Summary: Sakura broke up with him on the off-chance she might finally get Sasuke at their class reunion. Well, news for her; not if Naruto got him first.
Warnings: A bit of NaruSaku to begin with. Then a bit of not. Then a bit of maybe SasuNaru. Then SasuNaru.
Inspiration: Luanlegacy. Class reunions. Idiots that never stop to consider situations before jumping to conclusions.
Giftfic: Rizember, 'cause she is kinda awesome. Print that and frame it, 'Ember. ALSO! This chapter has a total of nine quotes from Luanlegacy, direct and indirect. Oh, yeah. Totally went there.
Reya's Rants: I enjoyed writing this like you won't believe! Even if you enjoy it half as much, then amma be happy.
*Sigh* I am writing on this day to disclaim the story, Naruto. In addition, I am writing on this day to disclaim the various quotes from Luanlegacy.
Rizember; hope you like it! And if you don't, pretend you do 'cause I was seriously considering including all your squicks in here. 333
Sakura was thirty minutes late.
Normally, in any other girl, it wasn't something Naruto would be bothered about. But this was Sakura Haruno, and Sakura Haruno was never late. She waited for people; people did not wait for her.
Naruto sighed and glanced at the plate-shaped clock on the wall by his right. He'd been in such a hurry earlier that he'd forgotten his watch. He hadn't wanted to keep her waiting (again). If he'd known beforehand, he wouldn't have run that red light earlier.
He sighed again (the eighth time in five minutes) and averted his eyes from the couple at the next table when he realized his gaze had fallen on them. They were starting to make him uncomfortable, not only for the pitying 'poor-guy-was-probably-stood-up' looks they were covertly giving him, but also because they were so… coupley. They were practically glowing with a slightly nauseating pink-red-blue couple-aura. Maybe a bit of purple in there as well.
He groaned, barely stopping himself from bouncing around on his seat. If Sakura went ten more minutes without showing, the reservation he'd worked so hard for would go to waste. Honestly, he knew just how much the girl adored this restaurant, but it was expensive. The kind of expensive that he'd had to work overtime for four weeks to pull off just in time for their six-month anniversary.
He shifted in his seat, unable to stay still for too long. He liked Sakura, but being with her was hell on his wallet, so to speak.
Not that she knew that or had even seemed interested in knowing why he hadn't been as available as usual... He shook his head as though that would dislodge the faintly irritated thoughts. She was a busy person as well. He knew that and respected it. Sure, she hadn't seemed bothered by his late returns of her calls, his tiredness, the six-day period where he hadn't contacted her, or everything else—but that may be because she was tired as well. They'd gone through something similar a few months back after all, when the hospital she worked at had been understaffed. He shouldn't hold it against her.
Still. It would have been nice to hear her worry or even get angry about him not being around much...
He shook his head. What was done was done. If she had any excuses, she was welcome to share them. If she didn't… Well. Then she didn't. That was that.
Naruto was saved from further thoughts by the clickity-clack of heels. He looked up and smiled in relief. Sakura was hurrying towards him, down the aisle. She was dressed in a short, green number that stopped just above her knees. Draping over her shoulders and upper arms in the form of sleeves were slinky, golden chainy thingies that Naruto's male mind neither knew nor wanted to find out the name of; all he knew was they looked good on her. Her stilettos gave her hips an extra sway that had some guys giving her a second glance. Naruto inwardly smirked at the poor bastard who got caught staring by his girlfriend or wife or whatever the currently pissed off lady was to him.
Some part of him was commenting that he should be basking with pride at having such a hot girlfriend and seething with male jealousy that people were looking.
He told that part to look for the nearest bottomless pit and gangnam style right into it.
Naruto stood up from the table with a smile of welcome (he'd learned the hard way from Sakura that no, it didn't matter what year it was or what game was on or which Legend of Zelda you were playing, men were still supposed to rise whenever a lady entered the room). She smiled back, something looking off about it, but sat down. Huh, guess there was no welcome kiss for him tonight. He didn't let it get to him though; there was always the goodnight kiss to look forward to.
"Hey, I was starting to get worried," Naruto said, still working to keep his smile in place. You'd think the first proper thing to do would be to apologize for being late, but obviously, that was out of the question.
Sakura gave a small laugh and tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear. "Yeah. Um, I'm so sorry about that. The time got away from me and traffic was a nightmare."
Naruto just nodded, even though he couldn't recall the traffic earlier being anything less than a dream. But then again, who knows? Maybe there was suddenly an influx of cars within the thirty minutes he was in the restaurant. Or maybe a trailer had crashed on the way. Who knows.
"Well, you're here now." Naruto tried to shrug it off. "Good thing, too. Another few minutes and we would have lost the reservation!"
Sakura went very still, giving him the impression he'd said something wrong. Naruto went through his words, but couldn't find anything off.
"I said I was sorry, okay? How many times have you showed up late to our dates? I've never complained, but the first time I do so, you're pointing it out and making a big deal about it!"
Naruto's forehead wrinkled. Sure he'd been late a few times, but at least he'd called and explained, and he'd made it up to her in one way or the other, and he'd never been more than thirty minutes behind!
And besides! He wasn't complaining! Or, at least, he didn't mean to. Let her cut him some slack, he'd gone through hell to make this work; forgive him if he'd been a bit worried all his efforts were about to go to waste.
