Yukari had been fascinated by her boisterous, blond neighbor the moment that their eyes locked for the first time. It was brief, only lasting a moment, yet it was enough time for them to burn into her memory. They were a dazzling shade of blue that glistened with mischief, and the warmth that they held reminded her of the sun's rays. In fact, in her eyes, the boy himself was the epitome of sunshine. From his light, spiky locks to the grin that made the whisker-like scars on his cheeks lift, he radiated a happiness and determination that stirred up envy inside the pale girl. It left her tugging at her own inky strands with a frown. Deep down, she wished she could be more like the boy who had caught her attention.
It was obvious that they were polar opposites. He was loud and oozed excitement - she was quiet and kept to herself. He smiled and laughed while her lips remained pressed in a thin line. Her white irises were lackluster and emotionless, a blank slate that kept her hidden from the world. She was impossible to read, yet she possessed a great talent for reading others.
It was easy for her to pick up on the things that everyone else seemed to miss. Instead of conversing and spending time with the children her own age, she chose to observe the people around her. No one noticed the wide eyed young girl watching them. She was a wallflower and successfully blended into the background. Guessing what others were thinking as they passed her on the street became almost like a game to her, and she had gotten so good at it that it was easy for her to tell whether or not someone was being truthful. Not only did it earn her a job, but it earned her a nickname, as well: the human lie detector.
When asked the easiest way of reading someone's true intentions, her attention would instantly be gained.
"It's simple, really," she would reply with feigned disinterest. "Their eyes hold the answers you're looking for. If you look hard enough you'll see."
That was where her true curiosity with the boy began. One look into his eyes was enough to reveal everything that she needed to know.
Loneliness pooled in their depths. They had been clouded over with pain and sorrow, and the sight of it lingering there was enough to send her mind into a frenzy. This boy, the one that was always cheerful, always smiling, was suffering, and it seemed that he was just as skilled at masking his emotions as she was. Only when he was alone did they seem to bubble to the surface.
He hid it all well. His closest friends probably didn't even realize what he covered up with a smile. But it didn't seem to matter how well he hid it; she could still see through his fašade. How, though? How could she when even those who were by his side almost every day could not? The answer was easy enough: she suffered the same as he did.
It didn't seem to matter how many people were around. Even in a room full of faces she still felt completely alone. It was like a hand clenched around her heart, squeezing tighter and tighter until it ached and left her gasping for air. Every night he returned to an empty apartment, just as she did. No one was waiting for them to come home. Neither of them had parents to guide them or reassure them; comfort and love were foreign. Did it leave him feeling as hollow as it left her? Did he breathe the same suffocating air that she choked on every night? Guilt welled up inside of her for feeling such a way, but she was glad that there was someone else out there like her.
When the blond was home she didn't feel so empty. The noise that he provided filled the void and distracted her from her thoughts, even if only for a little while. She reveled in the sound; every bump, bang, and string of profanities that rang through the thin wall separating their apartments left her a little less lonesome. It angered their downstairs neighbors to no end, but not her - she welcomed the noise with open arms.
The nights that he did not return were the worst. Sitting in the silence reminded her how truly alone she really was. It left her mind buzzing and her heart sinking down into her stomach. She hadn't realized it, but she was almost dependent on the boy. They hadn't even met, yet to her he was more than just a neighbor. He was left wandering in the same darkness as she was.
Maybe that was what they both needed: for someone to be there at the end of the day when the nights were the coldest and their hearts were in their most vulnerable state; someone to offer an understanding smile when the world only seemed to frown; someone who would hold out their hand when everything came crashing down around them. They both longed for someone to come home to, yet it was as if she were invisible to him. It didn't matter that they crossed paths almost every day or how often their eyes would meet. He didn't even seem to notice the young girl, and maybe that was her fault. She could have easily stopped him on the street and introduced herself, but she found herself holding back. She was afraid to approach him. If she did, she would be allowing someone to be close to her for the first time in as long as she could remember. The thought of being so vulnerable frightened her. So they carried on with their own lives, never stopping to make that connection. Perhaps it was better that way.
