Waking Up Starstruck, (2016-10-10)

To this day, Naruto’s birthday is not really celebrated in the village, despite all the good he’s done for Konoha and the world at large. It’s nothing against him–not anymore–but the day of his birth still coincides with one of the biggest losses in Konoha’s history, and so long as there are living to remember them, the dead deserve to be mourned.

But after the somber memorial services held by their respective clans, Naruto’s friends have a small gathering. The dead deserve to be mourned and remembered, but the living are meant to live.

“Happy Birthday!” they cheer, the small ramen stand full to bursting with the majority of the most powerful teenagers on the planet.

Naruto is near to tears of joy–Lee is already there–which Kiba ribs him for before beginning a round of Hilarious Stories of Naruto Shenanigans. (Only within the past year, Sasuke, otherwise that’s cheating!)

It’s nice, it’s fun, it’s more than Naruto’s ever had before. And it would be perfect…

… if it weren’t missing a person

Months ago, after everything had been resolved–plots of world domination unraveled, ancient grudges finally laid to rest–Naruto thought things would be better.

Well, they were better–peace and a distinct lack of zombies couldn’t possibly be worse–but he thought things would… settle.

He knew his friends have also a hard time shaking off what they’ve seen and done, though as time passed they’ve mostly been able smooth out the worst of it. He’s been coping, too; properly, even, now that he has time to process things.

Except, months ago, Shikako left.

Every so often, Nagaoka will come to Konoha bearing coded reports, personal letters, and occasionally gifts from Shikako.

Glorified messenger hawk is not a proper use for a battle deer summon in training, but the young buck is always proud to do it, and easily bribed with salt licks. The letters are pleasant, but carefully worded–succinct paragraphs of understatements–and it’s easier to have Nagaoka tell them stories of his summoner instead.

In the days leading up to his birthday, Naruto is hoping for another visit from Nagaoka. He is only a little disappointed when he doesn’t show.

Night falls, and though shinobi aren’t exactly diurnal, everyone must go home or to work eventually–Ichiraku’s is a restaurant, after all, not a bar, and while the party could just relocate and continue, Naruto is more than happy with what’s been given to him already.

The air is cool, the stars are bright, and he’s another year older.

The five year old him could never have imagined something like today–friends celebrating his birthday–but that’s because five year old him hadn’t yet joined the Academy. Hadn’t yet met a girl with braided hair who invited him and included him and kept believing him even before he really began believing in himself.

He looks up at the night sky and wonders where Shikako is, hopes she is well and happy.

He still lives in the same apartment he did growing up–crappy and somewhat rundown as it is–though over the years it’s improved in terms of comfort and security.

When he walks through the door, he knows someone is in his apartment, but the seals are banked at their lowest, friendliest setting.

There aren’t many people who have been attuned to his security seals, and most of them have already said their goodbyes for the night.

The only one left is the one who created the seals.

“Happy Birthday, Naruto,” Shikako says, and Naruto really is crying tears of joy now.

~

A/N: I wanted to do a proper birthday thing for Naruto but I also haven’t slept in over forty hours so here’s this jumbled thing that my exhausted brain slow-churned out.

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