Warning: Monstrously long AN. If you don't really care, simply skip to the story. It's nothing but pointless spieling anyway.
First off, I'd like to let everyone know that I dislike Sasuke. Immensely. I realize the boy has issues, but I just don't like him. I don't think he deserves Sakura – but then, that's just me.
Does that mean Naruto deserves Sakura? Probably not. I mean, she's horrible to him! But the poor boy deserves some happiness in his life, so I'm going to do my best at making a decent (and hopefully believable) Sakura/Naruto fic. For some reason, I really like this pairing. I honestly think they'd suite each other very nicely – if Sakura'd just get over her Sasuke obsession.
Another thing: I only own the first few Naruto mangas. This means my fic is going to be riddled with errors. I apologize for that in advance. Remember, most of my information I get from reading other people's fics. I'm trying desperately to keep everyone in character, but I'll understand if I get some nasty reviews telling me I'm horribly off base. Also, as much as I dislike Sasuke, I'm not going to bash him. I'm also not going to make him intentionally villainous. Well, I'm going to try not to, anyway. Respect the characters.
Lastly, to my regular readers: No, I'm not giving up on my other fics. Yes, I realize I haven't updated anything for months. No, this doesn't mean I'm switching exclusively to the Naruto fandom. Yes, you can all expect updates soon.
Okay, on with the fic!
Get over it, Sakura.
Sakura scanned the ground below her, eyes narrowed intently. She pulled a kunai from the pouch on her thigh and listened.
Perched precariously upon the limb of a strong oak, she squinted through the thick leaves, trying to get a glimpse of blonde amid all the green below.
Training with Ino hadn't been one of her plans for today, but things had changed.
"Sasuke-kun!" Sakura squealed happily, sidling up to her dark-haired teammate outside of Konoha hospital. She'd been visiting him every day since the incident with Orochimaru. After several weeks of isolation, they had finally allowed him some time outside of the hospital. This was the first chance she'd had to be alone with him, without the supervision of any nurses or doctors. The first time she'd really have a chance to talk with him. Sakura decided to stick to familiar territory.
Sasuke didn't look at her, continuing to study the ground.
"Sasuke-kun," Sakura tried again, her cheeks warm. "Will you go out with me?"
The pink-haired chuunin wasn't deterred. "It's a nice day today, isn't it? I could make us a nice picnic lunch, and we could –"
"This new restaurant just opened and maybe –"
"Do you like ice-cream? Because –"
Sakura frowned, kicking a pebble away from them.
"…Would you like to train with me?"
Sakura turned to the Uchiha, hands on her hips.
"What? Why?! All you ever do is train, so why not do a little training with me?!"
Sasuke finally looked her in the eye.
"Because," he said, suddenly sneering, "You're annoying. And useless. How could I possibly benefit from spending any time with you?"
Sakura gulped, stung. She took a step back. It wasn't as if she hadn't heard it a million times before, it was just…
Today it was different. Today he was different. His tone hadn't just been cold – she was used to cold, she could handle cold. It was intentionally cruel. Of course he'd been different since Orochimaru, but…
That had hurt.
She didn't know what to say, even Inner Sakura was silent.
Ino found Sakura near the Ramen shop, head in her hands.
"Hey, forehead-girl!" She called out, waving.
Sakura didn't look up.
"What's the matter?" The blonde kunoichi asked loudly, plopping next to her friend.
Sakura didn't look up.
Ino frowned softly, gently placing a hand on the pink-haired girls' shoulder.
"Hey," she began quietly, "what's wrong?"
Sakura finally lifted her miserable face to meet Ino's concerned look. The platinum blonde's brow furrowed.
"Sasuke?" She asked.
"How did you know?" Sakura's voice was toneless. Ino slumped in her seat, imitating Sakura.
"What else could it be? So, what happened?"
Sakura explained her Sasuke encounter.
"And where does he get off saying I'm useless?! I'm not useless, Ino! I'm training with the Hokage herself! Who's he training with? HUH?! HIMSELF!"
