I was inspired after the last chapter came out. It is, at the moment, closing in on Valentine's day, and so I thought I would do a special little oneshot. How many of you knew I was a secret NaruSaku fan? Hohoho. I love Sasuke and I really love Gaara, but childhood sweetheart—I can't deny the romantic in me wants my darling little Naruto to have his way.
Remember, humor! Not serious, humor!
And remember, this isn't edited. I didn't feel like reading it through again. Meh.
Disclaimer: I own not the Naruto. It doth belong to someone else.
It was perfect. Trussed in red, with a beautiful white satin bow on it. In elegant writing he made out the words on the card with supreme displeasure.
" 'To Naru-chan, you can be my muse anytime'. . .?" He crumpled the distasteful object and let it fall to the ground. He'd pick it up later. Naruto shook the box, trying to discern from possible noises any sort of clue to the contents. There was no noise. If he had to go from what he knew of that perverted old man, he'd say that this was not something useful for his training to be the strongest in his village. What a waste of time and money. That old man Jiraiya was infinitely annoying. Now if it clunked like a weapon, then Naruto would have been excited. . .
"Na-ru-to." Sakura had snuck up behind him somehow. Dammit, he was a ninja! How could she do that? The easy superiority of power had always blinded him to her strengths in application of skill. "What's that?"
The box, garish red and screaming to be noticed, was impossible to hide. Doubly cursed, Naruto felt his heart speed up past the point of reason at Sakura's proximity. Time had been more than kind to her. Jiraiya's nonstop fixation on women had given Naruto plenty of time to examine the female form, but unconsciously he compared them all to her and found them lacking. That hair, her smile, those legs. . .
It was soft slap, but it still smarted. She had gotten so strong while he was away, muscles toned under soft looking skin. . . Naruto shivered and forced his mind to regroup before he got another slap for oogling her. Oddly, his attentions had garnered more pleasure than ire. Used to be all he had to do was talk to her and she would punch him hard enough that he'd forget where he was for a while.
"Earth to Naruto. I said, what do you have there?"
"It's nothing, Sakura-chan."
She smiled, eyes luminescent, and eyed the prettily wrapped gift. "It doesn't look like nothing."
There were few things he wouldn't tell her, but disclosing what this was could lead to uncomfortable revelations about how much time he had spent transformed into a girl. It was an embarrassing cloud on his training, and losing any more respect in Sakura's eyes was something he desperately wanted to avoid.
"It's. . . uhhh." Naruto only thought fast on the battlefield. Social interaction, particularly with this most important of women to him, had been an area that had been full of difficulties. "It's for you! Er. Yeah. . . . YES!" He cracked a grin and handed the box over.
The way her eyes narrowed was softened by the accompanying stunning smile. Naruto felt his heart thump in his chest, seeing her pleasure. From the way her expression hadn't changed much, she must have been expecting this from the beginning.
"This is such a surprise. I didn't know you were so thoughtful, Naruto." All he could do was give a nervous laugh. Even he didn't know how thoughtful he could be. "Such a pretty ribbon. . ." She pulled at the satin tied around the box but it refused to budge. It must have been knotted.
As Sakura delicately untied the ribbon, Naruto's mind finally caught up to the situation he had just gotten himself into. That, the very crimson box Sakura was cherishing as a present from him, was in fact a gift from Jiraiya. Worse, it was a gift from Jiraiya to Naruto's girl disguise form. Jiraiya was a pervert. . . therefore. . . oh crap!
The contents of that package must not be seen by Sakura. She would open up that box and think that Naruto was only after one thing from her. While he wanted that too, that wasn't the only way in which he thought of her. Sakura was always telling him he didn't understand women, but he wasn't so clueless as to not understand that to receive the kind of gift Jiraiya gave would send her feelings into questionable territory. He'd be lucky to escape with his life.
"Uh. . . Sakura. . ."
"Mmm? Just a second, I think I've got it. . ."
"No, you see," Naruto swallowed hard. "I, mean, you know that gift. . ."
Sakura flashed that smile of hers again, the one that had never been directed at him previously for any reason. This was so much better than when she was always beating him up, why did he have to mess it up?
"What about the gift?" Clear, trusting eyes. Crystal green with a touch of greedy happiness derived from the gift itself, ribbon partially untied in her hand.
