The Skylight Diner
written by A. E. Stover
this version is self-edited

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Both of our boys are nineteen years old.

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THE SKYLIGHT DINER


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Naruto looked up with a bright smile. "I'll have the BLT and a coke, please."

The waitress, a young brunette of twenty-two, scribbled down his order. She turned to his dark-haired companion with an expectant raise of her brow.

Sasuke held the menu close to his face, shooting Naruto a scathing look over the top. The waitress began tapping her pen on her notepad in what he supposed was an impatient manner. Her existence was insignificant to him, so Sasuke ignored her.

Naruto didn't. The blond boy swiftly kicked Sasuke in the shin under the table — hard.

Sasuke had to bite his lip to stifle his pained groan and sent a smoldering look in Naruto's direction. The waitress stopped tapping her pen and sighed noisily instead.

Naruto looked up with a strained smile. "He'll have the same as me," Naruto told her quickly, keeping his smile in place.

The waitress drew a set of parentheses around the order and added "x2" at the bottom right corner. She took Naruto's menu and turned to Sasuke with her hand out, waiting for him to relinquish his. He continued to pretend as if she was of no importance, prioritizing instead his own need of sending Naruto his best murderous look. It took the waitress all but two seconds to rip the menu out of Sasuke's hands before clomping away.

Well, it was quite obvious she didn't want to be here, Sasuke noted dryly. That was certainly one thing they had in common, he thought as his gaze averted from the waitress' retreating back to the look of utter disdain that was currently plastered over Naruto's face. Sasuke narrowed his eyes at him in return. "What?" he barked out.

"Would it kill you to even pretend that you're having a good time with me?" Naruto hissed angrily.

Sasuke shot him a withering look and just slouched in his seat.

Naruto continued to glare at him intensely, as if he believed it would rouse him into saying something — anything. Ever since they had been sent to the islands on probation, Naruto seemed to have doubled his attempts in getting Sasuke to partake in "self-developing activities" such as talking about his feelings. At least he was doing something right now — yes, he was; his blood pressure was currently sky-rocketing, and he swore his head would explode from all that pressure if he didn't get out of this goddamn dinner right this instant.

The waitress arrived with their drinks and quickly set them down in the center of the table. She turned away to get their food without so much as a second glance.

Sasuke grabbed his coke and took a large gulp, swishing the carbonated drink in his mouth before he let it down his throat. A few more of these swishes of soda, and his teeth would probably disintegrate. Sasuke took another gulp. Good, he thought, that meant he'd have a decent excuse for his silence. He slammed his drink back down on the table with unnecessary force. Naruto frowned at him. Other diners stared at him. Sasuke slouched further into his seat.

The waitress arrived. "Your BLT," she said in a clipped tone as she set the plates before them.

"Thank you," Naruto called out after her politely.

Sasuke grunted. He just took another swig of his drink and eyed the sandwich in front of him.

Naruto only sighed and brought a hand to his face, closing his eyes. He stayed quiet like that for a moment and Sasuke thought he was praying for their little outing to go by smoothly. Finally, Naruto picked his head up, grabbed his BLT, and took a bite.

Naruto was on his third bite and second sip of coke when he noticed that Sasuke was just picking the sesame seeds off his bun. With a frown, Naruto nodded in Sasuke's direction and spoke around the food in his mouth; "Aren't you gonna eat?"

A piece of lettuce flew from Naruto's mouth and stuck wetly on Sasuke's cheek. Sasuke closed his eyes and drew in a slow, deep breath before snatching his napkin and bringing it to his face. "No," he ground out, trying to be as civil as he possibly could. A flash of annoyance passed his eyes and he set his crumpled napkin down on the table. "I'm not hungry."

Naruto gave Sasuke a pointed look. "Right. So why are you with me in a diner again?"

Sasuke almost bared his teeth in his frustration. He settled for shooting a dirty look in Naruto's direction instead. "Because," he hissed, feeling his blood pressure reach dangerously new heights, "you woke me up and dragged me here."

Naruto scoffed. "I didn't drag you here," he said in a tone that expressed just how childishly he thought Sasuke was behaving. He put his sandwich back on the plate and wiped his palms on his pants.

Sasuke was glaring at him from across the table again, lips drawn in a tight line.

Naruto shifted in his seat before sighing loudly and throwing his hands up in mock defeat. "Okay, okay," he conceded at last, rolling his eyes in exasperation. "Fine. So I 'dragged' you here." He looked at his friend who was still glaring at him in contempt and scowled. "But all you ever do is stay in your dorm and brood or whatever. You'd probably never leave the room if I didn't bother to take you out once in a while like a goddamn dog." Angrily, he grabbed his coke and chugged down half the glass. He came away with a satisfying sigh.

Sasuke waited a beat before he replied. "The bathrooms are shared facilities in the hall."

"That doesn't count!" Naruto savaged, pounding on the table.

Heads turned and eyes blinked in their direction. The waitress from earlier looked over at them from another table with a frown.

Naruto, who had a rare moment of self-consciousness, buried his face into the crook of the arm that rest on the table and scowled deeply. If he was trying to hide from the stares, it wasn't working very well.

He was dressed in a ridiculously bright orange sweatshirt, and wore slippers on his socked feet. Sasuke was thankful that the socks were white, and not yellow or red, or some other bright and distracting color. Like his sweatshirt, Sasuke felt compelled to mentally point out.

