Disclaimer: Naruto is mine!
Actually it isn't
But I can dream, right?
First of all, there is one review I want to respond to. And I will do it in the form of a haiku.
Yo, Duh, what's the deal?
If all you'll do is flame me
Then please don't review.
To Vik, who thought it prudent to point out, if effect, that Sasuke wouldn't bother spending a significant amount of time trying to learn an attack because he'd have become lazy from being able to copy any attack he wants to, and if the Hidden Rock couldn't manage to copy the Rasengan during wartime, there's no chance Sasuke would be able to pull it off, I have one thing to say. I've read through every chapter released so far, several times for most of them. Let me pose this question to you; if Sasuke had become lazy in learning techniques why, when he had the chance to kill Naruto and master the Mangekyou Sharingan, did he choose instead to gain power over time by joining forces with Orochimaru? If you ask me, the lazy man would be the one who killed his friend to gain the power immediately. But that's just my opinion.
To the rest of you, thank you for your kind reviews. I'm sorry if it seems like I'm getting bitchy, but those two particular reviews pissed me off. So I commented on them. No big deal.
This chapter is going to deal with the events leading up to an event integral to the development of any new relationship; the first date. I do hope you all enjoy it.
To Hell With The Consequences
Chapter Fourteen - Prelude to a First Date
Naruto sighed, stroking his chin thoughtfully as he gazed in the bathroom mirror. Several days beard stubble decorated his chin, and it brought a slight smile to his face. Sakura had told him he would look good with a beard; of course, Naruto had immediately decided to grow one when he found out. He retrieved his toothbrush finally, reaching down to the edge of the sink where he had always kept the tube of toothpaste. He found it missing; even the little dried gob of toothpaste that had remained on the sink for the better part of five years had been scrubbed away. Indubitably Sakura's doing. Ever since she had officially moved in, Naruto had found that a lot of things were no longer in their traditional places. "Sakura-chan, where's my toothpaste?" Naruto asked finally, resigning himself to his fate.
"I threw the old tube out," Sakura replied. Along with the melodic strain of her beautiful voice, the smell of cooking bacon wafted in the bathroom, immediately causing Naruto's mouth to water. "There's a new tube in the medicine cabinet."
"Thanks, Sakura-chan." Naruto opened the small compartment, grinning when he realized she'd picked out his favorite flavor. He opened the fresh tube, squeezing a fair amount out onto the bristles of his well-used toothbrush. He regarded it thoughtfully for a moment before poking the grotesque utensil into his mouth.
He emerged from the bathroom a moment later, following the smell of fried bacon into the tiny kitchen. Sakura was in front of the ancient stove, keeping a close eye on the frying pan in front of her. The stove was a little bit fussy, to say the least, and the pink-haired girl was still coming to terms with it's eccentricities. Naruto trotted over to join her, planting a kiss on her cheek. "Having fun?" he asked, smirking.
"How do you cook anything on this stove?" Sakura asked, a scowl crossing her face. "No matter what I try to cook, it's burned on the outside and raw in the middle." She sighed, slamming the spatula down on the counter. "How did you ever survive with this thing?"
"I have a microwave," Naruto replied with a shrug. "And I eat a lot of instant cup ramen. And besides, I've lived here pretty well my entire life. I got used to it."
"Well, I hate it," Sakura pouted, glaring at the uncooperative appliance. "You need to talk to your landlord about getting a new one."
"Well, my landlord is Tsunade-baba. I'm sure if I talked to her about it, she'd set me up with a new stove." Naruto fished a piece of bacon out of the frying pan, cursing under his breath when he burned his fingers. He popped the strip into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. "Although, right now, I'm pretty sure she has more important things on her mind."
"Yeah, I suppose you have a point." Sakura glared at the stove, finally turning it off. She sighed, looking dubiously about the tiny apartment. "You'd think as a jounin, not to mention an ANBU commander, you'd be able to afford a less crapholish apartment."
"It's all I've really needed. Like I said, I've lived on my own for pretty well my entire life, and I've never had to pay a cent in rent for this apartment. Most of my furniture and appliances came from the Third whenever he replaced something. Besides my clothes, the only things I've ever owned that were new when I got them are the microwave and the television Iruka-sensei gave me." Naruto's expression hardened when his thoughts shifted to his recently deceased friend. Sakura's heart cried out at the look of misery on her blond beau's face. She wanted to hold him, to heal the hurt ingrained so deeply in his heart, but she knew there wasn't much she could do. Instead she reached forward to grasp his hand, intertwining her smooth, slender fingers with his broad, calloused ones. "It doesn't matter. For the best part of seventeen years, I've made due with what I have. But I guess since it's the two of us now, we could look for something a little bit bigger." Sakura, who had been silent so far, smiled. She wrapped her arms around Naruto, leaning against his chest.
