Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
AN: Heh heh, I know, I know. I should be working on "Be Careful What you Wish for" right? But well, every time I get a plot bunny stuck in my head…it just keeps whining at me until…well, until this happens. I type it up, post it, and wait anxiously for reviews. And if it's good enough, I continue it.
Yeah, well, here's another little plot bunny whispering in the back of my head, write me, you know you want to… and I'm a sucker for whining. *sighs* but I promise I will continue with "Careful" soon.
Now this can be read as a one shot if you wish, but I kinda have a sorta plan in my head where this is all going, (*blatantly ignores fact that the sentence didn't make sense*) and if I get enough reviews wanting more, I'll continue.
Aw screw it. Even if I don't get any (*knocks on wood* ^^) I'll continue. Because this is just too cute to pass up!
This will be my fic to turn to when I get sick of canon.
And a further note, I know the birthdays in this fic will most likely be off, but the website where this information is posted is down right now, I and so I have no idea. Please don't yell at me!
OptimismBy: Poison Ivy
Once again, Sakura Haruno was having what she characterized as a "Bad Day."
Not only did her beloved Sasuke-kun scoff at her again, her best friend Ino (resplendent on the arm of Shikamaru, whose genius bordered even Sakura's) had remarked, when she came crying to her, "Well, aren't you a bit old to be mooning over Sasuke still?"
And the worst part about the whole thing was that Ino meant it with all the goodness and concern the girl possessed.
And this was added onto the fact that even if Ino had been dripping sarcasm and malice (she hadn't) she would still have been right. After all, 16 was quite too old to be chasing after a boy that obviously didn't like you back. Not in _that_ way, at least.
But even after all that (and the fact that when she weighed herself today, Sakura found that she had gained two pounds—TWO! She had instantly vowed to back on ramen runs with Naruto and ice-cream with Ino—but she really didn't want to go into the horrors of being fat—well, fatter—right now) even after all _that_ she still managed to grab her bag and parcel, apply makeup over red eyes, and somehow fit into a little black dress, (note the key word there was _little_) though she was sure that she had managed to rip something. (The reason being, of course, voiced above, but she was _still_ sure that she didn't want to mention it.)
So though she had been having a Bad Day, she still managed to leave on time (with a smile, to boot!) because above all, Sakura Haruno was an _optimist_.
Well, that was what she was trying to tell herself anyway, while she was busy traipsing through bramble and branches, because she knew a short cut existed around here _somewhere_.
She was really starting to realize that heels weren't the way to go after all, especially since she remembered, (too late!) that she had only used said shortcut in the daylight.
But it was really too late to turn back now.
"Isn't that painful?" observed a calm, smug, and vaguely familiar voice.
After managing to get her shriek of terror and surprise under control, (by stuffing half of her fist into mouth, but oh well, a shinobi needed to utilize the tools they had) she peered into the surrounding foliage with a suspicious and slightly angry glare. Because now, thanks to the owner of the voice, she had smeared her lipstick. (She knew she _knew_ that she should have gone with the non-smear) she had an inkling of suspicion that her Bad Day was steadily becoming worse.
She searched her mind for the name of who the voice belonged to (hoping desperately that it would come with a visual aid) and then called out in a small voice, "Neji?"
And there he was. Like magic. Only magic tended not to lean of trees, melting into the shadows.
And magic tended not to smirk that little half smirk that he did so well.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, confused by his sudden appearance. (Admit it, she chided herself, you were only calling out Neji so that the voice would say that you were wrong, because you _know_ that you were hoping for Santa Claus.)
His smirk deepened. "I live here." He said quietly.
Sakura blinked. "Oh." She blushed. "I meant," she added quickly, hoping for a quick save, "what are you doing out here when you could be," here she waved a hand vaguely in the direction that she _hoped_ the Hyruga Mansion would be, "in there?"
"It was too noisy," he told her casually.
She smiled slightly, though she was pretty sure that Neji couldn't see it. "Naruto arrived, huh?"
"Hn." He remarked helpfully. It rather squashed the last attempts of them having a decent (*shocked gasp*) conversation with each other.
They stayed still for awhile while Sakura fidgeted and wondered _what_ exactly she was standing _on_, until Neji remarked, "You still haven't answered my question."What—oh.