Sakura flared with righteous anger, her fists pumping the air.
Ino backed away from the enthusiastic chuunin, grinning nervously.
"All I've ever been is nice to him, all I've ever done I've done for him! And he tells me I'm useless?! Useless?!" Sakura growled.
"So, does this mean you're finally giving up on Sasuke-kun?" Ino asked innocently.
"Huh?" Sakura turned on her friend, face flushed. "What? Give up on Sasuke-kun? Why? So you can have him?" She snorted as Ino grinned, unabashed. "Heck no!" She continued, "I'm going to work even harder to win him over. I'll show him I'm not useless! I'm going to train even more!" Sakura began to laugh evilly, her eyes glinting unnaturally.
Ino cocked an eyebrow. "Get real, forehead-girl. There's no way he'll notice you as long I'm around." She closed her eyes, tossing her hair.
"You wish!" Sakura stuck out her tongue at the blonde.
"Fine!" Ino got to her feet. "Sakura, I challenge you to a… a… a mock duel!"
Sakura crossed her arms and stared defiantly at the other chuunin. "Yeah? What are the stakes?"
"Winner is worthier of Sasuke's love!"
Now she was in a tree, scanning the area for her blonde friend's hiding place. Smirking, she twirled he kunai in her hand.
No way is Ino wining this one. She thought, after today, I'm more determined than ever!
Something moved behind her.
Sakura's triumphant grin dropped and she whirled around, almost falling off her branch when bombarded with a whirlwind of blonde hair and blue eyes.
The only problem? It was the wrong blonde…
"Sakura-chaaaaaaan!" Naruto smiled happily, holding a hand up in greeting. "I've been looking everywhere for you! What are you do-mmmph!"
Sakura slapped a hand over the boy's mouth, her eyes widening fearfully.
"Shut up!" She hissed, her face going red. The pink-haired girl anxiously glanced over her shoulder. Had Ino heard them? Did she know where they were? Keeping her hand clamped over her teammate's mouth, she listened carefully, trying to pick up any rustling of leaves – any sound out of the ordinary.
Of course… If she'd missed Naruto sneaking up on her, would she really be able to pick up any sounds of Ino moving about, several feet below?
Frowning, she turned back to the dishwater blonde behind her, dropping her hand from his lips. The boy pouted.
"Mou, Sakura-chan, what was that for?"
"Quiet!" She snapped, glaring. "I'm in the middle of a training session with Ino!" She shook her fist in the fox boy's face, a ping of satisfaction coursing through her as he cowered away.
"If she finds out where I'm hiding because of you," she whispered menacingly, teeth bared at the wide-eyed boy, "I can't promise you'll live to regret it…" The kunai in her hand flashed dangerously.
Naruto smiled nervously, his blue eyes closed.
"Ah… Sorry, I'll be quiet!" He scratched the back of his head, opening one eye to peek at her. He closed it again quickly when confronted with Sakura's angry glare.
The pink-haired kunoichi frowned, looking back toward the bushes she had seen Ino disappear into several minutes earlier. Everything was still quiet.
Sakura clutched the handle of the kunai tightly, leaning forward, her free hand parting the leaves so she could see the ground better.
Really, it was too quiet. There were no sounds of birds chirping or bugs buzzing...
Almost imperceptibly, the bush to the left of their tree rustled slightly. Sakura's teeth clenched.
"Ah, Sakura-chan…" The boy behind her whispered nervously.
"Shut up, Naruto!" She snapped softly, viridian eyes locked on the thick green leaves of the shrub beneath them.
I've got her… Inner Sakura snickered evilly. Hell yeah! Can't wait to see that Ino-pig's face after she loses! Sakura's mind supplied her with a lovely mental image of a tearful Ino pierced by a hundred kunai. Inner Sakura salivated.
Outwardly, Sakura took aim…
A poke to her shoulder. "Sakura-chan!" Naruto whispered urgently.
