AN: There's an explanation at the bottom as to the lack of chapterness.
Sasuke and Sakura stood together, staring at the faded green door that led into their missing teammate's home
Sasuke and Sakura stood together, staring at the faded green door that led into their missing teammate's home. It had only been about a month and a half after the blonde had departed unexpectedly and they'd yet to hear any word of him. Kakashi had commented on it at their last training session; saying that Naruto would not come back until he was ready. His single, charcoal grey eye had darkened slightly at the statement, but a moment later he had smiled reassuringly at the genins.
"You ready?" Sakura asked Sasuke, somewhat nervously.
The remaining Uchiha grunted his usual, monosyllabic response before grasping the handle of his bucket and reaching his free hand forward to open the door. It opened with a faint creak of resistance and the two teens entered, toeing off their sandals before stepping on the wood floors. Sakura glanced around; hardly surprised to see a slight layer of dust had collected over the surface of the floor, furniture and the rest of Naruto's possessions.
They remained that way for a minute longer, both thinking of how silent the apartment was with its loud, outspoken occupant missing. Sakura could imagine Naruto sitting on his couch, pigging out on another unhealthy meal of instant ramen before dashing off to train in an attempt to surpass Sasuke. Sasuke's eyes flickered in the direction of Naruto's bedroom and his scroll case of jutsus. He absently rubbed the fingers of the hand he'd burnt when he had attempted to look at one scroll.
"We'd better get started…" Sakura murmured, setting down her own bucket; filled with a few cleaning solutions, rags and sponges. Sasuke's own container was similarly filled and the owner nodded in agreement.
"What should we do first?" Sasuke asked, breaking his usual broody silence. "We could both dust off the bookcases and polish the furniture before starting to wash the floors."
Sakura nodded thoughtfully before picking out a couple of rags and some wood polish. "I'll get started on the furniture if you'll take care of dusting."
Sasuke shrugged disinterestedly before picking up a rag out of his own bucket and walking over to the nearest bookcase and methodically began removing the small army of dust motes that settled on the higher shelves, glancing at the collection of books Naruto had gathered. The blonde had a surprising amount of literature in his home…
Sakura sat cross-legged in front the battered and scarred coffee table and poured a small amount of polish on her rag and briskly rubbed the substance on the table. Removing her rag, the pinkette smiled slightly as the darkly stained wood gleamed softly in the noon sun.
"Whew…" Sakura wiped a dust-smudged hand across her forehead but gazed with satisfaction at the glowing floors. Sasuke glanced briefly at her from the kitchen as he emptied out their dirty buckets and dried his hands with a spare rag. He brought the empty buckets and turned to his teammate, eyeing the bedroom. So far they hadn't touched the place in their cleaning spree…
"Are we going to clean his bedroom?" Sakura was apparently thinking the same thoughts as Sasuke. She turned to look at Naruto's bedroom as well.
Sasuke shrugged before starting to walk towards it. "Don't see why not. Might as well clean the entire place if we're in here at all."
Sakura blinked and nodded, following her crush. Sasuke had started cleaning the scroll case, looking at each scroll title as he cleared the scroll cubbies. Sakura turned her attention to the dresser and desk, polishing the furniture quickly before starting to organize the contents of the desktop, not wishing to infringe on Naruto's privacy.
Sasuke had just finished cleaning out the scroll case when Sakura wandered back into the hallway and discovered another door down at the end of hall, by the linen closet. Her slight cry of surprise caused the Uchiha to drop his rag and poke his head out in the hall to see Sakura wave at him to come join her. He sauntered down the hall and stood beside her, surprised to see the messy training room before the both of him. Books and scrolls were scattered about the small room, along with training weights and empty ramen cups or water bottles. What appeared to be Kakashi and Sasuke punching dolls were tossed carelessly against a wall, near a real punching bag. A yoga or Pilates mat was half way rolled up and kept an old towel company as they collected dust near the center of floor
A ragged sheet of paper delineated a training regime, clearly written in Naruto's familiar scrawl. Beside it was a calendar with different notes written on it to remind the room's owner of various things he'd planned. Sasuke cautiously entered the training room to peer at the calendar with slight interest. Sakura followed hesitantly, surprised at the mess in this room, compared to how clean Naruto had kept the rest of his apartment.
Sakura eventually picked her way over to where Sasuke stood and took a look at the calendar herself. A week and a half into October, a certain day and the note scrawled there jumped out at the girl. She gasped slightly and looked at Sasuke.
"Looks like Kakashi-sensei was right." He muttered, eyeing the date of October 10th. "We did already know the dobe's birthday- except as a different celebration."
Sakura nodded and traced the hastily written "Happy 13th Birthday" with her finger before straightening. "Makes me feel horrible- He must've celebrated by himself while everyone else was at the festival."
Sasuke grunted, a vague twinge of sympathy pulling at his heart. He didn't see the point in going to a festival, only to be surrounded by happy celebrating families. It only reminded him of his own loss and loneliness. But then, Naruto never even had a taste of family…he just sat in his apartment. Or the hospital, if the villager mobs would beat him…
Shaking his head, the Uchiha turned his attention to the room in general. "We can worry about the dobe later. Let's get this room cleaned."
