a picaresque novel

(a/n) aka my poor attempt at slice of life.

scenes in italics - Flashbacks

(disclaimer) i do not own Naruto, it belongs to Kishimoto Masashi (if I did, it would never end the way it did).

1. Vagabond

Konoha, Otani Inn — May 2018 — 4:36 pm

The ceremony was everything she imagined it would be, imagined hers would be. The hall was packed full of well-wishers who wanted to be a part of the special day, sharing stories far and wide of how the blond touched their lives; how they never expected he would have come so far, it's like Rookie 9 grew up before their eyes.

Graceful hands reflecting years of practice and training demurely reaches for the porcelain cup of tea. She would have cited paperwork, and work-related duties for her absence if it weren't for bright emerald orbs that honestly and sincerely insisted her presence, "it would mean the world to us if you were there."

Her eyes linger on the happy couple in question; she only has nice things to say about them because who doesn't?

Lilac orbs drift to the rest of her old high school graduating class. Lee is trying to convince Neji of something, anything. TenTen and Kiba are locked in a drunken arm wrestle while Shino supervises. Ino is talking Shikamaru's ears off while he annoyingly stares at Chouji whose working on his next plate.

It feels like the world kept spinning even though it left her behind.

Arms encircling her from behind, a melodic voice called out, "Hinata! I'm so glad you could make it, you have no idea!" They hadn't had much time to converse until after the dinner and bridal dance.

She returned the hug that smelled of cherry blossoms. "Yes, thank you for inviting me. I'm so happy for you and Naruto-kun." Her smile reaches her ears because they are people who she loves dearly and fiercely. Her eyes automatically search for Naruto who was not by Sakura's side but was busy challenging Kiba to shots of patron.

"Shots, dog breath!" yelled Naruto as he directed Kiba to the freshly mixed cocktail.

"Dude, are you sure...? it's on... fire?!"

"Yeah man! One, two, three!"

"Wait-I think you're suppose to ..." but it was already too late. Naruto was blowing flames out of his nose. "..blow the flame out."

He moved instinctively out of the blond's line of sight and narrowly missed burning his eyebrows off. "Dude, what the fuck. Watch where you're breathing, you freaking dragon. You almost burned my eyebrows off!"

Naruto grinned and gave him a thumbs up in response. Kiba rolled his eyes and took the B-25. But unlike Naruto, he made sure to blow the flame out first.

Hinata and Sakura both watched the scene before the pinkette rolled her eyes, a little relieved he didn't burn the restaurant down. "Can't leave him alone for even one minute."

Ever since her friendship with Sakura grew stronger, her friendship with Naruto responded inversely. It felt wrong to keep in touch despite the pinkette's insistence. Naruto may have been able to shrug it off and move on like nothing happened but she couldn't. She loves wholly, and she loves fiercely.

Konoha, Hyatt Hotel — August 2017 — 4:36 pm

Emerald eyes pierced lilac ones, "why can't you come?"

"I can't. I... I might have work to do," she lied. Frankly, she was just awkward and didn't want to face Naruto, someone who she made no effort to keep in touch with despite his attempts at maintaining a casual friendship. She had tried to be supportive of their new relationship but somewhere in the back of her mind, she kept wondering if Naruto would hurt Sakura the same way he had hurt her? She was distrustful of him and she hated herself for feeling like that.

"You always have work. Come on, it's just dinner. It will be fun! Everyone will be there, it's just a small get together. Shino, Kiba, Ino, Shikamaru… Naruto."

"I'm sorry, Sakura-chan. I really can't. Next time? Please?"

Sakura pursed her lips, sensing she wasn't going to win this one. Hinata could be very stubborn when she wanted to. "Fine. But tomorrow we're getting high tea. Okay? There's something I'd like you to have."


"You think so? Ino insisted I should've gotten a wedding planner, but I think I pulled it off pretty well," she let out a hearty laugh and playing with the mesh of her dress. "Although… I think I might've shaved off a few years of our lives…"

Hinata smiled. "I think you did really well… the flowers, décor, the food… they're all lovely. I'm surprised you're a one man show."