Sakura whirled on the boy, eyes wide, and whacked him on the head. She shrieked as silently as she could, "Didn't I tell you to be quiet?!"
Naruto stuck his lower lip out and put a hand to his sore scalp. "But –!"
She shook her head fiercely at him and pointed to the bush. "I've got her!" She aimed again, drawing her arm back, preparing to send the kunai to its target.
But suddenly, she was jerked backward against Naruto's chest.
"Gah!" She gasped, to shocked to move for a moment. But it didn't take long for her to recover; she opened her mouth to yell at the fox boy –
Something glimmered out of the corner of her eye. Sakura's mouth froze in a silent 'O'.
Kunai. Three were embedded in the wood where she'd just been crouching. She gaped at Naruto, but her teammate's attention was on the branch above them. Sakura's green eyes followed Naruto's gaze.
Shikamaru lounged lazily on the bough, fingering another kunai.
"What?!" Sakura pushed away from Naruto, scrambling to her feet.
Raucous laughter filled the air as Ino leapt from her hiding place.
"Hah! Looks like I win forehead-girl!" The blonde-haired chuunin pointed at her friend, grinning triumphantly.
"I don't think so, Ino-pig!" Sakura shouted, stamping her foot. "You cheated! This was between me and you: not me, you, and your teammates!"
Ino stuck her tongue out at the other kunoichi. "Who are you calling a cheater?! What, it's okay for you and Naruto to team up, but when I bring in lazy over there, I'm a cheater?!"
Sakura waved her kunai wildly. "I didn't team up with Naruto! He snuck up on me right in the middle of the exercise!"
Ino rolled her eyes, still grinning. "Sure."
Sakura whirled on Naruto, eyes ablaze.
"You!" She growled. "This is all your fault! If you hadn't shown up, I would have had her! Arg! Naruto!"
The poor boy waved his hands defensively, blue eyes wide. "But, Sakura-chan!"
The pink haired chuunin poked the fox boy in the chest. Hard. "Don't you 'Sakura-chan' me, you idiot! You completely ruined everything!" She snarled, and commenced to pummel the poor boy senseless.
"Sa-ku-ra!" He managed between blows. "I didn't mean to!"
"I don't care!" Sakura crouched in front of him, absolutely glowing with anger.
"Don't blame him," Shikamaru drawled, dropping to the ground to stand beside his teammate. "You weren't exactly silent – even before he showed up."
Sakura paled drastically, suddenly pausing in her brutal assault on the fox boy. She dropped her raised fists, her back ramrod straight.
"I'm leaving." She said simply, all fire gone. She turned stiffly on her heal, jumping quietly into the next tree, back in the direction of Konoha.
"Er…" Ino frowned, brushing a few platinum strands of hair from her face. "I'd better go after her." She leapt up into the tree after Sakura. "Wait up, forehead-girl!"
Naruto untangled himself, blinking, and fell gracelessly to the ground next to Shikamaru.
The genius regarded the whisker-faced boy next to him, noting the swollen eye and bloody nose the blonde now sported. He snorted.
"Eh? What just happened?"
Shikamaru shrugged. "Who knows? Women are troublesome."
Naruto looked off in the direction the girls had gone.
"Yeah, I guess." He turned to the dark-haired boy accusingly. "You helped Ino cheat!"
Again, Shikamaru shrugged.
"Did you know you were helping Ino cheat?"
The pineapple-headed chuunin nodded, yawning.
"Then why did you?!"
"Ino asked me to help." The genius scratched his chest absently.
Naruto gaped at him. "She asked you to help her cheat and you agreed? Why didn't you just say no?!"
Shikamaru frowned. "It's easier just to do what she says. Arguing with Ino is so… troublesome."
Naruto shook his head, deciding that lecturing the other chuunin would do absolutely no good. Instead, he darted after the girls.
Ino panted, finally catching up to her pink-haired friend.
"Sakura! Hey, what's the matter with you?"