"Of course it's painful," she said crossly, trying to put one foot in front of the other without falling and tripping in front of a ninja easily twice her strength, "these heels are torture devices."
She placed her foot on what she was hoping would be solid ground, but instead turned out to be a root. A slippery root.
Just before she fell, Neji reached out bemusedly and caught her elbow. "Why didn't you bring sensible shoes and change at the party?"
She flushed. "That's a very good question."
They began to walk together, Sakura with more concentration as she leaned most of her weight onto Neji, and the shinobi in question treating the whole situation as a boy might treat a bug he saw walking on the ground. (With amusement, until he decided that it was boring and left. Or squashed the bug. Sakura hoped desperately that if he did get tired of it, it would be the former.)
"Um." She began. Something was bothering her. "You _are_ going back to the party aren't you Neji? You know, eventually, I mean."
As he helped her around a bush, his face darkened slightly. "Hinata-sama's 16th birthday party." he said with a strange voice. "Yes, I'll return. Why do you ask?"
Sakura was entirely sick of people asking her questions she didn't know the answer to. (Though that was what Bad Days were all about.) "Because," she answered slowly, thinking as she went, "Hinata would be disappointed if her cousin wasn't there."
Neji's face constricted with something for a second, and if Sakura hadn't been looking into his face at that second, (lit with a strand of moonlight dodging its way through the branches of trees surprisingly untouched) to gauge his reaction, she would have missed it.
"Yeah." He said, still with that strange voice.
They reached the trail then (Sakura silently breathing a sigh of relief of having reached it without breaking her shoes) and to her surprise, Neji let go of her elbow quickly and abruptly.
She was so used to it being there by then—it almost felt like a part of her—that when it was gone, she was shocked by how cold the night was.
And plus, she had been leaning most of her weight onto him, and when he let go, she fell.
He caught her easily, and as she lay rather stunned, (this had happened in all of two seconds and her rather preoccupied mind was still back there in the wilderness) he remarked with a smile, "My, aren't we clumsy tonight?"
She glared up at him with all the muster she could manage before muttering darkly, "I should have known that today was going to be a Bad Day."
His smile grew wider, turning it into an almost grin. "What was that?" he asked sweetly.
She blushed. Damn. He caught the capital letters. "Today's a Bad Day for me." she said louder.
He was still grinning the almost grin. "Why? What happened?"
"You don't want to know."
He stared at her like she was the stupidest thing alive. Or like she was deaf. Or both.
"If I didn't want to know," he said slowly, pronouncing each word carefully, "would I have asked?"
And for no other reason then the fact that he had asked, and the fact that throughout this he was still holding onto her, and it had been a long time since a guy had hugged her, no matter how accidentally, she began to tell him. Everything.
She finished off with a sad, forlorn, "And I don't even know _why_ he doesn't like me. Do you?"
Neji seemed surprised to have a question flung out to him like that. He had been starting to regret asking her to talk now, and had been surprised at how much she could freak out over small things.
"Sasuke," he started off tentatively, not even quite sure if that was a question he was _supposed_ to supply an answer to, much less having the _right_ answer, (as opposed to nodding with a sympathetic face) "Sasuke isn't…looking for…a relationship right now." And that, he supposed, would have to do.
Sakura blinked. To her surprise, that was the nicest answer she had ever received.
It beat out Ino's, "Because you're still chasing after him Sakura!" (She could afford to say that since she was in love with Shikamaru—granted all they did was complain about each other, but hey, people in love no longer listened to hurtful statements—so she could criticize all she wanted.) and Naruto's "Because he's a bastard Sakura-chan!" (But if he _was_ a bastard, and she still loved him, didn't that mean that she loved a bastard? And she didn't _want_ that) and even Kakashi's distracted, (accompanied by the pat on the head,) "He'll come around, Sakura." (Because it was just to _vague_. And she had known the jounin long enough to smell his lies a mile away.)
But Neji's was a good answer, even if it was still a little vague.
"T-thanks." She stuttered, not quite sure how to take it.
Suddenly, (and for no clear reason,) they both realized that Neji was still holding onto her. They sprang apart like startled rabbits, both of them turning away and blushing.