He took a deep breath. Let it out. He was a peaceful guy at heart; he disliked conflict, especially if it was easily avoidable.
"I'm sorry, Sakura," he murmured, reaching out to take one of her hands. He was relieved when she turned her hand so they were linked. "I didn't mean it that way. I'm just glad you weren't in some sort of trouble."
A part of him called bullshit on that last bit, but another part was glad she was okay so it wasn't a complete lie.
Sakura visibly relaxed and squeezed his hand gently. "I'm sorry, too. I've been kinda stressed; I shouldn't take it out on you. I really am sorry I'm late."
Naruto's smile became more genuine. Well, that was one grievance out of the way. That was something. Of course, there were at least ten others, but let them take it a step at a time, yeah?
He caught Sakura biting her lip. She only did that when she was thinking hard, and mostly not the good kind of thought. Her hand in his stiffened just the slightest.
"What's up?" he asked, concerned.
Sakura blinked, looking slightly flustered. "What? Um, nothing. Well, nothing important…" she trailed off, biting her lip again.
"Are you ready to order?"
Thankfully, a waiter interrupted whatever odd tension was gathering between them. Naruto sat back and nodded gratefully at him. "Yes, please!" he exclaimed with perhaps more enthusiasm than warranted. He looked back at his menu and gave his order before turning to his date. "Sakura?"
Silence. Naruto felt his eyebrow twitch and felt his eyes close with the effort he was putting into his smile. "Saaaakuraaaa-chaaaaaan," he sing-songed.
As always, that got an almost instinctive reaction out of her. She jerked her head towards him with a scowl and kicked him from under the table, where no one would be privy to his shin should it start to bleed.
"I told you to stop calling me that!"
Naruto winced, from the sympathetic look the waiter was giving him and from the pain in his leg. He gave a sheepish chuckle and rubbed at the back of his head. "Hey, hey, I just wanted to get your attention. Are you ready to order?"
Sakura blinked and jolted to a straighter position (Naruto didn't really see the use of that but whatever worked for her, worked for her). She brushed a bit of hair from her forehead and apologized to the waiter. Glancing briefly at the menu in her hands, she gave her own order.
The waiter nodded. "Very good, ma'am. Your dishes will be with you shortly. Can I interest you two in some chardonnay? It goes excellently with the meals you have chosen."
Naruto bit his lip. He was under strict orders not to drink, seeing as he was still recovering. Luckily, Sakura beat him to it. "I'm sorry, but is there a non-alcoholic substitute?"
"We have chardonnay sans alcohol if it would be more to your preference."
"Yes, thank you."
With that, he departed, leaving them with a slightly strained silence. Naruto cast around for something—anything, really—to say. Sakura was also looking rather lost. It bemused the blond, actually. In the past, they'd always had one thing or another to talk about. He wasn't sure what was going on right now to have caused this odd tension. Sure, they hadn't spoken in almost a week, but when had that ever stopped them before? There was a time they'd gone almost two weeks without conversing due to busy schedules. It hadn't affected their communication when they'd gone out afterwards.
"So!" Naruto exclaimed, trying to break the awkwardness. "How've you been?"
Sakura gave him an odd look. To be fair, he deserved that. Naruto wasn't the 'How've you been?' type. Rather, the 'Hey-yo!' kind of person. But with a strain such as this, could one really blame him?
"Um," Sakura stalled. "I've been good. We've been short-staffed for the past week or so, so the hospital has been rather hectic. But you already knew that, of course."
Naruto blinked. He…did? "I did?"
Sakura furrowed her brows. "I thought that was why you hadn't contacted me in so long."
Naruto blinked again, slower this time. Actually, he hadn't contacted her because he had been too sick to even remember his name. So sick, in fact, that he was sure some soul reaper had been sitting right beside him the entire time just counting down the seconds while sharpening its scythe.
Or playing around with its deathnote. Whichever.
Before he could comment though, Sakura's demeanor darkened. "You mean, you hadn't known about my work schedule?"
Naruto was a step away from outright lying ("Of course, I did! I didn't think you knew that I knew, is all! What kind of boyfriend do you take me for?") when a waiter arrived and served them their drinks. Naruto made a huge fuss about it and when the man left, Naruto was all smiles.
"So!" he exclaimed (again). "Whatever happened to that old lady in ward six? The one that specialized in poisons?"
Sakura gave him a look that clearly showed she hadn't forgotten her question, but answered him nonetheless. "Chiyo? She's taken to scaring the interns anytime she can. Somehow always manages to trick them into thinking she's dead. I don't know how the idiots keep falling for it."
Naruto chuckled. Sure, it was cruel of the crotchety old lady to keep scaring people like that, but it didn't stop the comic factor. After a few seconds, Sakura smiled, which soon turned into muted giggles, as though she knew she shouldn't be finding it funny as well but couldn't help herself.
It seemed to break whatever tension had been between them, or at least lessen it to a manageable degree. The two settled into comfortable conversation, mostly exchanging stories about the past few days. It soothed Naruto somewhat that they still had that.
Their orders were brought with swift efficiency. He looked down at his plate and blinked in disbelief. He closed his eyes tightly and opened them again to make sure he wasn't seeing things. Naruto suppressed a sneer with difficulty. Seriously? This was all he was getting? Had he accidently ordered from the kid's menu or something?