"I don't think I'm ready to give this place up," Sakura murmured, snuggling tighter into his chest. Naruto wrapped his arms around her in response, resting his chin on the top of her head. "I mean, it is your home, right? And we can fix it up some. Besides, it's cozy."
"You know, Sakura-chan, I knew there was a reason I fell in love with you," Naruto replied, pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead. "You're the greatest. We can make this place work for us, and it really shouldn't cost too much. I'll just have to clear everything with Tsunade-baba." Sakura grinned, stretching so she could plant a lingering kiss on the blond boy's lips. She moved to pull away, but Naruto drew her back, deepening the kiss.
After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was nowhere near long enough, Naruto finally pulled away from the pink-haired girl, a sly smile crossing his face. "We should go out tonight, Sakura-chan," he suggested. "I mean, we've been together for more then a week now, and we haven't been out on a real date yet. We kind of skipped the whole sweaty palms, lump in the throat awkward dating phase. I can't help but think we missed out on something."
"I know," Sakura agreed, resting her head against the blond boy's chest. "I guess, though, if you want to get technical, we've gone out a bunch of times. Remember the day you came back? You asked me if I'd go to lunch with you. It was the first time I agreed to go out with you." She smiled, sighing dreamily. "You looked so different that day. You barely looked at all like the blond moron I remembered. And up until you ruined the illusion by offereing to show Konohamaru your new perverted Jutsu, you were perpetuating the same sort of mystique I had always admired in Sasuke." Sakura flushed slightly, breaking free of Naruto's embrace. "When we ran into each other outside the ramen bar, the first thing I really noticed was that you were handsome. And after Kakashi-sensei ditched us, I agreed to go to lunch with you, because I was kind of hoping you'd ask." Sakura was silent for a moment, a thoughtful expression on her face. "I think I started falling in love with you, though, when you confided in me about the Kyubi. You trusted me enough to let me know your most guarded secret. That really meant something to me. It's a shame it took me this long to figure everything out." Naruto smiled, taking a seat on the worn brown sofa and pulling the love of his life down into his lap.She snuggled into him, taking comfort in her love's presense.
"Don't keep beating yourself up about it, Sakura-chan. It really doesn't bother me. All that really matters is that you and I are together now." Naruto smiled reassuringly at the girl, planting a kiss on her forehead. "I say leave the past where it belongs. In the past. I've long since forgiven you for anything you might have said or done to me. I love you, Sakura-chan. Nothing has, can, or ever will change that. I'm stubborn that way." Naruto grinned and winked at Sakura, and she giggled in response.
"You've always been that way," Sakura agreed softly. "But you wouldn't be my Naruto if you were any different. You probably would have relented and gone out with Hinata. All I know is, most guys wouldn't wait for a girl wh rejected them at first to come around. You really are one of a kind, Naruto."
"Yeah, I hear that a lot." Naruto grinned. "Anywho, you have yet to answer my question, Sakura chan. Do you want to go out with me tonight?" Sakura leaned back, gazing at the blond boy with a quirked eyebrow.
"What exactly are your intentions, Uzumaki?" Sakura teased. "You know I'm not the kind of girl who goes all the way on a first date. What could you possibly get out of this night?"
"The pleasure of your company," Naruto replied honestly. "I want to spend a night showing the woman I love that she is the most important person in the world, as far as I'm concerned." Sakura was speechless. And to think, a moment ago she had been certain that she couldn't fall any deeper into love with this blond boy. Finally, she let out a squeak, and flung her arms around his neck, pressing a long, indescribably passionate kiss to his lips.
"That is the sweetest thing I've ever heard!" Sakura replied, before kissing Naruto again. "Of course I'll go out with you. Just, no ramen bar, okay?"
"Wouldn't dream of it," Naruto replied with a grin. "Sure, Ichiraku is my favorite place to eat, but it's not really the sort of place that springs to mind when one is trying to think of a romantic location to take his date." He shifted Sakura onto the couch next to him, and she latched onto his arm, resting her head on his shoulder. "Don't worry. I'll make sure this is a night to remember."
