“Hinata!” Sakura called out, waving her arms. The dark-haired girl turned to find the source of her name, her pale eyes searching quickly. Sakura jogged towards her, the cold air biting at her face. She wrapped her red coat tighter against her body as she caught up to Hinata, bundled in a scarf and peacoat. “You’re not with Naruto today, I see,” Sakura said, giving her friend a quick hug in greeting.
“No, not today,” Hinata sighed. She brushed a long strand of hair out of her face and gave Sakura a warm smile. “You look rather chipper in the winter for someone with a springy name.”
Sakura felt a chuckle escape her lips. “Sasuke-kun is coming home sometime today,” she admitted sheepishly. “I’m probably more excited than I should be, huh?”
“Not at all!” Hinata assured her. “It’s rather sweet.”
Sakura hooked her arm with Hinata’s to keep from losing her in the busy shopping street. Everyone’s breaths puffed out in light mists from their mouths. Everyone was bundled up snuggly in their winter wear. “Let’s walk and talk, Hinata,” Sakura laughed. “I’ll take you out to eat since that knucklhead isn’t here to do it for you. It’ll be my treat.”
Hinata giggled and walked alongside her pink-haired friend in agreement.
From the Hokage building, Naruto could see the two girls walking toward a little dango shop that Sakura loved. His hands were behind his back with the fingers on his left hand pinching his bandaged right. Sensation was limited, disappointingly, but he was thankful to have a limb there at all. He wished he could be with his friends on a relaxing, chilly day such as this. There was significantly less paperwork he needed to accomplish this afternoon, so he was anticipating and early leave.
“It’s supposed to snow today,” Shikamaru yawned as he entered the room. He gave himself a long stretch before leaning against the doorway.
“Ah, you’re right,” Naruto sighed. The graying clouds over the village were not ominous, but delicate. Their puffs and swirls were teasing the village children with the possible snowfall. “How many more reports are left?”
Shikamaru didn’t answer.
“Oi,” Naruto said, turning his head to glance at his friend.
Shikamaru was staring at a cellphone in his hand before he smirked. “He’s here,” he said. Naruto fully turned to face him. Shikamaru straightened himself and opened the door to the office. “Nice to see you again.”
Sasuke nodded at Shikamaru and gave him a small, polite smile. He pulled off his black winter cloak and set it on a chair next to the door. Naruto broke out into a wide smile and walked over to his tired companion, arms open. “Sasuke, teme!” he laughed, giving him a rough hug in welcome. “Took you long enough to come home, didn’t it?” Sasuke reciprocated, but in a more ginger fashion. He wasn’t quite accustomed to the sudden warm acceptance from the village again but figured he should be thankful for the amount of forgiveness he received from his friends again.
Shikamaru cleared his throat. “I’ll be downstairs if you need me,” he said, giving himself leave from the room.
Sasuke straightened his black sweater and followed Naruto to the large window overlooking the village. “You have quite a view,” he said in subtle awe.
“Oh, yeah,” Naruto grinned proudly, overlooking the village he loved for so long. He pointed over at the dango shop where he saw Sakura and Hinata walk in. “The girls are in there right now probably pigging out on dumplings again.”
Naruto was used to Sasuke’s silence by now after all these years. While many others questioned his odd behavior, Naruto knew that his best friend was not one who enjoyed casual talk or gossip, especially not with others around the village he was not familiar with. He prefered quiet over chatter, sighs over cackles.
Which is exactly why Naruto was taken aback when Sasuke said, “What do you think about Hinata?”
Naruto raised an eyebrow at his friend. “What do you mean?”
Sasuke was not one for beating around the bush, either, so he merely furrowed his eyes at Naruto as if to say, You know what I mean, idiot.
Naruto rubbed his chin in thought. “I think she’s quite special to me. We’ve spent so much time together that when we aren’t with each other, like now, I feel kind of antsy. I feel better knowing that she’s going to be around when I come back from work so we can go out and spend more time with each other again.” Naruto knew Sasuke wasn’t satisfied with the answer he gave. “I think I really do love her,” he admitted, straight to the point.
Sasuke nodded thoughtfully.
“Why do you ask?”
“Sak–” Sasuke began.
The door slammed open. “Oi, Naruto!” Sakura’s voice rang, filling the office. The two men turned to look at the two girls stumbling into the office. Sakura and Hinata had their arms linked together tightly. “Hinata wants to know if you want to take a break and eat with us,” Sakura continued, looking at Hinata while she spoke, “right?”
“S-Sakura,” Hinata stuttered, staring straight ahead at a puzzled Sasuke.
Sakura followed her gaze and froze. “S-Sasuke-kun,” she stammered. “You’re back so early today!” She unhooked Hinata’s arm from hers and gave her a sheepish grin. Hinata smiled back and nodded in encouragement at her stunned friend before walking across to Naruto to enter into his welcoming embrace.
Sasuke saw the couple’s embrace and felt his face turn warm with embarrassment. Sakura took a few steps towards him and let the door close behind her. “Hi, Sasuke-kun,” she said quietly. He looked down into her emerald eyes and felt his heart pick up speed. He tried not to show it.
“Sakura,” he said, giving her a small smile. Her expectant look made him nervous. He thought of the couple that greeted each other, how Naruto had greeted him. Sasuke opened his arm to her and Sakura widened her eyes in surprise. She looked up at him then down at his arm before a smile stretched from one ear to the other. She walked into his embrace gratefully. The cold she experienced not long ago melted off of her, melted off of her heart. She pressed her face against his chest and breathed in the scents of his travels. Sasuke could smell her sweetness radiating off of her and visibly relaxed when her arms wrapped around him.
When the reunited couple glanced up, they saw Naruto and Hinata’s smiles directed at them. Sasuke’s face had blushes of red across his cheeks and Sakura gave them a small laugh.
“Let’s go eat!” Naruto said, pumping his fist in the air while his free arm draped over Hinata’s shoulders.
“What about your work?” Hinata asked.
“Shikamaru can put it aside for tomorrow. For now, I want to spend time with the people of my village.” Naruto could feel his inflated sense of pride before laughing it all out of his system heartily. The other three rolled their eyes at him but all gave a laugh as they exited the office.
Just as Sasuke closed the door behind them to leave, Sakura took his hand in hers and planted their entwined fingers into her coat pocket. He raised his eyebrows at her in confusion, but she only smiled back at him. “Welcome home,” she said, gently squeezing his hand. Sasuke gave her another small smile before they followed the Hokage out.