He gave a discreet look around as Sakura thanked the waiter. Unbelievable. For such an expensive place, they served ridiculously small portions of food. Was the end of the world coming soon? Was that why they were hoarding their stuff? If you looked away and looked back, the food just might be gone—it would have evaporated—that was how small the servings were.
Urgh, if this was fine dining, then screw fine dining; give him some ramen.
He looked up and saw Sakura watching him with an odd expression. He immediately gave her a grin and hoped his thoughts were not showing on his face. He picked up his cutlery and brandished it. "Let's eat!"
Naruto gave a mental apology to his stomach, promising to feed it something more than chicken feed when he got home.
Naruto was starting to get irritated. Scratch that; Naruto was irritated.
After all the suffering he had gone through the past few weeks, especially in the days prior, the least she could do was pretend she was enjoying the meal. But nope, Sakura was content to pick at her food and stare unfocused into the unknown distance.
It was starting to get on Naruto's nerves.
"Is there something wrong, Sakura?" he asked with exaggerated solicitude, breaking yet another silence that had descended upon them. He couldn't even count the number of those they had gone through. Sure, Sakura was a fan of maintaining at least 80 percent silence while eating, but this one was closer to 98. Seriously. He didn't know whether to be more amused or irritated that she was so withdrawn. A person asked you out and made so much effort; it was only right to at least pretend like you're having a good time. Barring that, at least explaining the reason behind the reticence.
"Hmm?" she hummed, staring at her fork absentmindedly. Naruto was contemplating dumping her glass over her head just to see if he would finally get a reaction, when she snapped to attention. "I'm sorry, what?"
His eyebrow twitched and his patience unraveled just a bit more. "You know, if you weren't up to this tonight, you could have just told me beforehand. I would have been bummed out, sure, but I would have understood. Right now, I feel like I'm forcing you into something you don't want."
Sakura's eyes softened at his unintentional pout. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I'm sorry, Naruto,"—and if he heard that apology one more time—"I'm not being fair to you, am I?"
No, you really aren't. He knew better than to whine though; the last time he did, his head had been hit so hard he'd seen a different dimension. Instead, he just gave a small smile
(and really, he was starting to run low on his smiles)
and shrugged, waiting for her excuse.
She coughed into her hand, straightened her already straight pose. Naruto absentmindedly wondered what sort of equilibrium she hoped to achieve with such actions, but he kept the thought to himself, preferring to listen.
"You know our class reunion is coming up…"
How could he forget? She and his friends had been reminding him of it long enough. His gut clenched, and it was only through force of will that he relaxed. Heck, he reminded himself of it enough.
"Well… You see… That is, I… Urgh. This is harder than I thought it would be," she murmured. After a deep breath that displayed her breasts to their advantage, she soldiered on. "Almost everyone's going to be there. Including …Including people I thought I would never see again. Don't you think this is a chance to seize opportunities where you can? There's a chance that I'd let slip by me back at school and I don't want to make that mistake again."
Naruto just frowned, choosing not to answer. He had no idea where his girlfriend was going with this, but he knew he did not like the path so far.
Sakura might have taken his silence as an agreement or not, but she continued anyway. "I want us to take a break from each other."
The world receded. It tunneled and folded in on itself until it evolved into nothing more than white noise. His hands suddenly felt clammy and he was overcome with the sudden need to rush to the nearest bathroom.
"You're breaking up with me?"
Sakura was quick to shake her head, even going so far as to place a gentle hand over his. "No. No, Naruto, I'm not breaking up with you. I just want us to take a break from each other."
His shock was quickly evolving into confusion and a little (a lot) of anger.
"Really?" he fairly spat. "Yet notice they both have the word 'break' in them."
"Come on, don't be like that. Please." Sakura's eyes widened until her expression could give Puss in Boots competition. Normally, Naruto would have been tripping over himself to do what she wanted. (Un)Fortunately, his world hadn't righted itself yet, so that look was not going to fly. It wasn't going to fly, penguin.
"And how long will this... break"—he hissed out the word as though it were something particularly vulgar—"be for?"
She bit her lip. Obviously, finally, she had cottoned on to the fact that, easy-going as he was, this was a conversation he was not going to go easy on.
"Well, I would rather go into this with a clear conscience, and I can't do that with us being to—"
Naruto held up a hand, demanding silence. His anger was threatening to boil over big time, and he hated himself when he got angry. He took a deep breath, imagining, as always, a large, dimly lit corridor. Just for variety, he added ankle-deep water. Then made up floor-to-ceiling bars and installed them at the end of the room. He formed his anger into the shape of a giant, red fox and tucked it behind the bars. Because he could, he also put a piece of paper with the word 'seal' on the bars.
Calmer now, he looked back at Sakura. Her eyes were wide and wet-looking, and she looked a bit (a lot) anxious. He couldn't blame her; he had a horrible temper and would rather keep it under control.
"Okay," he said in a low voice. "Okay. Tell me again why you want us to… take a break."
Sakura visibly relaxed and gave a wobbly smile. "Well, as I said, there's a chance that I'd let slip by me and I don't want it to happen again."
Contrary to popular views, Naruto was not a stupid man. In fact, he considered himself fairly intelligent and innovative—one had to be, considering his job—so it wasn't hard for the implications of Sakura's statement to sink in. Naruto's eyes narrowed and underneath the table, his hands fisted tightly enough for his nails to dig into skin.
Somewhere deep in his mind, the seal paper burned itself halfway off his cage.