It was late when Yukari unlocked the door to her apartment. She stepped inside and closed the door behind her before making her way towards the kitchen. A yawn left the small girl as she placed her keys on the table. She had stayed at work longer than she should have finishing a report that was due tomorrow afternoon. With her shoulders slumped, she bypassed the fridge and continued down the hall. She had absolutely no appetite, instead craving desperately needed sleep.
As she made her way into her bedroom she realized something. Her head snapped up and her eyes darted around her. It was quiet - much too quiet for Yukari's tastes. With quick steps she glided towards the adjacent wall and pressed her ear against it, hoping to catch any sign of the inhabitant of the next door apartment; a snore or a grunt, or anything at all would do. That last little flame of hope was extinguished when empty silence met her ears. She backed away will a small frown as the sinking feeling in her chest returned to her. It was always present when he left, but she could tell that this time something was different. Something wasn't right. Anxiety washed over her until it grew painful. She went to bed that night with an aching heart.
It didn't matter how hard she tried to shrug off the ominous feeling that followed her after that. It loomed over her like a dark cloud, dampening her mood even further than it was to begin with. It hung over her for days, weeks, even a month before she realized that she had to face the truth. She had heard talk around the village but tuned it out as best as she could, telling herself that it was merely gossip. She didn't want to believe what they were saying and instead chose to remain in a state of denial. But it seemed as if she couldn't ignore it any longer.
It didn't matter how often she searched the crowded streets for his bright, shining eyes, or passed by the door to his apartment, praying to hear even the slightest noise behind it. It was time to face reality, no matter how much she didn't want to. Naruto Uzumaki was gone, and he took a part of her with him the day that he left.
It was midsummer. The warm night air was still with the exception of a cool breeze that shifted through the trees. Their leaves shook and rustled as it passed, the calming noise making its way throughout the village and lulling its inhabitants into a peaceful state of rest.
Konohagakure was beautiful with its lush foliage and fresh, crisp air. It remained a comfortable, warm temperature during the day and cooled slightly at night. It was nearly perfect weather.
Some days, however, the village grew very hot, and the air filled with a humidity that left everyone in it coated in a thin layer of sweat. On those days only the braver of the citizens of Konoha would take to the streets. The rest began their errands earlier in the day or waited until evening fell, trying desperately to avoid the miserable conditions. Today had been one of those days.
The sun had long since disappeared below the horizon, taking the scorching heat along with it. Yukari had been hiding inside of her cramped apartment for the majority of the time that the sun was in the sky. The only time that she dared to venture outdoors was spent washing her laundry and hanging it up to dry on the rooftop, knowing that the direct sunlight would make a quick job of it. She had been sitting by the window ever since, watching as the street below her went from buzzing with activity to nearly empty. She listened as the hum of talking and laughter dimmed into silence. All that remained now was a drunken man or two stumbling about as they made their ways back home.
When the last straggler had passed she rose from her seat and moved to leave, grabbing the laundry basket that was placed near the door on the way. She exited her apartment, turned on the spot, and made her way towards the stairwell that would take her up to the roof.
The sound of chirping crickets met her ears as she placed her hand along the railing. It soothed her, but she did not pause to bask in the gentle noise. Instead she quickly made her way up the steps, and when she had reached her destination, she began to pull her clothing from the line. She quickly threw each piece into the wicker basket as a breeze swept through. It caressed her skin and caused the large, baggy t-shirt that she wore to billow out. Her feet were bare, as she had only planned to step out for a moment, and her plum painted toenails stood out against her pale skin in the dark. When the last article had been retrieved, she picked up her basket and continued back down to the landing below.
Something caught her eye on her way back down the hall. It was a door, one that she hadn't glanced at for quite some time. Its occupant had not returned to the apartment in years, leaving it to stand vacant and empty. It was the door she had found herself staring at almost every day in the years prior, and it wasn't only due to the fact that the stairs both down to the street and up to the roof were located just beyond it. Each passing glance was a silent plea for the boy to return. She longed for the noise that he had once provided to surround her once again. No matter how much she wished for it, he did not come back. She knew not to get her hopes up any longer and passed it with her eyes fixed straight ahead.
