When she woke up, there was no sign of any of them. Not in the living room. Not in the kitchen. Not outside those wide windows. And she didn't inspect further. Silence like that. She enjoyed it immensely. No sign of human soul. A freedom she seldom searched for. Not that she ever minded Sasuke's company. Not that she minded being around him again. But loneliness was lately as dear to her as her most beloved ones. It was not necessary, but she didn't chase it away either.
She wandered trough the house, not really curious, but just restless. She encountered a plain bedroom in the way, but she knew that one couldn't be his. She only found his bedroom where she had expected to. Up in the French roof. The whole length of it. The only place in the house where things were not kept in order, yet she wouldn't say that it looked bad. The walls were dark green and she wondered if they were there to remind him of the Leaf and its constant greenness, in summer and in winter. Clean weapons and dirty clothes. Misplaced scrolls and untouched books. The kind of touches that made his presence transparent.
"So, tell me more about those pigeons."
She winced. And started doubting the newly developed sensing that didn't let anything get past her in these last years. Unconsciously, she looked at him with treathened eyes for a few moments - how had he been able to sneak on her like that? He himself reacted with a sudden frown. However, her expression relaxed immediately, of course, and so did his, but, even though none of them mentioned it afterwards, both of them noted the moment and recalled it later for observation.
"Well, I may be wrong, but I'm quite sure this seal was a Uzumaki work," she tried her best to speak casually, denying the previous moment, taking out a scroll.
"Ah, this one?" he smiled knowingly, unrolling the scroll. "Are you planning a comeback?" he asked, looking up at her.
"I don't know yet. I quite fancy the death life. But I want to know," she emphasized with something of urgency in her voice.
"The Uzumaki, you say?" he looked back at the seal somehow unbelievably, still unable to understand the meaning of her tone. Little did he know she didn't understand it fully either.
"Well, yes, they used to trade their seals, after all," she explained, in a matter of fact kind of tone, although her voice trembled a little. Not in a shying way, but the sound came somehow in and out of focus, as if something inside there wasn't oiled properly."It was their specialty and they sold it, the same way they sold their corn. Of course, prices were far upper from the one of the corn. And their policy was: we keep a copy of them, but won't use them - they're yours. The ones who came after the Uzumaki and burnt this place down knew well the value of this place. It was not just Uzushiogakure. It was the secret deposit they were looking for. The one which contained seals ordered by many powerful clans, which they used for protection, for prosperity, or, Hyuuga clan's case, for surveillance, we could call it, I guess. Having all of these seals in one hand is the possibility having certain amounts over so many around the world..." Speaking to him was harder than she would have ever expected. She didn't know why. It was a bit of many different reasons. Maybe it was partly her crush. Could she deny, after the day before, that she no longer had that? Also, he'd been her inspiration, for as long as she could remember. She was changed. And he was changed. And she could no longer tell if her ideals matched his. Surely she could no longer even tell what ideals any of them had anymore. Still, somehow, she wanted him to understand, even though she did not understand it herself. And she wanted him to approve her, even though she didn't know what was this thing she wanted to be approved.
It was not the same, when there were just the two of them, without Sasuke. And speaking of Sasuke, where was he?
"Ready to go?" he suddenly showed up at the door, with a question unexpected for her. And it wasn't addressed to her, which made it more unexpected. And she did not hesitate to show her confusion.
"Oh," Naruto reacted, as if he just remembered an old fact. "Right," he nodded knowingly. "Let me show her the way to the seals first," he told Sasuke, but not to her.
"Go where?" she asked, feeling more left out than she thought she was. Having once been alright with Naruto's company was something. Being now alright with Sasuke's company was something. But when you put the two together, it was like nothing else could find its place between them. She could not understand it. She understood Naruto. And she understood Sasuke. But she could not understand the two of them put together. And she was sure it was the same for anyone else. Even for Sakura or their sensei, Kakashi, the only ones she knew to have been a little closer than others when it came to both of them. She felt lonely. And she felt jealous. And she wasn't sure if for Sasuke or for Naruto or for the both put together.
"Some business that came last minute," was all Sasuke said. That was his kind of way - not saying much. But she'd expect him to tell more than that to her. Her confusedness was slowly turning to anger.
"Well, won't you show me the way at last?" she turned around and walked towards the exit of the room, acting irritated towards Naruto instead. He heard steps following her, not running after her - though her walking speed would have required such - but walking after her in a normal pace. And just as she walked out the house, she realized she might as well stop the hurry - she wasn't the one leading the way; she needed the directions. Realizing that, she had to stop at the house's door, angrier than before.