"That chance is a guy, isn't it?"
Sakura's breath stopped mid-inhale. He knew it was mid-inhale because her breasts were jutting outwards but he couldn't even appreciate that in the midst of crushing… He didn't even have a proper word for the complex emotions running through him. Betrayal and anger that she could say something like that and expect him to go along with it; disappointment that she obviously doubted his intelligence; hurt that she wasn't as serious about this relationship as he was; anger that he had wasted so much of his time, health, money, and effort on her when all he amounted to was this…
Relief for… He wasn't sure for what yet, but it was there.
"And what happens should the two of you get together like you're apparently hoping?" Naruto asked, voice guttural. "Am I to sit patiently by the side, waiting for you to come back to me? Pine away by the sidelines while you two exchange marriage vows? Have his leftovers after he's through fucking you?"
He immediately regretted saying that last bit, though he had been thinking it.
Sakura's mouth was open and her eyes wide with hurt. That immediately changed to a disgusted glare as she removed her napkin and threw it on the table. "What the hell, Naruto! I was trying to break it to you gently. What the hell gives you the right to talk to me like that? Screw you, I obviously shouldn't have bothered. Have a nice dinner, asshole."
Naruto winced as she dragged her chair backwards, got up, and stomped out with her injured dignity. Yeah, okay. He might have deserved that.
He groaned and dropped his face into his hands. At least she hadn't slapped him. He'd deserved that too.
With a sigh, he raised his head and stared at the door his date had exited through. Should he have followed her? Maybe apologized? Nah, she would have still broken up—sorry, asked for a break—either way. Maybe if he had, he would have gotten that slap. Or a punch in the face. Not something he would like, to be honest.
His gaze fell on the table next to him. This time, they were gaping at him in a poor-bastard-was-dumped-in-the-middle-of-a-date coupled with a damn-I'm-glad-it-wasn't-me way. He narrowed his eyes and returned their looks with one of his own: mind-your-goddamned-business plus keep-looking-at-me-and-I'm-about-to-take-you-over- the-rainbow.
The couple shrank back and immediately averted their eyes. Naruto felt a curious sense of vindictive pleasure and guilt flutter somewhere inside him, but before he could sort out which feeling was more prominent, somebody politely cleared their throat behind him.
He turned and was met with the waiter who had served them. He was holding out a slim, black book and looking apologetic.
"I assume you'll be requiring your check, sir?"
"Hit the brakes! Hit the brakes, I have a flat tire!" Kiba Inuzuka hit the carpet, palm-down, multiple times. His face was a painting of indignation and disbelief as he stared at Naruto. "You mean to tell me not only did she break up with—"
"'Take a break from,'" Naruto interjected dryly, air-quoting.
Kiba glared but continued. "Break up with you over a possibility and left you alone in that fancy-ass restaurant you made yourself sick over, after coming thirty minutes late… she left you to foot the goddamn bill?!"
"Don't forget not eating much of the food to begin with," Shikamaru Nara drawled from his reclined position on the sofa.
Kiba snapped his fingers and pointed at the ponytailed man. "Yes! And she didn't eat much of the fancy-ass food of the expensive fancy-ass restaurant Naruto got sick over!"
Naruto rolled his eyes, keeping himself from face-palming with monumental effort. "Kiba, you're obsessed with the restaurant."
"No,"—his tattooed friend glared—"I'm obsessed over how ungrateful and self-absorbed that complete bitch—"
He pointed an imperious finger at him. "Naruto, I come from a long line of vets and I specialize in dogs. If I say she's a bitch, you better believe it; she's a bitch."
He backed his words up with a small head motion that frankly made him look kind of gay. Naruto bit his lip against the inappropriate urge to smile. Kiba might take it as encouragement to continue insulting Sakura.
Not that that'd ever stopped him before. His friends weren't exactly the founders of the Sakura Haruno Fanclub.
Shikamaru gave one of his signature sighs, the one that seemed to've been pulled from the shadows of the back of his spleen, and sat up. He scratched the back of his neck and looked at Naruto. The blond sat up straighter, even keeping his bottle of beer on the table beside him. Whenever Shikamaru sighed like that, and accompanied it with a neck-scratch, people better sit up and pay attention to whatever he was going to say.
"I think what Kiba is trying to say is she never deserved you anyway."
"Exactly!" Kiba exclaimed. Shikamaru cast him an irritated look, but ignored him. Naruto was giving him a skeptical look, so he focused more of his attention on the blond.
"Are you listening, Naruto? You deserve better. You can do better. Sakura… Sakura was just not it, and you will get over her and find someone else that is leagues beyond her."
He got that Naruto was hurt, he really did. His friend had been after Sakura for two years before she'd finally given him the time of the day. That the relationship hadn't lasted more than six months was probably more of a blow to the blond's ego than the fact that he'd been dumped.
But Shikamaru wasn't trying to placate the blond with empty words; he really did think he deserved better than her. All his friends did. It wasn't that she was a bad person; she just didn't care about Naruto the way he deserved to be cared for.
Case in point: this past month. Shikamaru felt a flash of still-fresh anger just thinking about it.
Naruto had been looking forward to their six-month anniversary, had been planning on how to save up enough for a date at Sakura's favorite restaurant. In all fairness, he'd been saving up for three months (optimistic guy that he was), but he'd had to use half of it to help out Sai after the latter had been duped out of a lot of money just five weeks ago, money Sai had thought would go to funding his latest painting collection.