Sakura stood at the edge of one of the many empty training fields that dotted the outskirts of Konoha. She was staring at the town, arms crossed and back hunched. She looked over her shoulder at Ino, green eyes sorrowful.
"I'm never going to be good enough, am I?"
The blonde kunoichi paused. She'd never seen Sakura so genuinely upset. She stepped forward delicately, draping an arm around her friends' shoulder.
"Don't be silly, Sakura. You're already good enough."
"No. He doesn't think so."
Ino didn't know what to say.
"Sakura-chaaaaan!" Naruto ran through the streets of Konoha, calling out for his teammate.
"Sakura-chan, where are you?!"
He stopped outside of Konoha hospital, feeling for the pretty chuunin's chakra. He couldn't sense hers, but Sasuke's oppressive aura was quite noticeable. The blonde suddenly saw the Uchiha heir sitting on a bench outside of the hospital. Naruto wouldn't have known it, but the lone-wolf member of team seven hadn't moved since Sakura had come to visit him earlier.
The fox boy took a tentative step forward. He hadn't felt comfortable in Sasuke's presence since he'd brought the dark-haired boy back from Orochimaru.
"Sasuke!" He called jovially, plopping onto the bench. "Have you seen Sakura?"
"Yes." Sasuke's brow furrowed as he looked steadily at the ground.
"Where is she?"
A shrug from teammate number three. "She ran off."
Naruto frowned. "When?"
"A few hours ago."
Before she'd been training with Ino, then. A thought occurred to Naruto – Sasuke must have done something to make Sakura so ornery!
"Why did she run away?"
"Did she look upset to you?"
"Hn. I really didn't pay attention."
The blonde narrowed his eyes. "You didn't say anything to make her sad or angry, did you?"
Sasuke stopped glaring at the ground long enough to toss Naruto an unsavory smirk.
"I might have. So what?"
Naruto growled. "Man, Sasuke, you're such a dick! Why are you so mean to Sakura?!"
"So are you!" Naruto stuck his tongue out at the Uchiha, failing to elict a reaction.
"She never does anything mean to you, why can't you just be nice to her for once –"
"Shut up, dobe." Sasuke leaned against the back of the bench, lifting his head to look at the sky. "Who cares, anyway? She's annoying and useless. It's about time she realized that she's nothing but a hindrance to us."
"That isn't true!" Naruto defended, "She isn't a hindrance!"
Sasuke snorted. "Yes she is. She's a weakling."
Naruto leapt to his feet, holding his fists in front of him as if he was about to pound Sasuke like Sakura had pounded the fox boy earlier.
"Just because she's physically weaker than us doesn't make her useless! She's really smart, remember? Smarter than you, even! And she's been working with old hag Tsunade to become a medical nin! Did you even know that?!"
Sasuke lazily waved off the blonde's spiel.
"I don't care."
Naruto's fiery glare dulled and his shoulders slumped.
"I don't know why she likes you so much."
Sasuke didn't even bat an eye as Naruto slunk away.
"What can I get you ladies?"
Ino looked up at the owner of the ramen stand and pursed her lips thoughtfully.
"We're stuck between jalapeño cheddar and miso with chicken flavoring… Can we have a few more minutes, please?"
"Sure. Take your time."
"Hey, doesn't this one look good, Sakura? Sakura?" Ino poked her gloomy friend. The pink-haired chuunin looked up from her menu and blinked.
"Yeah, it looks great."
Fed up with Sakura's sulking, Ino whapped the kunoichi on the back of her head with the ramen menu.
"Ah! What was that for?!" Sakura turned to glare at her attacker, only to be met with Ino's furious face.
"It's for being such a whiner! Get over it, Sakura!" The blonde poked her friends' shoulder, frowning.
"You need to stop doing this to yourself!"
"Doing what? I'm not doing anything!"
"Yes you are!" Ino insisted, "You're taking everything Uchiha Sasuke says to heart!"
"Of course I do! I love him."
"Really? Do you really?"