By the time the excitement surrounding them dispersed, Naruto picked up his head to see Sasuke pulling tomatoes out of his BLT. Naruto scrunched his face in bewilderment and stared mutely for a moment. Then he frowned. "I thought tomatoes were one of the few things in the world you actually liked," he said.

"They were drowning in the mayo and bacon grease. I saved them."

Naruto scoffed again. "They were just fine," he protested lightly, defending his choice of foods.

Sasuke finally took a bite of the BLT. Grease coated the insides of his mouth, and the burnt bacon crumbled and stuck in his teeth. Disgusted, Sasuke set it down and reached for the coke. As he drank, he eyed Naruto's horrible orange sweatshirt again with heavy disdain.

Though Naruto had dragged him outside at eleven at night to a gritty diner for some "guy-bonding" time they apparently so desperately needed, Sasuke had bothered to look nice and slipped on a white tank, pulled on a blue windbreaker, put on some real pants (Naruto was wearing black basketball shorts), and stuffed his feet into sneakers. Glaring at the blond's orange sweatshirt, Sasuke hoped Naruto would choke on his food and die.

Naruto looked at the half-eaten sandwich in his hands and swallowed down what he had been chewing in his mouth. "Hey, Sasuke?" He heard Sasuke grunt in response and took that as a sign to continue. "Have you ever thought about what you plan to do in life?"

Sasuke gave Naruto a look. "Do you not recall the last seventeen years of our life as shinobi, Naruto?" he asked firmly, setting his drink down.

"Yeah, but…" Naruto creased his brow and sat up, looking at his companion earnestly. "Well, I've been thinking—"

"That's a rarity."

"—about what's going on lately –— shut up, Sasuke — and well, I thought…" Naruto paused and looked seriously at his friend. "I thought about being a lawyer."

Sasuke idly wiped some condensation off his glass with a finger. "That's nice."

"Really? 'That's nice?' That's all you can say to me?"

Naruto sounded affronted. Sasuke stopped wiping off the condensation and looked up. He noticed that Naruto was being serious, and he sighed. "What do you want me to say, Naruto?"

Naruto wrinkled his nose and shrugged, sinking further into the booth. "I don't know," he admitted at last. "But like… haven't you thought of doing something else?" At this, Sasuke's eyes narrowed slightly. Naruto noticed and he quickly continued. "Because, well…" his voice suddenly grew quiet. "They might not let us go back."

Sasuke stared at his soda, watching the bubbles fizz and pop at the surface. After their last mission went horribly awry, they had been demoted and put on probation — for the safety of the village, they were told. The council had voted to send them to a remote boarding school in the islands of the Silk Country — for "behavioral rehabilitation" purposes, of course.

They had been here for two years now. At first, Kakashi had written to them whenever he could. But that had been stopped after six or seven months by the council, and now they only received letters when Kakashi could find time to do so on missions. A year inched by, and then two. There was no notice from the village council. Any motions to discuss their retrieval, Kakashi had written, had been denied.

"I… I just don't like being kept in the dark," Naruto continued after a while. He picked up his sandwich and resumed eating in silence.

Sasuke made no reply. Then, a laugh caught his attention, and Sasuke glanced to the other side of the diner at a family of four.

Two kids, roughly seven or eight years of age, sat across from each other. One boy blew his straw wrapper at his brother and stuck his tongue out, only to be pelted by wet ice cubes in response. The commandeering voice of their father put a halt to their antics and they settled down, for now. The children were sweet, and their father was a tall, handsome man. But it was their mother that caught his attention.

She was a pretty, young thing; a heart-shaped face, soft lips, and she had strawberry-pink hair and emerald-green eyes that sparkled just like—

"I miss Sakura-chan too," Naruto said, following Sasuke's gaze to the mother of two on the other side of the restaurant. He had seen Sasuke looking off to the side for a while now, and had wondered what had caught his friend's attention. When he saw her, for a second, Naruto too had thought that it really was… He shook his head and sighed. "Sometimes," Naruto spoke up softly, turning away with his eyes closed. "Sometimes, I dream about her. And she's happy, wherever she is. I know, because if she weren't… we'd just know."

Sasuke raised his coke to his lips and finished it all in one gulp. His sugary, carbonated drink did nothing to quell the rise of pain-filled memories that threatened to consume him, and he wished he had scotch or gin instead.

"You gonna eat that?"

Sasuke pushed his plate away. Naruto was finished eating in five minutes. They sat in silence, Naruto sipping the rest of his coke, each drowned in their own thoughts.

The waitress came back with their check, looking relieved to see them go, and before Naruto could open his wallet, Sasuke slapped a few notes onto the table and dragged the blond out of the diner. They walked down the steps and into the cool, night air.

They walked side by side, Naruto occasionally leaning against the slightly taller boy for a joke or an interjection as they went further and further down the street into the suburban town. Sasuke responded with a few words, mostly letting his head do the talking as he bobbed it up and down every now and then.

Naruto's laughter rang distantly in the quiet neighborhood and his voice was a little grating against the backdrop of a peaceful town in slumber. But he was here, and so was Sasuke… and that was all that mattered.

They walked until they were specks in the distance, until they disappeared.

And then they were gone.

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