Naruto, having already put his mind to giving Sakura this surprise, had taken a night job on top of his 8am-4pm work at the Konoha Media Advertising Firm just to get enough for that reservation.
It had worried Naruto's friends the Friday they'd gone to work and hadn't seen the bubbly blond. Getting off early had been easy, since their boss, Yamato Tenzou, had been just as worried.
Shikamaru would probably never forget just how long his heart had stopped for when he and Kiba had found Naruto collapsed halfway between his kitchen and the front door.
The idiot had literally worked himself sick. Naruto, whom Shikamaru couldn't even recall ever being sick in the eleven years he'd known him, had made himself sick over trying to please his undeserving girlfriend.
Shikamaru's hand clenched, away from the eyes of his friends. She was—had been—undeserving. Not once in all the five days that he, Kiba, Neji, and Sai had watched over and taken care of Naruto, made sure he ate and kept his fevers down, and soothed him through his delirium and his nightmares had Sakura even called. He knew she was a hospital staff member, but if your boyfriend hasn't called for more than five days, common sense would beg you to wonder what was up.
Shikamaru gritted his teeth before he could stop himself. He let out a sigh that seemed to take all the negative feelings with it and sat back. He was glad she was out of his friend's life, and if he had anything to say about it, she was not coming back. Break or not.
A quick glance at Kiba's face showed the other was thinking the same thing, or nearly so.
A quick glance at Naruto, however, showed he was disbelieving.
Shikamaru sighed again. Naruto was confident, witty, loveable, intelligent, creative, successful… The list went on. It always threw Shikamaru for a loop whenever this low-self-esteem Naruto showed up.
"Hey, man," Kiba said, looking at his friend and scratching one of the tattoos that painted both of his cheeks. A tell with him. He was trying to be serious and/or going to say something he might be uncomfortable with.
"I don't think much of Sakura. We all don't, you know that. I thought she was materialistic and could have put more of an effort towards the relationship. But we were willing to put up with her because somehow, she made you happy. But she just didn't try. It's like she treated it like a game. But breaking your heart is game over. Stop, don't you dare tell me she didn't, even a little bit"—Naruto closed his mouth, since, yeah, he had been about to protest—"and that's just not cool. You tried your best with her. You can't hold yourself responsible for it ending or whatever you might be thinking. Don't let it get you down; let it build you up instead. You might feel worthless to one person, but you're priceless to another; don't ever forget your value."
Kiba gave a large sigh and sat back, as though that had taken way too much out of him. He scratched at his now-pink cheek once more. Silence blanketed the room as his two friends stared at him, mouths agape.
"Wow…" Naruto whispered. He cleared his throat, searching for something to say. "That was… surprisingly profound?" He winced at the way the statement came out as more of a question. He couldn't help it; Kiba and profound weren't a common combination.
"And surprisingly cliché," Shikamaru added, making Naruto snort.
Kiba shrugged, unrepentant. "Enh. It gets boring at the vet's. I sometimes read Hana's magazines."
The other two snickered at the thought of their friend bored enough to read a girly magazine. Bored enough to read period.
Naruto leaned with his back against the sofa, still smiling. He would never admit it out loud, of course, but he was so, so grateful to have friends such as these. They always managed to make him feel better. Already, the sting of Sakura dumping him was fading somewhat (yes, he could admit that. What kind of a person went on a 'break' with her boyfriend just to pursue another guy, anyway? That showed all kinds of disrespect and thoughtlessness, though he decided to be magnanimous and give her points for honesty).
He thought back to his hellish sick session and gave a mental shudder. God. If that was how people felt when they fell sick, he suddenly had a new-found respect for every single person that had taken ill in the history of the world. He had never been so glad for his friends as he had been during that hellish time. They had put up with him, made sure he'd taken his medication, alleviated his pain in whatever way they could… they had cared for him.
His smile turned slightly giddy. The thought gave him warmth not unlike a steaming hot bowl of ramen going down just the right way after a long and tiring day of work.
"So, the class reunion is coming up," Kiba said carefully, breaking Naruto's thoughts. He looked up to see find his friend watching him for his reaction.
The blond paled but gave a large, thoroughly fake smile. "Yeah! I haven't seen so many people in so long!"
"Including Sasuke," Shikamaru said.
Naruto gulped, his heart skipping just at the mention of the name. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, well. He may not be attending…"
"His business moved here a few weeks ago," Shikamaru informed him with feigned laziness. "As you well know. It was your team that designed its advertisement."
Naruto sighed, scratched at the back of his head. Yeah, that was true enough. It had thrown him for a loop when he'd met with an agent representing Sasuke's business… The business he had left Naruto so suddenly for… The business he had chosen over Naruto—
Naruto blinked, shaking his head of the thoughts; maybe then his heart wouldn't be thumping so painfully. He looked up at his friends, who were regarding him with barely hidden worry in their gazes. He managed a smile for their sakes. "You know Sasuke; he isn't exactly the social butterfly of the year, so it's possible he won't be bothered to come. If we don't meet, then we don't meet. If we do…" His smile faltered and he looked away briefly. His next words were a whisper that had his friends looking at each other in silent communication.
"If we do meet, I can handle it."
Oh God, he couldn't handle it!