"Are you girls ready to order?"
The two konichi whirled on the poor owner, teeth bared. The man smiled nervously and backed up.
"Chicken and vegetables!" Ino shouted at him.
"Spicy shrimp!" Sakura shrieked, pounding her fist on the bar.
"I'll be right back with that!" The man fled behind the curtain, terrified. Sakura took a deep breath, turning back toward Ino.
"What do you mean? Are you questioning my devotion to Sasuke?"
Ino glared, crossing her arms over her chest. "Things change. We're not twelve anymore, Sakura. We don't have twelve-year-old emotions."
"I… You… What?!" She huffed, closing her eyes for a moment and putting a hand to her forehead. "Ino, things like the way you feel about someone don't change."
"Do too. Everything changes."
"Are you saying you don't love Sasuke anymore?" Sakura asked, glaring.
"No, I don't." Ino beamed wickedly. "I've moved on to a much better man." She primped for a moment, eyes dreamy.
"What do you mean you've moved on?" Sakura screeched, suddenly nose to nose with her best friend. "You seemed to like him enough this morning! Remember? When you challenged me to a battle for his love!"
Ino shrugged. "We always do that. I didn't want to break the routine."
Sakura's jaw nearly hit the ground.
"What are you saying, Ino?! That our fight meant nothing to you?!"
The blonde looked thoughtful for a moment, finger to her chin. She turned to Sakura, grinning.
"Yeah, I guess that's what I'm saying!"
The pink kunoichi floundered, shocked.
"So… So, we're not fighting over Sasuke anymore?"
"So… He's all mine?" Sakura grinned. "You're giving up? No more competition?"
Ino sighed. "Sasuke's yours if you want him, Sakura. But why would you? Have you forgotten what he did?"
Instantly, Sakura jumped to her teammate's defense. "It wasn't his fault! He was being manipulated!"
"You really believe that? Come on, Sakura! You're supposed to be nearly as smart as Shikamaru!"
Sakura's glare didn't falter.
"Fine," Ino blew her bangs away from her face. "But come on. Look at how he treats you."
"It's because he needs help. He doesn't understand how to deal with those emotions because all he was ever used to feeling were anger and despair." She replied staunchly.
"Maybe that was true before he left," Ino began gently. "But he's back now, and he hasn't improved temperamentally. Maybe…" Ino clenched her fists, "Maybe all he'll ever feel is anger and despair, Sakura. Maybe you can't help him, no matter how much you want to. Maybe he doesn't even want help."
Sakura's shoulders shook.
"How can you say that, Ino? Who wouldn't want to be rescued from that?"
"I don't know, Sakura. I just don't think that you're thinking about this rationally." Ino stood up, gingerly patting her friend on the back. "I have to go, I promised Chouji and Shika that I'd meet them for some afternoon training." She hastily excused herself as Sakura began to sniffle.
Naruto barreled down the street, darting through the crowded market area.
"Sakura-chan!" He called again, stopping to look around. The chuunin shook his head, shading his eyes with one hand. No where. She was no where. Sighing, the ninja decided to take a break from looking for his favorite kunoichi. His stomach rumbled loudly and he grinned. Lunch time!
He made a beeline for the ramen stand, slapping his palms onto the bar and all but drooling onto the polished wood.
"Six bowls!" He said aloud to himself, eagerly pouring over the menu, though he knew it by heart. "One Chicken, one Chicken-miso, one Spicy Beef, one Crab Bowl, one…" He heard someone gulping for air and turned curiously to his right. His pink-haired teammate sat two stools down from him, her face down turned and hidden by her hair.
"Sakura-chan!" He yelled happily, leaping into the seat next to her and throwing his arms around the kunoichi's shoulders. The girl moaned quietly. Naruto's ecstatic grin slowly faded.
"Sakura-chan? Are you… okay?"
She slowly raised her head, her watery green eyes locking onto Naruto's clear blue gaze. Her lip trembled.