Shaking her head, Yukari forced those thoughts to the back of her mind before slowly beginning to move away from the door. It was no use dwelling on it. She had only taken her first steps when she heard the sound of feet pounding behind her. Coming to a stop and turning towards the noise caused the person who had been running to collide right into her. The ground rushed up to meet her, and clenching her eyes tightly shut, she braced herself for the impending impact. Her back soon made contact with the hard surface and the basket she had been carrying slipped from her hands before rolling away from her with a thud. Pearl white eyes flew open just in time to see her freshly dried laundry soar through the air. It scattered and cluttered the hallway floor as she hissed and rubbed the back of her head in pain. A dull throb was already forming in her skull.
When the room had finally stopped spinning around her she raised her eyes to scowl at the person who had knocked her down. All of her anger slipped away from her and her mouth fell open in shock as azure irises met with her own. The boy who had plagued her thoughts for years stood before her, glancing down at her with a horrified look on his face.
Apologies spewed from his mouth and his bright blue eyes were filled with concern as he waved his arms around him. Her tongue tied itself in a knot, and all she seemed to be able to do was blink up at him owlishly. When he realized that she was staring at him he stopped waving his arms and instead held his hands out for her to take. She looked at them for a fleeting moment before placing both of her small, thin hands in his strong, rough ones. He lifted her back to her feet with ease, as if she weighted as light as a feather; to him, she probably did.
She was small for her age in both height and weight. The top of her head was barely level with his shoulder. She was thin but curvy, and despite her height, she had long, lean legs that seemed to go on for miles. Her skin was a translucent pale that contrasted with her rosy cheeks and inky black tresses, which framed her face and cascaded past her shoulders. What was the most noticeable about the small girl, however, were her eyes.
They were wide and doe-like, lined in black and framed with thick, dark lashes. It was far from the heaviness that rimmed Gaara's eyes, but it was there, and like everything else about her, it was bold and striking against the opalescent shade of her orbs. They were almost as white as the moon that hung in the sky above them, and they glinted like pearls in the dark. She reminded him of a porcelain doll, fragile and as if she were made of glass.
"Sorry lady!" Regret was evident in his voice, which had grown deeper in the time that he had been away. His once childish tone was now replaced with a rougher and more mature one. In fact, everything about him had matured. His round, boyish face was gone, thinned out and replaced with that of a teen's. His muscles were more defined through his clothing and he had grown quite a few inches taller, as well. He now towered over her and had to look down to catch her eye. He was even more handsome than he had been before he left.
"It's okay," she assured. "It was an accident. I should have been paying more attention to where I was going." Her voice was quiet and melodic, like waves rushing across the sand. He let out a small sigh of relief before his signature grin reappeared.
"Here, let me help you with that," he replied as he bent over and began picking up her laundry. A majority of it had been collected before she even had time to help. Soon enough, everything was removed from the floor and back in its place.
Her face was blank, her voice quiet. "Thank you." He gave her a slightly embarrassed smile and rubbed the back of his neck.
"It's the least I could do for knocking you over." His eyes swept over her face and took in her features before he paused. He inched his face closer to hers, invading her personal space. She took a step back to put some distance between them. He rubbed his chin, his eyes squinted in concentration as he observed her. It was as if he were trying to remember something important. "You look awfully familiar."
"I live down the hall. I have for years."
"I remember now!" he exclaimed, causing her shoulders to twitch. He was just as loud as he'd always been. "I used to see around the village a lot. Did you go to the academy?"
"No," she answered in a monotone voice, shifting her eyes away from his. She was a pro when it came to keeping her emotions in check. If she hadn't been, she was certain that his questioning would have caused her heart to race with anxiety. He watched her as she stared past him, confused by the fact that she wouldn't look him in the eye. Their intense blue caused something to stir in her that she couldn't comprehend and hadn't felt in years. It was as if the only person who could understand her had vanished when he left. In turn, she had locked away the remainder of her emotions, and she wouldn't allow the walls that kept them hidden to dissipate. "I'm Yukari Setsuna," she pressed on after a brief moment of silence. "And if I remember correctly, you're Naruto Uzumaki."
"That's right, dattebayo!"
"You've been gone a long time." Yukari was stating the obvious. She allowed a hint of curiosity to splay across her face, but nothing more. Though she was fond of the blond, she wouldn't let it show. "I haven't seen you around for a while."
"I've been off training," he answered with a grin. She nodded in understanding before he continued. "I've been gone for over two years!"