Sakura nodded and turned her attention to the half rolled Pilates mat. She unrolled it with her foot and crouched to roll it neatly and tightly. Sasuke turned his attention to the scrolls and books. A month ago, he would've activated his Sharingan and copied the jutsus or taijutsu techniques written inside without a thought. But when Kakashi had discovered him in the library, doing just that he'd taken the Uchiha for a few "private training sessions". During those private training sessions Kakashi had basically beaten it into Sasuke's mind and body that the jutsu-copying aspect of the Sharingan was only to be used on enemies or with the permission of the jutsu user.
Now, Sasuke only looked at the scrolls and books, memorizing their titles for future reference. Kakashi had told him one time that when he copied a jutsu, he could use it, yes but the jutsu would not be as effective as if he had learned it the "old-fashioned way". Sasuke started to organize the scrolls by elements and was vaguely surprised- Naruto had a fair collection of all jutsu types. Suiton, Doton, Raiton, Katon, and Fuuton- they were all there.
Sakura moved around him, picking up the food debris. She must've left at one point to grab a trash bag while Sasuke was absorbed in examining a particular Katon scroll. Finished sorting the scrolls, Sasuke walked to where a pile of training weights and moved them over to where the punching sagged into a corner.
Glancing to his right, Sasuke felt his lips twitch- whether in an amused smile or disgusted frown he wasn't sure. He strolled over to where the Sasuke and Kakashi dolls lay, patched and worn. He crouched and attempted to pick up the Kakashi doll, somewhat surprised to find that the doll was filled with sand. He decided to wait and get Sakura's help with moving the punching dolls.
"Where did he even get something like this?" The teen murmured under his breath, nudging the Sasuke doll with a toe.
"There's a merchant who makes plushies and stuff like that." Sasuke jumped slightly and turned to see Sakura standing there, blushing slightly. "If you can give him a picture, he can make whatever you order really."
"…" Sasuke remained silent for a moment. "Do I want to know how you know that?"
Sakura's blush deepened and she looked about the room. "We're nearly done here."
She failed to mention that she and Ino had been frequent customers at that store to order various Sasuke plushies. Sasuke merely raised an eyebrow but let the subject drop, turning his attention back to the sand weighted dolls. Sakura bent down and gave an experimental tug at the Sasuke doll. She could barely lift it more than a foot off the floor. She went to give it another tug, surprised when the doll came easily off the ground. Glancing up, she was so surprised to see Sasuke holding the ankles of the sand filled replica. Working together, they were able to move both punching dolls next to the punching bag.
"All that's left are those scrolls and books right?" Sakura asked, dusting off her hands and glancing at her teammate.
"Yeah. There isn't a scroll or book case in here, so I was thinking that we can put them over on the table by that wall," here Sasuke nodded at a side wall where a side table had once been buried in ramen cups. "Until we can get something, secondhand maybe."
Sakura nodded and quickly deposited the sorted scrolls on the table, Sasuke helping.
Looking at the cleaned up training room, both of their lips twitched and they gathered the cleaning supplies they'd brought and quietly left the apartment together.
"Want to get something to eat?" Sakura looked shocked, as Sasuke spoke up. Risking a glance to the side, his face was a slight shade of pink.
"Uh, sure…Where do you want to go?"
Cha! We finally caught his interest! Inner Sakura was doing a dance of joy as her outer self accepted.
Sasuke shrugged. "I was thinking Ichiraku."
Inner Sakura abruptly stopped dancing, but Sakura didn't notice too much. She instantly saw the reasoning behind his choice and smiled. "Why not? With Naruto gone, the owner's lost his best customer."
Sasuke cracked a slight smirk as well and the pair continued down the street.
Iruka blinked in surprise as he set down his bucket of cleaning supplies. Naruto's entire apartment was as clean as the day the blonde had left…The floors were washed, the furniture polished and everything dusted. Glancing in the kitchen and bathroom, he saw that the mysterious benefactors had not missed a room. Puzzled, the chuunin went to grab his cleaning supplies and head for home. As he passed the dark couch he noticed a pink hair caught on the fibers.
"Sakura…?" He murmured. Quickly scanning the room, it took him a few minutes, but he also located a raven strand as well. Standing in the middle of the cleaned apartment, the chuunin smiled slightly.
"Looks like Kakashi taught them better than I thought…" He smiled, dropping the hairs and leaving the darkened apartment to return home to grade papers.
A/N: Don't eat me! I was unable to get any sort of internet at my grandmother's, and I just got back yesterday. exhausted I really and truly was fully prepared to update as promised...until I checked my e-mail. I had story/author alerted a most amazing story called "All That I Am XXFox, Demon, Human, MeXX". When I saw that a new chapter was up I bounced with joy- until I clicked the link. Avatarofrage (the author) had posted an author's note, stating that they had left fanfiction forever and all attempts at contact would fail. So. No chapter this week, because I'm in mourning of the loss of a great author- whenever I've hit Writer's Block and Inuluvr's internet is on the fritz, I'd go and reread that story for inspiration. That story is probably what got me to start Wandering in the first place, actually...
xD I'll be back with the next chapter, next week and it'll probably make this connected one-shot seem a lot clearer.