The thought blurred through his mind at the speed of sound, even as he pressed his back against a pillar, heart beating wildly. He closed his eyes on a curse. Dammit, just catching a glimpse of him was enough to get him flustered. How was he supposed to walk up and simply talk to him?
He peeked sky blue eyes toward the center of the hall. Okay, he could admit to himself he was hiding. It galled him, it really did. It wasn't like he wanted to hide; it was just like his body went into autopilot any time he caught sight of—there!
Before he knew it, he'd ducked into a nearby alcove—unfortunately running into a couple and interrupting their heavy make-out session.
Urgh. Seriously? They weren't teenagers anymore. This was a class reunion, not prom night. Let them have some control at least.
Naruto ignored the part of him that admitted if it had been him, he would have done the exact same thing.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry!" he apologized frantically at the glowering couple (who, for the life of him, he couldn't remember ever meeting. Wasn't this supposed to be a gathering with only his classmates?). He backed out of the alcove. The pair glared at him for a few more seconds before huffing and walking away, maybe to find a more private spot.
He heard the balcony was a good place… But they'd already left by the time he thought of it.
Speaking of private spots… He looked around covertly and immediately made eye contact with a pair of captivating onyx eyes: eyes that widened with surprise and then narrowed with intent.
The owner started towards him.
Oh hell no was he waiting around for that. He was gone like the wind.
With a sound that could have been a squeak had it been a few decibels higher, Naruto whirled around and ran—uh, strategically retreated.
He was not ready to face him quite yet. Cowardly? No way; he was just charging up on his bravery, was all. Naruto groaned with self-disgust. He should stop kidding himself. He was being a coward. There, he admitted it. Maybe after that, he could get over it and man the hell up.
"How long are you going to keep running?"
Naruto eep'ed and jumped about a foot high. Ohshitohshitohshitohshit! His heart was beating to its own funeral dirge. He turned around slowly, expecting the worst. He let out the breath he hadn't been aware of holding. "Shika! God, you scared the crap out of me."
Shikamaru was dressed in semi-formal wear. It would have been weird, except Naruto had seen him in worse for the purposes of work. You couldn't have the head of the planning department of the media firm dressing just anyhow after all. Shikamaru raised a brow at him, hands buried deep in his pockets. "Thought I was someone else?"
Naruto coughed, looking everywhere besides Shikamaru. As though that would stop his blush from blossoming. "Maybe?"
Shikamaru looked at him silently. He let his eyes roam, taking in the dark corner Naruto was trying to disappear into. It didn't take long for him to realize what was going on. Naruto Uzumaki, the first to jump into any situation he deemed worthy, was pulling a runner. He sighed, scratching behind his neck. "It's not like you, Naruto."
Naruto looked down, embarrassed. He looked one step away from scuffing the tip of his shoes against the cement. "I know. But it just... It hurts too much right now. I can't face him with all my emotions bubbling like this."
Shikamaru decided Naruto looked rather sweet like this, but the circumstances were something he could do without. "You two never got to talk—"
"Yeah, because he left me without a freaking word!" Naruto exploded. In the next second, his fierce expression fell. Shikamaru was glad it was gone—the defeated look was not a good face on him—but it was replaced with something heart-wrenching that tempted Shikamaru to violence. "We were supposed to leave together. He promised me that. And him just… leaving… without a word to me…"
Shikamaru sighed a world-weary sigh. Sometimes, knowing Naruto was too troublesome. "Well, you're not going to get answers by hiding from him."
"I know! I just… I'll talk to him. But not right now." The blond paused, considering. He shook his head, forcing himself to be honest. "Or maybe not tonight." Urgh, he knew he shouldn't have come tonight! He had stared at himself in the mirror for thirty minutes debating on the wisdom of attending this thing. Mirror Naruto had won out by insisting he come so he could see people he hadn't seen in a long while, sap that he was.
Maybe he could make a quick getaway…
"What do you mean?" Shikamaru's eyes narrowed, putting a stop to Naruto's internal planning.
"He's moved back here, hasn't he? I could look him up any other time." The blond shrugged, looking up at the ceiling to avoid Shikamaru's glare. He cocked his head to one side, noticing the ceiling was actually covered with blue and silver cloth. Wow. The effect was nice and all, but this hall was friggin huge. How many yards—no, bolts—of cloth did the decorators have to use to cover the ceiling completely?
"So you're going to use that as an excuse not to speak with him?" Shikamaru's voice was exasperated. "Look, you still care for him. You owe it to yourself to find out why he left all those years ago."
Come to think of it, why the hell was it covered to begin with? Yeah, he'd never been there prior to the reunion but come on. It couldn't be all that bad to be covered right? The walls were done in silvers and blues too, with orange thingies wherever the two colors met. Wouldn't that have been enough?
Tch. It was a woman that did the decorating; he was sure of it.
"Hey guys! What are we talking about?" Kiba's voice cut into Shikamaru's weary silence. Naruto kept his gaze trained upwards.
"Naruto's undying love for Sasuke." He could practically hear Shikamaru's eye-roll in every word.
"What? Hey!" Naruto protested, snapping his head around to properly glare at his lazy friend.
"Ah, that. Is he still running?" Kiba asked, bored.
"Like a little wuss."
"I'm still here, you know!"
"Oh, so you are." Kiba feigned surprise. "Thought you ran again."
Naruto glared harder, making the other two chuckle softly. He huffed, his mouth forming an almost unconscious pout. "I'm going to look for Neji."
