I just had to write this. I had 'Hallelujah' by Rufus Wainwright playing in my ears and stumbled across this idea. So, here's a nostalgic, little one-shot for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Naruto.
When Birds Leave The Nest
Many memories linger here, like photographs tacked to an otherwise blank wall. They are leaving the old loft behind. They are moving on. But nostalgia is thick in the air. And, between packing their lives in boxes and brief dialogues on what belongs to whom, they remember.
Smiling fondly, Sakura remembers the things that made her laugh. Like when Naruto couldn't change a bathroom light bulb. That time when she realized her roommates were perfect for each other (she cried for a day). Or how, every once in awhile, all three of them—even Sasuke—would laugh until they couldn't breathe. They had good times, the three of them.
She knows she will miss her boys.
There is nothing for him here, not anymore. Sasuke closes his eyes and simply remembers it all. He remembers Sakura: her motherly, sweet nature muddled with a violent streak. He remembers Naruto: bright blue eyes and warm smiles and a sentimentality that people, at first, couldn't see through the stupidity. He remembers himself: suffocating in something deep, dark, and ugly. And out of all those memories, he remembers love and friendship most.
He releases a long-time coming sigh and puts the last of his belongings in a box.
Oddly, Naruto remembers mostly the small things. Like how, when she fell asleep in the armchair, Sakura would prop her feet up on the very coffee table she always scolded him for putting his feet on. Or when they retired to bed, how they usually bade each other goodnight. And the way Sasuke would touch his arm lightly when trying to get his attention, fingers lingering a little longer than necessary.
He smiles sadly, lying back against the floor with a dull thud.
Promises to stay in touch seem like nothing in comparison to what they had. They will send emails and dial phone numbers, but it won't be the same. He's moving to a smaller apartment on the other side of town. Sakura is going to medical school in a far away city. Sasuke is traveling abroad. But he knows this apartment like the back of his hand, and it's hard to detach yourself from the back of your hand.
Naruto doesn't want to pick himself up off the floor. So he remains all stretched out on the hardwood, gazing at the ceiling with a faraway look in his eyes, reflecting on things for once. That's how Sasuke finds him a few minutes later. Blue eyes clear of their glassy haze when they drift onto the familiar figure in the doorway. "Sasuke, I need to tell you something," he says urgently, hesitating only a moment before continuing. "I l-"
Tender lips that press against his mouth interrupt his words. It's not a kiss. It's a reminder of something that they never had because friendship meant so much to them. Sasuke keeps his lips there, without turning it into a kiss, for what feels like an eternity. Then he pulls away, pressing a silencing finger where his lips just were, eyes soft. He shakes his head slowly (don't say it, don't you dare say it).
"It's gonna be lonely without you two," Naruto says instead.
Sasuke sits down beside him. "I know, dobe. I know."
"Naruto? Is this your camera? 'Cuz I had one just like it and—" Sakura stops in the doorway, blinking, surprised to see their other roommate in what was once Naruto's room.
"Ah…yeah, I think that's mine," the blond replies, holding out a hand for the camera. He withdraws his hand quickly when tears well in her green eyes. Bewildered, he hurriedly added, "Or it might be yours!"
Sakura doesn't cry though. She wipes the tears away, lifts the camera up, and snaps a picture of the two of them. Glancing at the result, she frowns. Something is missing. She joins her friends on the floor, holds up the camera, and takes the picture. This time, when she takes a look, she smiles. Ah, that's better. They're all in the picture now.
They sit together for a long time, reminiscing—their laughter vibrant against the naked loft. But slowly, surely, their voices ebb into silence. And then it's time to go.
In a few minutes time, they find themselves standing near the front door, feeling awkward. Suddenly, it's like they're strangers all over again. Sakura chews her lower lip. Naruto shuffles his feet. Sasuke looks away. Then the blond gathers the courage crush his friends in a group hug and speak the words that say it all. "I'm really gonna miss you guys. You're my best friends, ya' know. I wanted you both to know that before we, you know, went our separate ways."
Again, Sakura has to hold back tears. That stupid blond moron. "Shut up, you idiot, before you make me cry," she scolds, throwing her arms around both of her boys.
The default, stiff as cardboard demeanor melts away as soon as both sets of arms tangle together around him. Sasuke gives an exasperated sigh instead, smiling. He relaxes in this warm group hug. It's a testament of how much they will miss each other, how much they mean to each other, how they will always remember each other. And it's rather nice.
But they all realize it's time to let go. The group hug is broken apart. They begin the process of lugging all their boxes down the stairs to their waiting cars. Once the last box has been stowed away, they're back in the apartment, grabbing a few last things that they didn't put in boxes—bottles of water, a purse, something forgotten.
Sasuke is the first to leave. He gives Sakura's shoulder a squeeze, is forced into a bear hug by Naruto, murmurs a goodbye. Then he is gone. Green eyes and blue eyes stare after him. "You loved him," the pink-haired girl remarks.
Sakura chuckles softly. "You were a match made in heaven."
"I'll call you when I get there," is the last things she says before pecking a kiss to the blond's cheek and sweeping out the door.
He raises his hand to wave only to let it drop back down to his side. A sad smile touches his lips. He will miss them so much, and nothing will be the same. Sakura will become a doctor. Sasuke will have gained the freedom he so craved but couldn't find in this small town. And he—he will still be Uzumaki Naruto, the best ever.
Naruto walks through his (their) old home, closing windows, window blinds, and doors. When he is done with this, he calls a warm goodbye into the vacant space. Then he leaves the loft for the last time and closes the door behind him.
The loft is empty.