He chickened out, managing to squeak. "I hope you like it!" She gave him a curious look and then turned her attention back to the present. The self proclaimed future Hokage, who one day hoped to be able to take on the world's evils for the greater glory and prosperity of Konoha, was helpless before a situation like this. He had a lot of growing to do.
Doom. Why couldn't his doom come quickly? Why did she have to carefully unwrap this present like it was a precious thing and savor the moment? Naruto ripped into his gifts, scattering the wrapping like paper shrapnel. This was an agony that no one deserved.
"What do you have there?"
"Kakashi!" Sakura looked up from her activity and Naruto considering tearing his hair out in frustration. All she had done was take off the bow! There is was in her hands, taunting him! "Naruto gave me this. Isn't it surprising?"
Kakashi's eye widened. "He's always been good at surprising others. What's the occasion Naruto?"
"Oh you know." Naruto had never been good at bluffing. Bald faced lying took someone smart, like Sakura, or someone with a perfect poker face, like Sasuke. Naruto scuffed a foot in the dirt, grinding the forgotten card into the dirt and hoping no one would notice it there. They were both looking at him like he had grown nine tails to match his whisker marks. "What are we doing today?" Changing the subject was the safest course.
As Kakashi began to speak, Naruto watched Sakura transfer the gift from hand to hand, eager to find out what was in the box but wanting to be professional about their mission and training for the day. They needed to get back into the swing of being a team, and at the moment going over simple plans was a good way to reacquainted with one another's skills. Kakashi stopped talking, gave them a smile behind his mask, and strode off in the direction of the forest. Naruto hadn't been able to take his eyes off of each pass, and just about screamed in frustration when she put it into her satchel of medical equipment instead of finishing the task of opening it. A whimper from Naruto caught her attention.
"Did something happen to you? You look like you're going to be sick." That was his Sakura, so concerned and kind, and so willing to beat the crap out of him for the slightest infractions.
"Probably something I ate this morning. I haven't been to the store yet, so I ate some of the old instant ramen that was still in the cupboard. . ."
She gave him a light bop on the head, reinforcing how silly she thought he was. Eating expired ramen? "You need to take better care of yourself, Naruto. I can't do my job if you make yourself ill before we even begin."
"Yeah, yeah." He dismissed her worries. The ramen wasn't bothering his stomach at all. He had eaten worse on long stretches of trail with Jiraiya when he was feeling particularly lazy and didn't want to scrounge up anything decent to eat. Desperation and hunger were an effective pair to motivate eating things even Naruto would describe as unpalatable. "So, what are we doing, eh?"
Sakura placed her hands on her hips. "I can't believe you weren't listening."
"You know me." Naruto didn't like making himself seem incompetent, but he wans't about to tell her why he hadn't been paying attention. "Please, Sakura, don't be mad." Every so often he could turn on the eyes, the pleading look that made him look like he was twelve again, and girls tended to treat him better while older women sometimes passed him a treat. Naruto had his pride about everything except food. Sakura too, couldn't resist this secret weapon.
"This once, I'll tell you, but don't expect me to do your job for you." Her scoldings were almost nostalgic for him. Maybe he should pretend he didn't know in the future so he could watch her screw up her face like that again. It was pretty cute. "We're going to navigate through some traps that Tsunade arranged to have set up for us. If we can make it to the finish point before sunset, then we should be in good shape. Let's not disappoint her, ok?"
Naruto came at attention with a mock salute. "You can count on me, Sakura."
First, Sakura took off to catch up with Kakashi, and Naruto stooped down to stuff the crumpled and dirty card into his jacket pocket. Wouldn't do to leave any evidence after all. Damn Jiraiya for getting him into this fix. Blaming someone else was futile, and yet it still brought a measure of comfort.
The day had been filled with close calls: exploding tags that he barely noticed in time, weapons flying at him from blind spots that shouldn't have been blind, and even slipping off a branch once when he was bringing up the rear. Sakura had noticed every one of them because naturally she was the one who had to treat his burns, his cuts, and his wounded pride. Kakashi raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Everyone had their off days, and Naruto couldn't take it if Kakashi started being as careful and slightly condescending as Sakura had started to be. Her mothering of him was getting annoying. He wasn't incompetent! He was distracted!