"Wait, man, stop. I'm sorry." Kiba grinned, negating his apology with that little gesture.
"I'm not." Shikamaru shrugged. "Neji isn't even here yet. He's branching to pick up Sai and Gaara so he'll be a while."
Naruto frowned, teasing already forgotten. "I thought Sai was coming with Ino?"
Kiba snickered while Shikamaru rolled his eyes heavily. "Ino called earlier. She's going to be a while."
Naruto's frown just deepened, even though it was obvious his friends weren't really worried. Ino had been yammering nonstop about this night; he was surprised she wasn't among the first three there. He was so busy wondering that he didn't notice the others move away.
"What happened?" he asked, feet unconsciously following them.
"Tch. She said her shoes were a shade off from her dress so she's changing them. Or the dress, I'm not sure. It was too troublesome listening to her rant so I hung up on her."
Naruto snickered. The temperamental blonde would not have been happy with that at all. He wouldn't be surprised if she held a silent grudge for the next year.
He looked around, nonplussed. When had they reached the buffet table? Why was he out in the open? He was just about to retreat when he spotted the middle of the hall. It was teeming with people. Surely he could stay here for a while since there was a wall of bodies between him and where he last saw Sasuke?
Besides, he was hungry.
"Urgh." Kiba gave a grunt/sneer of disgust, staring at something to his far left. Naruto looked towards the direction, but couldn't see whatever it was that had Kiba disgruntled; there were too many people blocking his view. With a shrug, he picked up a mini sandwich and gobbled it up. "Look at her. She thinks she's The Shit. Someone should tell her she's just a piece of shit."
Naruto rolled his eyes, realizing who his friend was talking about. "Kiba. Really."
He snorted, unrepentant. "If you don't like what I have to say, cover your ears—Holy shit, cover your eyes! Cover your eyes, Naruto!" he near-shouted, suddenly trying to get his large hands over Naruto's entire face.
The blond tried dodging him but almost got his eye jabbed out as a result. "Hey, Kiba, stop it. What the hell man, get off me!" He pushed him away, glaring. "What's gotten into y… The fuck?"
His eyes had finally fallen on Sakura—almost halfway across the room—and he immediately wished he could gouge them out.
"Naruto…" Shikamaru sighed.
"What the hell is Sakura doing practically humping Sasuke Uchiha's legs?" he yelled, waving his hand haphazardly in the her direction. Yeah, sure enough, Sakura was leaning too close to an obviously bored Sasuke, who even had his face turned the other way.
He felt sick and betrayed and on the whole, not so happy. Sasuke was his, dammit, not some… some girl's!
"… Maybe the Bitch Syndrome is acting up?"
All Kiba got for his efforts was an unamused glare and an eye-roll.
"Kiba. Shut up. Naruto, calm down." Shikamaru placated, rubbing at the back of his neck but also staring at the couple. "It's probably nothing."
Naruto snarled. "You can't tell me it's nothing when … Look at that! Did you see what she just did?!" He growled, gesturing at the couple. Sakura was pushing her cleavage right up into Sasuke's arm as though she wanted to absorb it into herself.
He didn't even know what angered him more; the fact that it was her doing this or that it was Sasuke she was doing it to.
No, he took that back; it was definitely the latter.
"Yes… I did… Naruto, no. Stay." Shikamaru put a hand on his shoulder to stop him from moving away. "Don't make a fool of yourself."
"Yeah, she's already doing enough for the both of you." Kiba snorted. He glared at Sakura's general direction for a few seconds and snorted again when Sasuke tugged back his arm and gave her a freezing look. He spoke some words lost to them and walked away, leaving her crossing her arms. "Can't she tell he's not even interested? Even I know she doesn't have a chance. She didn't back in school; she doesn't now."
Naruto blanched, Sakura's words coming back to him. There's a chance that I'd let slip by me, and I don't want it to happen again.
Shikamaru blinked and looked at him, the expression on his face telling him what he did not want to know.
"Oh, God," Naruto whispered, feeling rather faint. "You don't think…"
Shikamaru nodded, his eyes cold. "Yeah, it seems so. I'm so sorry, man."
"What? What's going on?" Kiba looked from Naruto to Shikamaru, cottoning on to the fact that something was wrong, but not quite sure what it was.
Shikamaru sighed and rubbed behind his neck. This had just gotten even more troublesome. Especially considering Naruto's own feelings for Sasuke. "Sakura broke up with Naruto so she could go after Sasuke."
Kiba blinked, his expression blank as he tried to get his head around the audacity that was Sakura Haruno. "… I knew she was a bitch, but what a bitch."
Naruto made a humming noise, beyond chastising him for his language. He was… He was kind of gutted, though he wasn't sure why. It wasn't because of Sakura pursuing Sasuke; that fact shouldn't have been surprising to him, actually, now that he thought about it. Everyone had known about the ginormous crush she'd harbored for the brunet back in school. It should have been easy for him to arrive at that conclusion if he'd actually given it enough thought.
Did Sasuke know Naruto and Sakura had gotten together after him? No, he shouldn't have known. Or, he shouldn't have cared, anyway. Naruto's brow furrowed at the painful throb in his chest. At one time, he'd thought Sasuke might have cared if Naruto had entered a relationship with someone else, might have cared a lot. But that was five years ago, before Sasuke had all but promised the blond they would leave town together, that they would finally become official…
Naruto grabbed a cup and poured himself some punch. He downed it in one shot, vaguely registering his friends' mutterings between themselves.