"You must have been working very hard then," she replied with a small tilt of her head. "Two years is a long time to be away from home."
"Yeah, I just got back this morning. Here, let me carry that for you," he said as he took the basket from her hands. "Which way do you live? I'll walk you home."
"It's really alright," she protested as she shook her head. "I only live down the hall."
"I owe you, though! Just lead the way!" With the smallest of sighs – she was fairly certain that he hadn't heard it – she began the short trek back to her apartment. She knew that the blond wouldn't take no for an answer. He had always been so determined, and she didn't have the heart to turn him down when he smiled that smile of his. It took no time at all before they were standing in front of her door.
"I'd love to hear about your training sometime," she found herself confessing once he had placed the hamper by her side. The words had left her before she had time to think them through. He looked down at her, the same grin still plastered to his face.
"How about I take you out to dinner and tell you all about it! It'll be my way of saying sorry for nearly trampling you."
Her lips twitched. The left corner of her mouth rose, though not by much. She agreed because she didn't have the heart to turn him down, but she knew that she wouldn't follow through with his offer. Keep everyone at arm's length, she reprimanded herself. It's easier that way.
"Sure. That sounds great."
She didn't think it was possible, but Naruto's smile grew even wider. He nodded his head furiously, her answer satisfying.
"You should get inside. You look cold." She looked downward to take in what she was wearing. In the coolness of the night, she had to admit that he was spot on with his assumption.
"I suppose you're right," she replied with a nod. The darkness was growing steadily, though the handle of her door seemed to glow in the light of the hall. "I'll see you around then. Goodnight, Naruto."
"Night!" he called as he turned to walk back down the hall. She watched his retreating form for a moment before picking up the laundry hamper and beginning to make her way inside. She allowed herself to stare after him, if only for a moment, before the chilly air started to get to her.
"Hey, Yukari!" His head poked back around the corner and his azure eyes met hers. His voice was cheerful, his tone warm and friendly. "I'll see you around!"
The sound of his door opening and closing sounded out a moment later, and she was left completely alone in the hall again. White eyes cracked with the briefest glint of confusion; and then it was gone. However, her thoughts drifted back to pausing at his door. If she had continued on her way without stopping at it, she would never have crossed paths with him. Was it just a coincidence, or was it meant to happen? The hoot of an owl in the night shook her from her daze and she quickly stepped back inside, a small click resounding behind her as she locked the door.
A frown crept its way onto her face. Their conversation had been brief, yet it had been the longest she had held with anyone outside of work. Her head was at war with her heart; she tried to convince herself that she wasn't interested in the battle ensuing, but she didn't believe it for a moment. Why was it so hard to fight against her stoic demeanor when it came to the blond?
It didn't take long for her apartment to fill with the sounds that she thought she would never hear again. He must have been cleaning - no doubt his home would be a mess after being away for so long. As she set the basket by the door to her room and seated herself on her bed, a particularly loud bang sounded. The image of him wrestling with a broom sprang up before she could stop it. Pink lips twisted in the faintest bit of amusement before settling back in their previous straight line. She flung herself backwards and let her back hit the mattress, losing herself in her thoughts. Yukari wasn't the type of person that trusted easily; she trusted her comrades and mentors, though not to the extent that she should have. She trusted them to do their jobs, and that was it.
Had she ever been happy like that? Had she ever smiled as easily as Naruto did, or let anyone in? She attempted to picture herself in that light, but no matter how hard she tried to think back, nothing revealed itself. It remained foggy and unclear. A dull pang in her head forced her to stop. She tangled her hands in her hair, unwelcome frustration that she hadn't felt in years creeping up on her.
The past is the past, she tried to convince herself. All that mattered now was the present. She would carry out her job – her missions – and she wouldn't worry about anything else. But Naruto's sudden appearance left her questioning those words. She found herself wanting to do all of those things; to be happy. She wanted to be more like him.
"Damn that blond," she mumbled to herself, turning out the lights and settling into her sheets. Yukari closed her eyes, the thuds seeping through the wall easing her tense muscles. Don't let him in. Those walls are there for a reason.
Chapter notes: This is the first chapter of my first story. Please review! Feedback is greatly appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or its characters in any way, shape, or form. I do however own Yukari and my twists in the plot.
3,994 words, 8 pages.