"We're going to Konoha," Naruto said instead of the awaited directions, as soon as he caught up with her. "A trip we planned a while ago. Well, better said, planned by Sasuke. He just sent me a message a few months ago, stating it like We're doing this, maybe sometime soon, period, and, yeah, since he got to come this way, we'd said, why not now? We'd figure you wouldn't fancy joining us, with all that... you know...," he stood there, awkwardly running his fingers through his hair, but she barely paid attention to that.
"Just show me the way to that place at once," she muttered, not even glancing back at him, partly still irritated at being left out, partly knowing that irritation was not justified and feeling like an idiot. He was not indebted to help her.
Neither was Sasuke. And still that guy who had been a stranger to her for most of her life, has been the greatest friend to her during all of the past years. And she never knew why. She never even thanked him at all. But he was not obliged to do nothing but watch her back. To do nothing but check her well being. To tell her anything that was out of her business.
For someone who kept claiming she could take care of herself, she was extremely dependent and selfish.
As he walked ahead and she followed him, she finally found the guts to say, "I'm sorry for acting like that. I'm really grateful for your confidence that I'm not planning to run with the scrolls and attempt to rule the world."
Fortunately, the remark made him laugh and, as he pointed certain marks on a wall (which she watch closely and memorised) sat behind thick greenery, he replied, "Well, you can try to run with them, but I doubt it can be done that subtly."
"Wow...," was all Hinata could say, looking inside. Naruto smiled and waved her goodbye. And she couldn't really spare the attention to watch him go.
She pinned up her hair and sighed, scanning the never-ending lines of shelves. "Alright, where do we start?"
Sakura frowned, sighed, spinned in her chair once, and pushed it back. The desirable reaction was to punch the wall nearby, but, after what happened last time, she knew better than to not restrain that. The numbers failed again and she simply had no idea what other approach to take. She's tried everything. Just everything. Yet, the numbers... But she's spent too much time to just let it go.
"Oh, look, you're just where I last left you."
She turned around, at first confused, but gradually surprised. Even with the hints of roughness in his voice, she recognised it right away. "Naruto?"
With his legs crossed, at her open window, he was smiling widely as if they'd last seen each other just yesterday.
The next moment, he fell forward comically, too unexpectedly to regress it or opt for a more dignified fall, and the foot that shoved him and its owner followed, with a monotone, "You're blocking the way, dobe."
"Gee, Sasuke, how hard a 'Could you please move?' would have been to say?" the blond stood up.
"Harder than you think, when you throw a slippery high wall in the circumstances."
"Sasuke?" His name it took her more to question for recognition, even though he was less changed than Naruto.
"Sakura...," he replied with as much as he'd normally say, and he walked in casually, taking a seat.
For a few moments, she just looked at them, from one to another, with big tired eyes, looking mostly disoriented, but also quite angry. "You two didn't give a single sign of life in the past couple of years," she immediately threw that in, as if it was something that had bugged her for quite a while and she was glad she was finally able to let it out. "You," and she first eyed Sasuke, "you left the medical tents after the war without even waiting for full recovery or even noticing anyone," and then she turned to Naruto, "And you... How should I say it?" she threw her arms in the air, breathing in, "He always does things like that, " she pointed in the back, to Sasuke, who kept acting unknowingly, "I should be used to it. But. For. You. To. Leave. Without. A. Word?" pointing her forefinger forcefully to his chest with every word she said. Every time, he took a step back, advancing backwards more and more and suspecting that, a few more words and he'd be in the situation to bend out the window.
"Now, you're making too much of a fuss out of that," Sasuke lamented.
For the first time ever, Haruno Sakura actually, undoubtedly and with no hesitation, attempted to hit Uchiha Sasuke. Just attempted. The chair he'd been sitting on, however, had to suffer. Bits of wood flew everywhere around the office. A bigger one jumped right into her coffee mug. It didn't break it, but it did push it down, the remaining cold coffee spilling on all of the papers in the front side of the desk. for the next moments, none of them attempted eye contact.
Then, Sasuke spoke again, "So, with all of this tension released, how about we go check on Kakashi?"
That was the second time Haruno Sakura actually stepped ahead to hit Uchiha Sasuke. It was a bit closer to hitting him than the first time. But that wall she restrained herself from hitting earlier... Damn. She'd have to explain that again.
A/N: If you usually update a different story from the ones that really need those updates more and you know it, clap your hands!