Sakura blushed in response, she was never one to handle compliments well. "Thank you. It wasn't difficult, most of them responded to the Facebook group that Ino made as soon as we graduated. You were invited too, you know. From there, it just came down to reconnecting with who really mattered."

After post-secondary, Hinata deliberately fell off the face of social media and applied for an internship in Tokyo instead of interning for her Father in Konoha. Though it was only a 3 hour train ride away, she thought she could outgrow her childish self by being in a different city. But ironically, Konoha Academy followed her there too, placing her under the care of one brooding Uchiha.

Noticing her lack of response, Sakura continued, "well… when it's your turn, let me know. I've been there done that. Trust me… this isn't something you want to do alone."

Hinata returned the nod, grateful that if her time came, she'd have a network of support. Though she can't help but feel ashamed for her mixed feelings on such a happy day.

She recalls her relationship with Naruto, and smiles. Yes, he has indeed come a long way. She's happy for him, she wished she could tell him that; for he was able to meet someone who could ground his wanderlust, someone who could root him down even if it wasn't her.

Tokyo University – Second Semester, December 2014 – 9:31 pm

"W-why don't we talk about the future? Why don't we make plans and goals together?" she asked, voice cracking.

"I-I don't know Hinata… we're still so young. You can't plan for everything. I like to take things as they come," he responded, unconsciously rubbing his neck. He hated when he made her cry.

She winced. "B-but what about us? D-do you ever think of me when you're backpacking Southeast Asia o-or catching the next flight to Austrailia?"

He looked away, unable to face her. This was hurting him too. "I want to see the world, Hinata and I want to see it with you. I always ask you, but you never want to come."

"I-I never said never! I said I was busy and I have school. You know that!" she cried, tears streaming down her face, it's not fair. This wasn't fair.

"That's exactly it. It's either a 'maybe' or you're busy. You're always busy."

At a loss for words, she looked away.

"I-I can't t-talk about this with you r-right now. I h-have to hand in my intern applications," she stuttered.

He never knew how to deal with her emotions and frankly, she didn't know how to either.

She wanted to say how disappointed she was that he wouldn't be back for her birthday despite her telling him months ahead that she would like him to be there.

Maybe if she had been better at communicating her feelings, the dam wouldn't have broken. Its walls had cracked under the pressure and the precious feelings that she kept bottled up poured out.

It's hard for Hinata to not to love Sakura. She should have seen it coming. It was painfully obvious that Naruto would never outgrow his childhood crush. If anyone could tame a vagabond, it would be Sakura.

"Are you alright?" asked her date for the night as he took the seat beside her, his voice breaking her out of her reverie.

"Y-yes," she responded lamely, suddenly extremely conscious of her surroundings. She could feel obsidian eyes resting its gaze on her. If he didn't believe her, he didn't voice it. She looked away from his probing eyes but her gaze landed on the redhead he had been talking to earlier. The redhead eyed her warily.

"Hn. I'm going to grab a drink from the bar, do you want anything?"

He intimidated her sometimes because he he looked at her, it felt like he was reading her. She glared at his combed back locks, feeling a sudden urge to mess it up.

"No, I'm alright. Thanks."

"Are you sure?"

Or maybe not? "Ah… M-maybe a glass of red?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Don't say maybe if you want to say no."

"Malbec, please."

"Hn. I'll try, no promises." She watched as he expertly avoided the drunken group blocking the bartender. She searched for the redhead, wondering if the woman would approach him again.

Realizing she was alone, a feeling of being obviously singular settled in. Should she attempt to make small talk? It's been so long since she's returned to Konoha that she wasn't sure where she would fit in. She had tried to avoid the big reunions that Ino organized because crowds never suited her, but she would be lying if she said she didn't miss Rookie 9.

She wasn't the only one who left Konoha after High School. Most of her friends moved as soon as they graduated, opting for universities in Tokyo or abroad. Those who remained, settled down. It was easy to disconnect and lose touch with each other when everyone was so occupied with moving on with their lives.

She reached for her iPhone in an attempt to look distracted.

Tapping the Gmail app, she inwardly groaned when she saw the notifications. Inbox (41). Even on vacation it's impossible to get a break.

A glass placed on the table in front of her broke her out of her reverie.