"Order up!" The owner called, coming out from behind the curtain, brandishing two steaming bowls. "One Chicken Vegetable, and one Spicy Shrimp!" He looked at the couple before him. His best customer had one arm awkwardly around the pink-haired hellion from earlier, who now looked about ready to open the floodgates. The other girl was no where in sight.
"Thanks." Sakura squeaked meekly, as he set the bowl in front of her.
"Erm, where'd the other girl go?"
"Don't worry," Naruto cut in, eyeing the other bowl hungrily, one arm still around Sakura. "I'll eat hers."
"Okay." The owner blinked, handing the two a pair of chopsticks each, and disappearing once more behind the curtain.
Ignoring the rumbling pain in his stomach, Naruto watched Sakura as she shakily broke her chopsticks. She hadn't tried to shake him off yet. She hadn't yelled at him.
"Sakura-chan?" He tried softly. "Is everything alright?"
Even if he'd been warned, the ninja would never have been prepared. His beautiful Sakura burst into tears and flung herself into his arms. Naruto blushed hotly and tried desperately to keep his mind out of the gutter as he wrapped one arm around her waist. He lightly patted her back, having absolutely no clue what else to do.
"… It's okay, Sakura…"
"Okay?" She wailed into his neck. "No it is not okay, Naruto! Everyone is against me!"
"No they aren't, Sakura –"
"Yes they are!" She gripped him tightly.
"Ah, okay!" He gasped. She loosened her hold and Naruto made no more attempts at drawing her into a conversation for several minutes. She seemed content enough just to hang onto him, relieving herself of several months' worth of pent-up tears and frustration all at once.
He continued to keep one arm around her, while simultaneously rubbing her back in what he hoped was a comforting manner. His cheeks seemed to heat up even more with every little mewling sob she made. Luckily, his rumbling stomach distracted him slightly. The blonde shinobi eyed his cooling bowl of ramen over Sakura's petal pink hair. He wondered if she'd notice were he to start eating around her. His fingers itched, but whether it was from his intense desire to pick up the chopsticks or run his hands through Sakura's soft locks, he honestly wasn't sure.
Finally, she lifted her head from where she'd been sniffling against his neck. She pulled out of the boy's embrace – Naruto'd been half reluctant to let her go – and settled back onto her own stool. Sakura hiccupped softly and wiped her damp cheeks with the back of her hand.
"I'm sorry." She said weakly.
"'S okay." Naruto watched her for a few minutes, but when it became obvious she wasn't going to break down again he took the chance to dive into his ramen, attacking the bowl and sloshing the counter with broth.
Sakura's mouth twisted into a smile as she watched him, pulling at a strand of hair that was sticking to her cheek and tucking it behind her ear. Honestly, it was nice to see Naruto being so… Naruto. It was something she could rely on. He didn't change. Not like Ino. Not like…
Mouth stuffed with noodles, the blonde haired chuunin jabbed his chopsticks in the direction of Sakura's bowl.
"Oo gunna ee 'at?"
She pushed the untouched ramen toward him.
He lifted Ino's bowl, draining it of the remaining broth before slamming it back on the table, licking his lips and grinning.
"Mmmm!" He pulled Sakura's bowl to him, shoving the first bite down his gullet with all the grace of a garbage dispose-all.
"Ah!" He gasped, dropping the chopsticks and leaping from the seat. Sakura stood up, watching him worriedly.
The ninja stopped dancing from foot to foot and turned to her. Sakura's brow twitched as tears streamed down the blonde's face.
"It's spicy!" He whined, sticking his tongue out and panting like a dog.
Sakura couldn't help it; she threw her head back and laughed. She laughed for a good two minutes, finding, to her chagrin, that she hadn't cried herself out after all. Tears to match Naruto's leaked from the corner of her eyes as she handed her teammate a glass of water.
Naruto downed it gratefully, setting the glass back on the bar and fanning his tongue.
"Mou, Sakura! You could have warned me!"
The pink-haired chuunin continued to giggle.