"You know, you really don't have to go through so much trouble," Sakura admitted, her fingers finding their way to Naruto's unruly golden locks. "You've already got me. And anything we do would be special."
"I don't want this night to be special, Sakura-chan," Naruto replied, his cheeks flushing slightly. "I want it to be unforgettable. You've given up a lot to be with me. Let me do this for you." Narito took a deep breath, then grinned at Sakura. "As much as I enjoy your company, I have some things to take care of before we go out tonight." Naruto stood, moving to retrieve his orange jacket. "I'll meet you at the bridge at five sharp, okay?"
"Okay," Sakura agreed with a grin. "I'll be there. And, just for you, I'll wear something sexy."
"Anything looks sexy on you, Sakura-chan," Naruto retorted, swooping in to claim a kiss before he disappeared out the door. Sakura flushed, then pulled on her sandals and raced out the door.
"So you're going out on your first date with Naruto tonight," Ino repeated, a frown settling on her lips. "But... didn't you sleep with him like a week ago? And a bunch of times times since then?"
"Yeah," Sakura replied, emerging from Ino's closet in a revealing hunter-green cocktail dress. "But he really wants me to have a good time tonight. I think it's entirely possible he's been planning this for the better part of the last five years." Sakura glanced at the full-lenth mirror, scrutinouly examining her appearance. She finally turned to face Ino. "What do you think?"
"I know it's my dress, and while I do love it, it makes you look like a call girl." Ino smiled at her friend, and Sakura stepped back into the closet. "So, it sounds like Naruto is pretty serious about you. I mean, he's already had a front seat to the main event, and he still wants you to feel like a queen. I know I may come off as rude sometimes, but I really think you hit the jackpot. You and Naruto are perfect for each other." Ino sighed, looking down at her hands. "So, if you don't mind me asking, what is it about Naruto you find most stimulating?" Sakura stuck her head out of the closet, a wicked grin crossing her face.
"That's a creative way of asking how he is in bed," Sakura replied matter-of-factly. Ino opened her mouth to protest, but Sakura interrupted before she could begin. "Don't try to deny it, Ino. I know you thought about it more then once, before you hooked up with Shikamaru. When he came back from training, you told me he was gorgeous. You crushed on him for almost a year."
Ino opened and closed her mouth several tiomes, but no sound came out. Finally she sighed, resigning herself to her fate. "So?" she pressed, after Sakura had been silent for a moment. "Are you going to tell me or what?" Sakura emerged from the closet in a knee-length black party dress. It was low-cut in the front, and as a result showed off quite a bit of cleavage. Sakura turned to admire herself in the mirror, a smile coming to her face after several seconds. "Well?" Ino almost shrieked.
"I think this is the one," Sakura replied, smirking at her friend. Ino crossed her arms, scowling at her pink-haired companion.
"You know what I mean," Ino growled, drumming her fingers on her arm.
"Calm down, I'm just kidding," Sakura said, smiling smugly at the blonde girl. "I don't have any prior experience to draw on, but when we made love for the first time, it blew my mind! It was absolutely, utterly amazing." She sighed dreamily. "And you want to know the best part? It gets better every time."
"It's not supposed to be mind blowing the first time!" Ino pouted. "It's supposed to be awkward, and kind of wierd. Why did you get fantastic, mind-blowing sex, and I get two awkward minutes? It isn't fair!"
"I didn't say it wasn't awkward. It was at first. Neither of us had a clue what we were doing, and I really didn't expect it'd be so painful. But when I adjusted, it got better. And it just... It felt so right. And it wasn't just the sex that made it amazing. It was all the emotions. There was love. There was need. There was pure, primal lust. All of that together was what made it so spectacular." Sakura looked at herself in the mirror again. "So, what about the dress?"
"Naruto will love it," Ino said with a grin. "Now come with me. We have to do your hair, not to mention your makeup. And I have a pair of shoes that will go perfectly with that dress."
"Okay, I think everything is taken care of," Naruto murmured, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Tsunade-baba got me a reservation at Sakura's favorite restaurant. Sometimes, I'm really glad I'm friends with the Hokage. She can get me almost anything. Everything is set at the Hokage monument. I ordered a bouquet of Sakura's favorite flowers that I'll pick up on my way to meet her, and I just picked up my suit from the tailor." Naruto grinned, turning to face his dark-haired companion. "I think I'm ready."
"I never spent this much effort on a date with Ino," Shikamaru sighed. "Actually, I never spent any effort planning a date with Ino. She always takes care of everything. Personally, I think it's because she's afraid I might actually want to do something fun."
