." He moved half a step towards her, then stopped himself. He clenched his fists, and continued "You just wanted him back so you used me, made me feel things, made me believe that…"
"It wasn't like that!"
"Then what was it like?!" He roared back.
"Left me to die!" She had no response, her voice was gone, and he had become a blurry image through her tears. He was quiet now, he took a deep breath and all of a sudden he was the blank faced, apathetic ANBU operative once again.
He walked to the bedroom and shut the door. She wiped the tears from her face the best she could and waited for him to come out again. She waited almost an hour when she realized that he was never coming back, the Naruto she knew had just walked out of her life forever. She silently left, all that was left was the picture of a team long disbanded, and an organized table of armor.
The 9 ninja were together, excited to see the two comrades that hadn't talked to each other in 3 years, they joked, they smiled they were ready to be one big family again, together again.
Then they saw a solemn pink haired medic walk down the street right by them. She looked, sad, distraught, she didn't even see the large group of her friends through her teary eyes. Then a realization hit the 9 at the same moment. They stood for a while just staring off into space. Then they began to leave, splintering off. They would never be whole again, they would never be a group again, and they would never be truly together again.