"The house isn't too far way now." He informed her quietly, setting off again.
He set a fast pace, too fast for Sakura's liking. She tried to hobble after him without making it too obvious that she was having trouble.
Just before he disappeared from her view, she called out, risking her pride, "Neji!"
He waited for her to catch up patiently, saying nothing, and when she did, set off again at a much slower pace. All this without looking once into her eyes. It was like he was afraid of something. Or someone.
Nonsense,she chided herself, the shoes must be getting to you. Neji is afraid of nothing.
She stumbled again, and Neji reached out unthinkingly to catch her elbow.
"I'm beginning to see a pattern here." He said tersely.
"Blame the shoes." And the little black dress her mind told her. But she couldn't bring herself to. After all, she loved the dress like it was her baby. (And it might as well have been, for all the money that she paid for it.) Even if it _did_ fail in its task of attraction, since Neji seemed quite unfazed by it.
He smiled at her warmly, and through her heated cheeks, she wondered dimly if she was making friends. Even though when I said that I wanted the number 1 rookie, I meant for _my_ year.
Ino sat in a corner of the room with her friends, watching Hinata. Well, watching Hinata watching Naruto eat, would be the better sentence here.
The shinobi was seated at the banquet table, in the same spot he had been seated all evening, right after making his entrance, shoving a hastily wrapped (and bright orange) parcel into Hinata's hands, and muttering a quick, "Happy Birthday!"
Then he made a prompt beeline for the food. Where he had been all evening.
Ino supposed that he was better than Chouji, who hadn't even bothered with the formalities, just tossed his present behind him (Ino would have been surprised he had bought one at all, if she hadn't bought it for him) on the table, and started eating.
But really, sometimes that boy (Naruto) was just so _thick_. He didn't even notice Hinata blushing as he spoke to her, and the fact that the birthday girl was still holding onto his present, instead of setting it with the others.
"Are you even listening to me?" she demanded of her boyfriend, to whom she had been remarking all this.
"Hmm?" Shikamaru looked at her lazily.
"You haven't been listening?!" Ino was starting to get pissed.
"Jeez Ino. Of course I was listening." He looked a trifle concerned. "Chouji is really being troublesome though. If he keeps eating at this rate, there won't be any left for the rest of us."
"Boys," she grumbled, "They're all the same."
Hinata looked at the clock nervously. She gripped Naruto's present tighter, as if having it in her hands could lend her strength. It was past eight, and Neji still wasn't back yet.
Neither was Sakura here. Hinata really didn't want to start the party without them, but at this rate, it looked like she was about to have to.
As she glanced at the clock again, she heard the front door open, and as she moved her gaze, she was just in time to see Neji and Sakura coming in together, the latter looking rather bedraggled.
As she stepped into the room beside Neji, everyone stopped what they were doing, and stared at them.
She blushed slightly.
Somehow (though it could only have been because of the fact that the stares were of disbelief) she didn't think that it was because of her stunning dress. Besides, Naruto has stopped eating.
Suddenly, someone (it sounded like Ino) started giggling.
"What?" she asked, her blush deepening.
Hinata, wordlessly, pointed above them.
Sakura and Neji looked up to see that they were standing under a sprig of something green.
"Gomen Sakura-san." Hinata began nervously, hugging what appeared to be a box wrapped in orange paper tightly, "We haven't gotten around to taking it down yet, and I know that it's not Christmas anymore so—"
"Go on Neji!" Ino called out between giggles, "kiss her! You _are_ standing under the mistletoe!"
Sakura's blush reached an all-time high. This was all so sudden…!
She looked up to try and catch his eye, to say to him that this was all stupid and to _forget it_, only to find him already gazing down at her, with a hint of a smile around his lips, and something, (amusement?) in his eyes.
"Well," he began. Sakura shivered slightly. "Shall we do what she asks?"
In her peripheral vision, Sakura could just make out Hinata's embarrassed face, Ino's gleeful one, and Naruto's and Lee's, both of which wore identical looks of confusion." She thought she could also see Sasuke, who looked almost…angry.
She ignored them all, and instead, smiled up at Neji.
As his fingers gently gripped her chin, she realized something.
Maybe today wasn't so bad after all.
AN: Remember to review if you want me to continue!