"Knowing Ino, you're probably right," Naruto agreed, a grin coming to his face. "Hey, you want to go grab a bite? I haven't eaten anything since this morning."
"Alright," Shikamaru agreed reluctantly. "Just, not ramen. That's all Ino knows how to cook, and well, it gets old after a while." Naruto grinned, before starting at a brisk pace down a side street. Shikamaru paused for a moment, considering the possibility of asking his blond friend where he were headed. Instead, he opted to follow the boy without question. Oftentimes, it was nearly impossible to navigate Naruto's thoughts. Shikamaru had long since learned that it was best to just nod, and let whatever harebrained sceme Naruto had cooked up run it's course. So he followed, all the while wondering what hif friend had in store for them.
After several minutes, Naruto stopped outside of a decrepit building. "We're here," Naruto said, pulling the very crooked door open, with more then a little difficulty. "I came across this place just about a year ago. Mamoru-sama makes the best Udon in town, and she's famous for her barbecue pork bowls. Plus, her prices are the lowest in town. I know it doesn't look like much, but you'll enjoy yourself." Naruto entered the small building, gesturing for Shikamaru to follow. The dark haired boy hung back for a second, then sighed and followed his friend in.
The inside of the building was in considerably better shape then the outside. Several people were scattered about the quaint establishment, and a large, grey cat dozed on the only windowsill. The smell of Mamoru's cooking made both boys mouths water, so the each took a seat at the counter. Perhaps the most intruiging thing about the restaurant was the old woman who shuffled around the small food preperation area. She was no more then four feet tall, and her hair was as white as fresh snow. Her beady, pale blue eyes examined Naruto and Shikamaru scrutinously before a wide, toothless grin split her wrinkled face. "Hello there, Naruto!" she said, her voice surprisingly vibrant for somebody as old as she appeared to be. "I haven't seen you in a while. How are you? And who's your friend?"
"I'm doing alright, considering," Naruto replied. "Thank you for asking, Mamoru-sama. My friend here is Nara Shikamaru. I thought I'd bring him by for one of your world-famous pork barbecue bowls."
"It's a pleasure, Mamoru-sama," Shikamaru replied politely. Mamoru smiled warmly at him, reaching out to grasp the dark-haired boy's hands with her own.
"You're in for a treat, dear," Mamoru said, releasing his hands and busying herself at the small grill. "Years ago, people used to come from all over to eat at my restaurant. That was back before my husband passed away, god bless his soul. I ran the restaurant on my own after that for years." She filled two medium-sized bowls, then placed them in front of the two young men. "Of course, time wore on, and I got too old, so I closed the restaurant. That was twenty-five years ago. I set up shop here, where almost nobody knows where I am. I still get enough business to keep me sane, you know." Mamoru grinned. "But, enough talk. Your meals are getting cold. Go on, try it."
Shikamaru picked up his chopsticks, before fishing out a piece of pork. He looked at it dubiously before popping it into his mouth. A pleased expression crossed his face, and as a result Mamoru smiled. "It's very good," he said, smiling at the old woman.
"Told you," Naruto retorted triumphantly. After the two had finished their meal, Naruto fished out his wallet.
"It's on the house, Naruto," Mamoru said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Just promise you'll come by more often. Both of you." Shikamaru nodded solemnly.
"Deal," Naruto said, reaching out to shake the old woman's hand.
Naruto slowed to a stop out in front of his apartment building, his jaw hanging slack as he beheld the sight before him. "Sakura-chan, you look... Wow." Sakura was dressed in a black dress he was sure hadn't come out of her closet, and her long, pink hair was wrapped up in a french twist. Naruto stared, dumbstruck, until she gilggled.
"I take t you like," Sakura teased, and Naruto flushed. "You look pretty good yourself." Naruto was dressed in a tan leisure suit, over a black turtleneck. His forehead protector was missing, and he had done his best to make his rebellious hair behave.
"I'm glad you like it," Naruto grinned. He offered his arm to Sakura, and she took it with a smile. "Shall we go, milady? Our dinner reservation is in fifteen minutes."
"We shall," Sakura said. "Lead on, MacDuff." With that, they were on their way, neither knowing what the night would bring.
A/N: I bet you were wondering when this would come out. Well, here it is. And it's the longest chapter yet. It may not be as good as some previous chapters, but whatever. And don't worry, there's still a lot more to come. Read, review, enjoy. I love you all!