He'd been a fool—a naïve, optimistic fool—to think Sasuke Uchiha actually cared about him in that fashion. That much was obvious when he woke up to an empty apartment a week after their graduation, the day after a rousing 'graduation' party.
No note, no call, no answers, no nothing.
And after five years, finally, Naruto could get his answers face-to-face. And maybe a punch or two in for the heartache the bastard had caused him.
"I think you should go after Sasuke as well." Kiba's voice tried to interrupt his thoughts.
Naruto nodded absentmindedly, tapping his fingers against the tabletop, mind drifting. So, now that Sakura was going after Sasuke, how would it look if he went up to him and... "Mm? Yeah, that's exactly what I shou—wait, what?"
"Think about it. It's the perfect revenge!" Kiba exclaimed, seemingly unconcerned with Naruto's bulging eyes. Even Shikamaru made a small noise at that. Whether in agreement or in incredulity, he wasn't certain. He couldn't even turn to make sure.
"Who said anything about wanting revenge? And on who?" Naruto asked, disbelieving. What in the world was the idiot saying? Did he even know what he was saying?
"—You show her you're not affected by the break up," his friend continued, ignoring the interruption as though it had never been, "she sees Sasuke with you, she thinks she's turned you gay—"
"I'm bi, you idiot!"
"—and she doesn't end up with Sasuke! Is it perfect or is it perfect?"
The blond took a step back as though that would be of any help. Perfect? Perfectly insane, yeah. He narrowed his eyes carefully, wondering if… Nope, the sad part was Kiba was completely serious. His expression blanked at that realization. "It's a stupid, ill-conceived, pathetic plan that could only be thought up by an idiot," he deadpanned.
"What did you say?!"
"I said it is a stupid—"
"I heard what you said!"
They both paused, glaring at each other. Kiba had some pretty crazy ideas, but this one took the cake. And the knife, and the table, and most probably the entire party. Naruto glanced around, sure their shouting had attracted attention. It hadn't. He turned back to Kiba. "I thought you didn't like Sasuke."
"I like him more than Sakura." Kiba shrugged nonchalantly. "Yeah, he's a bastard for what he did to you. But he's my friend too, and I haven't heard his side of the story, so I'm willing to hear him out. Sakura, however, I just don't like."
Naruto slowly blinked at that twisted piece of logic. "You're insane," he declared and turned to Shikamaru. The man had been silent throughout the exchange, so maybe Naruto had an ally in him. "Can you believe this guy?"
All he got was an indifferent shrug.
Kiba closed his eyes, looking like he was praying for patience. "I don't see what's wrong with pretending to be dating Sasuke to get back at her," he explained through gritted teeth.
Naruto gave him a flat look. Seriously? He didn't? "You didn't see what was wrong with sticking a metal fork into a socket either."
"God! I was thirteen! Are you going to hold that over me forever?"
"The point is it can blow up in so many ways. And I won't use Sasuke like that; it's not right." Naruto sighed, thinking of all the ways he did want to use Sasuke. He mentally shook his head. Seeing Sasuke again was messing him up more than he'd thought possible.
Shikamaru was silent.
Kiba was silent.
"So what you're saying is, you still care about him enough to be concerned with his feelings," Shikamaru ventured carefully after a few seconds to let Naruto's statement sink in.
"What? How did you… No!" Naruto was getting increasingly flustered. Had the two of them gone absolutely crazy? So much for Shikamaru being an ally. Did they know what they were saying, what they were suggesting? Wasn't this taking advantage of…Well, he wasn't quite sure of who, but of someone!
Kiba sighed explosively and leaned back against the table. He glanced around to make sure no one was interested in their conversation before turning to Naruto. "Look, Naruto, I don't see the problem. Sakura sees her mistake; you get your revenge; Sasuke gets two people lusting after him."
"I'm not lusting after him!"
From Kiba's side, Shikamaru gave him a flat look that shouted he did not have time for Naruto's bullshit denials. Naruto flushed and decided to find the secrets to life at the bottom of his cup.
"Yeah, yeah, okay. He doesn't know that. And Sakura doesn't know that either. Just walk up to him and confess. Simple." The vet-in-training shrugged, taking a sip of his punch, honestly not seeing what all the fuss was about.
"I can't!" Why the hell was he still listening to this rubbish?
Kiba gave another sigh that reeked of exasperation. "Naruto. I thought you had a thing for him back in school. Why not just act on it now? You'd be killing two birds with one stone."
"Whaa… Well. Um, you see…" He left me; my ex is panting after him; he caught me running away from him; I still don't know how to act around him… Oh, God, would his flush ever leave his cheeks?
"Goddammit, Uzumaki, what's stopping you from walking up to Sasuke and confessing your feelings for him?!" Kiba snapped, patience finally at its limit.
"Yes, I'm curious to know that, too."
The three froze at the foreign addition to their conversation. Naruto gulped as he turned and came face-to-face with the man he'd been trying his damnedest to avoid all night.
^^^ See that? That's among the top three reasons why this story is chaptered =D
If you readers don't know Luanlegacy, ya'll need to know him. His Youtube has been taken down, but google any of his videos; I promise you won't be disappointed. He swears a lot, though; that's the only warning amma give you. See how many quotes of his you caught in here! =D