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Faith in You: Chapter Five

“We're strange allies with warring hearts,

The space between
The bullets in our firefight,
Is where I'll be hiding, waiting for you.
The rain that falls,
Splashes in your heart,
Runs like sadness down the window into...
The space between
Our wicked lies,
Is where we hope to keep safe from pain.”

Naruto scrambled to his feet, backing away from the confused boy.

“Sasuke, I… I can’t do this. I made a mistake,” he stammered, leaning against a tree for support. “There’s too much,” he gestured to the space between them.

“Naruto, what’s going on?” Sasuke began, stepping toward him. Naruto turned his head away, looking instead at the ground.

“I’ll find you a better escort. I’m really sorry,” he went on, ignoring Sasuke. He jumped up into the branches, beckoning to his ward. Sasuke followed Naruto into the trees. In his state, I wonder if I could escape? But the seal… I should wait until he’s removed it. He smirked faintly. Back off for now, he’ll come around. He always does.

Silence reigned once more as they travelled back through the forest to the stone pathway that led to the north side of town. It was a longer walk this time than the one they took from Sasuke's house. Finally, Naruto stopped in front of a modest house near the outskirts of the Hyuuga estate.

“Hyuuga Neji? You’ve got to be kidding me,” Sasuke grumbled. I won’t be able to get anything past that guy. What is it with this sudden change of heart? He wondered as Naruto rapped his knuckles on the weathered door impatiently. Neji answered a few moments later, a slight scowl marring his smooth features.

“What are you —oh. The Uchiha is back.” He eyed the raven-haired boy. Sasuke opened his mouth to retort, but was interrupted.

“Hey Neji, I know it’s a lot to ask, but could you take care of him for awhile until I can find a replacement? I got in a bit over my head,” Naruto explained sheepishly.

“I don’t need a babysitter!” Sasuke sputtered. “I can make it home on my own.”

“I’m sure you can, but that’s not really your decision to make, is it?” Neji said coolly, slipping his sandals on. “You owe me,” he told Naruto, shutting his door behind him.

“Thanks, Neji-kun! I’ll come by Sasuke’s later with a replacement,” Naruto called over his shoulder as he jogged down the pathway. Neji watched him go, and then turned to Sasuke. “I’ll follow you.”

Sasuke sighed and started home. So much for rivalry. Just how large is this rift that I’ve created, Naruto?

* * *

“You’ve been exerting yourself too much, Naruto-kun. You should know better.”

“Sorry, Sakura-chan. Can you help me out?” Naruto strained to look over his shoulder as Sakura examined the sprawling seal covering the back of his shoulder and arm. He was straddling her kitchen chair, shirt hanging off the edge of the table.

                    “Yes, I can reinforce it for you, but I’ll warn you now, it’ll hurt quite a bit. Well, you remember last time,” Sakura replied. “Let’s do that later, though. The tea is almost ready.” She ruffled his hair and rose to fetch the whistling kettle. He slipped his shirt back on.

Sakura’s apartment was tidy and warm, and reminded Naruto of everything he loved about her. She had a vase of daffodils on the table, and the kitchen always seemed to smell like dumplings. The walls were yellow, a compromise between Sakura’s pink and Lee’s outrageous green.

Naruto felt a warm pressure against his legs and bent down to heft a large orange tabby onto his lap. He smiled at Sakura as she brought the tea back to the table and scratched the cat behind the ears.

“Leo’s so fat these days,” she lamented. “We’ve been trying to cut down on the table scraps, but he seems to find food anyway. I think he’s been eating the butter off the counter,” she laughed. Naruto chuckled, the vibration in his ribs causing the cat to cast him an annoyed look and jump to the ground.

Sakura gave him a thoughtful look as she sipped her tea. “So, you’re giving up on him already?”

“Sasuke? Yeah, well… you understand, don’t you? It was too much. I wasn’t ready for him to look at me with those eyes. I just… so much happened and every time he came at me I saw all our rage and hate and…” He passed a nervous hand through his hair. “And our deceit and love… I just couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle those feelings all over again.” Sakura put a comforting hand over his as her companion stared into his tea. “I thought I was through with all that,” he continued. “I thought things would maybe start over from the beginning, you know? We could be friends again, like when we first met. I thought at least that I could handle a simple fight…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “I want to trust him, Sakura. I really do.”

“I know. We all do.” She sighed. “I guess… we thought that getting him back would be the hardest part. The rest was supposed to be easy. Sasuke would want to stay, he would have realized that he didn’t belong with Sound. It was foolish of us not to realize that part of Sasuke always wanted to leave. And it wasn’t the part we banished along with Orochimaru.”

“I think he’ll stay, for now, anyway. I promised I would show him power.”

Sakura entwined her fingers with his and squeezed gently. “In that case, you can’t leave his side. Without you, at least for the moment, there is no reason for him to be here. I wish I could tell you it’s okay for you to run away, or that I could take care of it, but… we don’t have that luxury right now.”

“How can I go back?” he implored, blue eyes wide. “How can I face him when I know that those emotions still exist?”

