I don't get it either.

It's short, stupid, and I only did it to get out of my current writer's block.

But, uh, enjoy anyway.

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knot snag snip

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(string is easier to cut than to weave)

The tangled mess of scraps and remnants that call themselves Team Kakashi, as dysfunctional and pretend and imaginary as they are, decide to meet each other for a faked friendly lunch every precious action-free day they have.

It is at the ramen bar that holds more ghosts of the past then they like to admit, on the stools that used to be too tall for their feet to reach the floor, among people that are only temporary.

Naruto and Sakura and Sai and sometimes Yamato and rarely Kakashi like to pretend this is normalcy.

Shinobi are good at pretending.

They sit there, the bits and pieces that they are, and swing their feet with smiles and arguments.

And then, bam, Sai goes too far and is thrown outside by whichever person lost their temper first.

It's one of those rare so-needed days off.

"Ne, Sakura-chan," Naruto says, polishing off his third bowl while she has barely finished the first.

He will always be ahead, Sakura used to think, but then she grew up.

"Hm?"

"Where do you think Sai is?"

And she looks around the tiny shop with contemplating eyes and a shrug that makes her hands twitch.

"At the library," she suggests, and then changes her mind. "Or maybe training with Yamato-taichou."

Naruto shakes his head, and lifts his hand for another bowl with a frown that doesn't fit right.

"I don't think so," he says, and no more.

Sakura pushes her bowl away with another shrug.

-

When they finish, and Naruto offers to pay- A gentleman should always take care of the bill, Sakura-chan! – but finds he has no money or coupons either way, Sakura slaps down what is needed and more.

They leave in silence, so heavy that their shoulders slump a little.

"Naruto," Sakura finally murmurs as they step on the cobblestone and dirt street.

He looks over, head tilted and eyebrows lifted. "Yeah?"

"Do you… do you know what today is?"

And he lowers his eyes- pieces of the sky that fallfallfall-, watching his feet. "Yeah."

Her next words are so small and whispering that they are almost swept away by the breeze. "Do you want to go?"

He looks up again. "Yeah."

-

When they reach the gate of the abandoned Uchiha complex, it is closed off with rusty chains and tape.

(donotenter donotenter donotenter)

"Ready?"

"Yeah."

They easily hop over the top, chakra pumping in the soles of their feet, and for a brief second it's like flying or falling or swimming. When their feet reach the ground on the other side, they take a deepdeep breath.

It is a ghost town, rundown and ominous and full of wailing spirits that only kids should still believe in.

It is as empty as their friend's dead black eyes.

They hold hands (mockery of what he wants and she can't) and walk with baited breath, lips tight and heartbeats loud.

"It's so big," Sakura mutters, as if it has grown since their last visit.

"Yeah."

And they reach the building, the big pretty one with the cracked bamboo and dried up ponds and tattered banners that flap in the breeze like war flags. They slide open the door (it's splattered with redredred).

Out of habit, they slip out of their shoes, mats hard against their feet; wander through the building, most haunted of all. They reach the room with the most bloodstains and a messy chalk line, and pass right by it.

Sharp turn, second door on the left (they made the mistake of going in the first door once, and nevernever again).

It's plain and not all that big but it still has the feel of him.

Sakura goes to tidy up the dresser, Naruto sits on the bed. Her hands stay away, far far away, from the picture of their broken team, face down on the wood, forgotten and desolate and abandoned.

"Happy birthday, Sasuke-kun," she whispers.

Naruto's eyes stray from her, over to the rice paper door that leads outside. His breath catches.

Someone's shadow is there.

"S-sasuke?"

In a trance, he stands (slowlyslowlyslowly, no need to scare him away again) and steps towards the person that just might be his teammate.

(hope is for the weak minded)

Sakura's looking too now, and she follows behind with a tentative hand on his shoulder.

(maybe)

Swallowing, body cold, eyes wide, trembling, he reaches for the edge of the door.

(maybe, but it doesn't stop us)

He slides it open with flourish, jumping out onto the wooden floor outside with Sakura at his heels.

"Oh. Naruto. Sakura."

And for a second it's their old teammate, smirking and smug and cocky but has a place in their hearts nonetheless.

Their hearts drop to their feet.

It is Sai, smiling and emotionless and only temporary.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Naruto asks, voice shaking (repress regress repress).

Sakura ignores the icy cool fingers of detestment that crawl over her skin and invade her senses. She sighs (tremble like a leaf).

Sai looks at the two of them. He wishes he could feel like that.

"Well, Kakashi-san happened to tell me that today is Sasuke-kun's birthday," he says, eyes blank. "He also mentioned this is where you two would probably be."

"You don't belong here," Naruto growls, and Sakura isn't sure if he's talking about Sasuke's home anymore (repress regress repress).

"Ah. I understand."

"I don't think you do."

"Hm."

Sakura steps in between the two (the mother the healer the mediator).

"Sai," she says, eyes flickering like green flames. "I think it would be best if you left."

He nods, another smile that's so fake it hurts.

"Goodbye then, Naruto. Hag."

And he walks away.

"Where does he get off," Naruto spits, eyes closing and teeth clenching, "Coming here. Here."

She smiles (fakefakefake) and offers her hand again.

"Let's go home," she says.

Naruto brushes past her, breathing erratic and short through his curses and clenched teeth.

"It won't be home until he comes back," he says.

And Sakura nods.

They do not go to lunch the next day.

(string is easier to cut than to weave)

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