"It's Cab sav. They didn't have Malbec." She looked up in response, relieved for the return of company even if it was in the form of her emotionally constipated colleague. Most of the guests had swayed to the dance floor after dinner was served and they were two of the few who have yet to join in on the shenanigans. She could hear Ino in the background return to the stage in an attempt to grab Hinata's attention, "Come to the dance floor, girl!". Hinata profusely shook her head and motioned for her wine. In truth, she stayed behind because she didn't want to intrude. But intrude on what?

"It's alright. I'm surprised, though. Malbec is usually quite common," she murmured as she lifted her glass, swirling the red and watching it cascade down the sides. She was told the more expensive the wine is, the quicker it slides down the glass. Sakura had went all out.

"What's that?" she asked, eyeing his cup that clinked with ice and a brown liquid.

"It's Cognac, on the rocks. Want to try?" he lifted the glass in her direction, offering her a taste.

She reached for it out of politeness and brought it to her lips. Instant gag-reflex.

Coughing, she could feel the burn up her nose. "S-sorry.. I don't like Cognac."

He took the glass from her hands and took a sip, savoring the burn down his throat. "Really. It's smooth, you don't get hang overs from this."

"I heard. But it's so strong and I'm not used to the taste," she responded as she took a large gulp of her own red in an attempt to wash down the taste; an action she immediately regretted. Squeezing her eyes shut to will the alcohol from coming back up again, she took another sip.

"True. Not something you'd want to take shots of," he chuckled, recalling how she probably should have sipped it and not shot it. He lifted his glass to cheers her.

She smiled, and returned the motion.

Resting her glass on the table, she gently placed both palms on her cheek to feel the warmth from the wine that was already beginning to settle in. Feeling brave, she took another large sip to calm her bundle of nerves. This time fully prepared for the strong flavor.

"Sasuke…" she called softly, not sure if he heard her but half hoping he didn't. She peeked over, hoping it was the latter but it was too late. He was already looking at her, patiently waiting to hear what she needed to say.

"D-Do you ever feel like… you missed out?" Taking a deep breath for courage, she continued cryptically. "Sometimes… I don't think I made the right choice," stop talking. "Sometimes I feel like I should have done more. I should have taken more risks. I'm 24 but I still feel 16."

Her cheeks burned at the sudden admission. Wine is bad. Alcohol is bad. Time for damage control.

"A-ah… sorry, I didn't mean to dump that on you." Stop.

"It's fine," he responded, taking a sip of his own drink and letting her continue.

"I-I'm really happy for Sakura-chan," she continued, fixing her gaze on the couple before swirling her glass and downing the rest of its contents. "But, I don't know why I feel this way." Stop. Stop. Stoptalking. "I don't even know what I'm feeling!"

She laughed nervously, damage control. "I should probably get another red", she continued lamely, feeling frantic to change the conversation and lighten the mood. Damage control. She was about to get up but his voice stopped her.

"You're doing fine. Isn't that enough?"

"Is it?" she asked nobody.

"It's a wedding. People are always feeling funny at weddings."

Hinata pursed her lips, annoyed with his lame response. "It was a rhetorical question," she laughed, suddenly finding humor in the conversation.

"Hinata," his voice called suddenly. When she finally came to, his nose was only mere inches away from her. For a second, she thought he was gonna kiss her. "You ask stupid questions, you get stupid answers."

He flicked her forehead before moving away. At a loss for words, she blinked, hand instinctively touching the tender spot. "W-what?"

"W-wait, where are you going?"

"Getting another drink. Want a mimosa?"

In the background, Ino announces the throw of the bouquet and garter.


A third girl approached Sasuke at the bar.

And then it hit her. Ah, that was why.

She was painfully single and she had made no effort to change.

Why did it take her so long to realize it?

(a/n) and that's it! not much fluff I guess but I wanted to try a slice of life. You as the reader is sort of jumping into the scene of things midway. I hope I've done a good enough job explaining the dynamics of the relationships so far. I think I could explore more of this modern AU but it can also stand as a one-shot on its own. What do you think? I might include short snippets of other pairings too, but it will be crack. I love crack pairings. They are my life.

Please review, I'd love to hear what you think! Also sorry for the horrible grammar, vocab and what not. It's been years since I wrote anything.