“It doesn’t have to be all at once. You were fine before you started fighting, right? So why don’t you have someone else train with Sasuke for awhile until you can get used to him?” she suggested. He nodded somewhat uncertainly and she gave his hand another squeeze. “It is only ever you that keeps him here,” she told him softly. “It should have been for different reasons, but…” she smiled sadly. “As always, it’s up to you to save him.”

Naruto looked up into her eyes. “What if he doesn’t want to be saved?”

Sakura frowned. “Who is this talking all of a sudden? It isn’t the Naruto I know, that’s for sure. That Naruto would never give up on his friends so easily!” She reached across the table to brush a stray lock out of his eyes. “Of course he wants to be saved.”

Naruto smiled. Funny, it used to be the other way around. “Thanks, Sakura-chan.” He took a gulp of tea and began to rise. “I should go. Lee will be home soon and he’ll want to spend time with you,” he said.

“Stay a bit longer. I still have to fix that seal of yours.”

“All right.” He sat back down, but made no move to take his shirt off. “Remember how it used to be when we were little?” He grinned. “You hated my guts.”

“I did not! I just didn’t understand you yet.”

“I thought you were jealous of the way Sasuke and I were always together,” he went on, wiggling his eyebrows at her.

“Oh, I was. But it wasn’t really how you think. I loved you both, and I felt like you two were drawing away from me. That I was losing you. But I understood why it happened.”

Naruto laughed. “Yeah, you knew I loved that bastard before I did. I was such a blockhead back then. I couldn’t even admit it to myself until after he was gone. You were smarter, you got over him right away.”

“No, I loved Sasuke for years after he left. I think the village just distracted me enough that I forgot how much I loved him most of the time.”

“You mean Lee-kun distracted you!” he teased. She blushed.

“Well, him too. But you were away during that time. You didn’t have anyone to turn to or explain how you felt. I think that’s why you suffered more than I did.” Sakura took a moment to shoo the cat from the table when he tried to stick his face in her tea. “You loved him differently than I did, too. More deeply.”

Naruto’s mouth quirked as if he was about to object, but then he just nodded. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Tsunade-sama never understood why we held onto him for so long. Why we never let go of the hope that he would come back,” Sakura said.

“Neither did Jiraiya-sensei. I think it was because they both spent years hoping in their time, and nothing ever happened. Maybe also because they didn’t know Orochimaru except as a teammate. But I guess I never really knew Sasuke, either.”

“No, that’s not true. You knew Sasuke better than anyone! Everyone thought so. That’s why we sent you to save him.”

“’Better than everyone else’ wasn’t enough, though. It might not be enough this time,” Naruto countered.
“Then… get to know him more. You have a chance to be by his side and learn everything about him. Maybe then you’ll be close enough to him to keep him here forever.”

Naruto took a moment to finish his tea before he flashed Sakura his usual grin. “Okay, Sakura-chan! I won’t fail you or Sasuke this time. I’ll make sure he stays in Konoha for good. That’s a promise!” He said, imitating Lee with a flashy thumbs-up. The ‘ting’ off his teeth was almost audible.

“Good!” she laughed. “Now off with that shirt so I can fix your seal.”

“Rawr,” Naruto joked as he pulled the garment up over his head. “I always knew you felt that way about me, Sakura-chan!”

She giggled and shook her head.

*    *    *

Kisame sniffed the air, his hand gripping the rough hilt of the Samehada. “We’re surrounded. They’re keeping an eye on us.”

Beside him, Itachi showed no sign of alarm. “So they should.”

Ahead of the pair, partially obscured by the tall grass and shrubbery, another team was proceeding quietly. None of the Akatsuki squadron was particularly worried. After all, they could probably easily take whatever the concealed ninjas could throw at them. Also, they had been invited.

“I wonder if we’ll run into your little brother,” Kisame began, attempting to strike up a conversation. It seemed to catch Itachi’s interest —as much as anything could.

“Perhaps. Because I was specifically requested by the Otokage to attend, I would not be surprised if he tried to assassinate me.”

Kisame chuckled. “I hope it won’t be as pathetic as last time, “ he commented.

“Sasuke-kun is Orochimaru’s pet now, from what I have heard. He may have gained something from that.”

The team ahead of them stopped and waited for them to catch up. The taller of the two addressed them.
“We’re almost there. The Otokage will meet us at the bridge. Be on your guard.”

The grass around them parted with a whisper as they made their way toward the meeting place. As they approached, Kisame turned to Itachi and grinned, pointed teeth glinting in the hazy sunlight.

“I love family reunions.”
Word Count: 1939
Pairing: SasuNaru and others
Rating: Currently PG, eventually R

Song: Dave Matthew's Band: The Space Between

Warm tea and a kind girl can soothe a lot of aches. Also, some stirrings of Actual Plot...

I've heard some clamouring here and there to post more of this story, so here goes :) I hope the few people who were reading it still remember the plot! *laughs* Poor Naruto, I think I was a bit heavy on the angst.
lailuzza Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2009  Hobbyist Filmographer
PLEASE POST CH 6 SOOOOON<3333333333333333333333333
Strayfish Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2009  Professional Interface Designer
I really should, you're right ;)
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Submitted on
March 27, 2009
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