"You were here when he delivered it, Naruto! You heard him: Spicy Shrimp!"
"Hmph." Naruto stuck out his lower lip, pouting. He took his seat next to the girl and began to eat again: much more slowly. Sakura watched him for a moment, her eyes still bright with laughter.
"I wanted to tell you," Naruto said between bites, "Kakashi-sensei wants us to meet him tomorrow."
"Is that why you snuck up on me today? Making me lose?" Sakura asked, cocking an eyebrow.
Naruto grinned sheepishly. "I didn't sneak up on you, Sakura-chan! And I tried to tell you about Shikamaru, but you wouldn't listen!"
Sakura huffed, blushing.
"Anyway," He continued, "Kakashi-sensei told me that we'll need to pack enough supplies to last a few days."
"A mission?" Sakura frowned. "He's going to send us on a mission? But we can't go anywhere! Not without Sasuke-kun!"
Naruto stiffened, but she didn't see.
"I mean, just because he's hospitalized doesn't mean he's not part of the team!" Sakura's eyes widened fearfully. "Oh! What if we leave him behind? He'll think we hate him! He'll think he's not --!"
Not good enough.
I'm never going to be good enough, am I?
"Not what?" Naruto asked, puzzled as Sakura trailed off.
"Not… part of the team." She ended lamely, trying not to get bogged down by the memory of her earlier encounter with Sasuke.
"Ooooh! Or maybe they're going to release him from the hospital tomorrow!" She began again, picking up steam. "You think, Naruto? And Kakashi-sensei already knows, so Sasuke will be going on the mission!"
Naruto shrugged, sipping the broth of Sakura's ramen. If the kunoichi noticed her teammate's sudden less than enthusiastic attitude, she didn't show it. She stood up, brushing off her red dress.
"Well, I'd better go pack up and sharpen my kunai. See you tomorrow, Naruto!"
The blonde leapt from his seat, dropping his chopsticks.
"Hey, want me to walk you home, Sakura-chan?" He grinned, blushing.
Sakura looked up at him. No way… Is he really taller than me? Naruto, once the shortest member of team seven, now stood a full head over the pink-haired chuunin. She'd never noticed. Sakura sighed inwardly. Well, some things do change with time. I guess that's unavoidable. She felt betrayed, suddenly. Naruto wasn't as reliable as she'd thought! She wanted to smack him.
Regret welled up inside her. It wasn't Naruto's fault that he'd grown. It wasn't his fault that he'd proved Ino right. She couldn't blame him for everything, just because it was convenient and he'd let her. It wasn't right. Looking into his hopeful face, Sakura felt ashamed. She didn't want to smack him. She wanted to smack herself.
Naruto was surprised when Sakura reached out and tugged at the collar of his orange jacket, sighing.
She smiled sheepishly at him. "No, Naruto, it's okay. You don't have to walk me home."
He seemed to deflate slightly, and she winced inwardly.
The fox boy looked at her curiously, blue eyes filled with gentle affection. Sakura reconsidered smacking him.
"Thanks." She said, blushing. "Thanks for letting me sob and snot all over you." She smiled sincerely at him. "Thanks for being Naruto."
The blonde was cherry-red. He scratched the back of his head nervously.
"Ah, it's okay Sakura-chan. You can snot on me whenever you want!" He grinned crookedly at her, whiskered cheeks like apples.
Sakura laughed, laying some money on the counter. "My treat." She told him, waving over her shoulder.
Naruto watched her walk away, a lopsided grin on his face.
He looked like an idiot. But he didn't care.
Thanks for being Naruto…
He sighed, little hearts dancing around his head.
"I wonder what that's supposed to mean…"
AN: Normally, when I write a fic, I have a definite plot planned out. But not this time. I'm flying by the seat of my pants! I have a ghost of a plot in my head, but whenever I try to focus on it, it slips behind a curtain. If this story ends up making absolutely no sense, I'm sorry.
Screw continuity anyway.
Oh, and please review! -