Kakashi suggested that they stop for a moment to eat some lunch and the other two agreed readily. Even with Naruto's mishaps they had been moving at a steady and fast pace, navigating through this obstacle course well enough to please their formidable teacher. That had to count for something.
Unfortunately, the stopping brought new difficulties.
"Aren't you hungry Naruto?" Sakura offered up some of her rice to him. Sweat was pouring down her face because of the hot day combined with their excessive exercise. Even dirty and tired she still thought of others. She didn't deserve whatever evil was contained in the red box. "I don't really need any more." She mumbled something about a diet and Naruto snapped at her.
"You don't need to diet, you're perfect!" Really, he had only wanted to get her off his case but her reaction to his anger was not the usual violence.
Slyly, she smiled, and ate more heartily. Obviously, she was hungry. Naruto didn't understand why someone would pretend to be full when they needed food. Ninjas had to be strong and ready for anything, and an empty belly was just as dangerous in the long term as pulled muscles or bleeding wounds.
"Why aren't you eating anything Naruto? Aren't you still growing?" In fact, his bones were hurting, but it wasn't pain that a ninja needed to concern himself with.
He mumbled and lay down on the ground, staring at the tree tops. "I'm not hungry."
Her response was hesitant. "I have some. . . well. . . I have laxatives in my bag if you need to flush out your system. There are some pills to counteract stomach acid too, if you need. . ."
"I'm fine, Sakura!" Naruto didn't want to take out his irritation on her. It wasn't her fault that he had made a mistake. Luckily, she probably assumed he was cranky because of the non-existent pain in his intestines.
Kakashi had finished eating first and bounded into a tree while Sakura went over her inventory and repacked things to be handy just in case. Naruto joined his former mentor in the tree rather than spend any more time around Sakura, the red box, and any more awkward questions.
Kakashi shrugged. "I see what I expected I'd see." He didn't fill Naruto in, and the boy knew better than to ask. It would merely end in another vague answer.
"Say, can I ask you something?"
There was silence.
"I said, I want to know if I can ask you. . ."
"I heard you." Kakashi sighed. Apparently, he had to make his answer explicit. "Yes, you can ask me."
Naruto twiddled his fingers in a manner not unlike Hinata. "Now, er, I. . . I mean I have this friend. This friend of mine gave something to a girl he likes, but he's not really sure what he gave her. All he knows is that this thing might be something that will make the girl very unhappy."
Taking his eye off the scenery and onto Naruto instead, Kakashi seemed speculative. "Why wouldn't. . . your friend. . . know what his present is?"
"Well, it's a funny sort of mix up. It had been a gift for him, but he was going to throw it away when she sort of came over and. . ."
". . . and thought it was for her?" Kakashi finished. Naruto nodded, glad someone understood.
Naruto coughed. "What should, uh, my friend do?"
At that Kakashi closed his eye and thought hard. Naruto couldn't wait for some wisdom to pour forth to get him out of this sticky situation. Down below, Sakura was carefully stowing away the as yet unopened red box in with her supplies. She packed the bandages around it, as if it needed protection from their journey through the forest, and Naruto wanted to steal down there and jump up and down on it before consuming it in a ball of flame. She would hate him intensely for ruining her stuff and her gift, but he almost thought it would be worth it. Almost.
Only now, after agonizing moments, did Kakashi offer his advice. "I think your friend should forget about it and concentrate on what he's doing before he gets him or one of his teammates injured or killed." Unhelpful, chastising, and typically Kakashi. "Good luck!" Cheerfully he bounded out of the tree and informed Sakura which direction they would be going in.
Naruto slumped in the tree and wished that he had better brains like Shikamaru, or steely indifference like Shino. . . but armed only with a strong sense of self and nearly limitless exuberance, Naruto was at a loss. Pranks couldn't serve him now. He didn't need Sakura mad before she opened the package. That would put her in danger of going explosive. Training under Tsunade had only emphasized certain flaws within her personality, one of the most obvious being the short fuse both possessed.
"Get your head out of the clouds and your body out of that tree and let's move!" Sakura shouted up at him.
They had made it to the end. Admirably, Naruto had managed to get his mind off of his beautiful pink haired companion and the scarlet box she carried long enough to help them through a particularly sticky scrape towards the end. When he had pulled off the gooey thread that encased Sakura she had hugged him tightly, shoulders shaking as she coughed and drew in fresh air. Any longer and she would have passed out and suffocated. The spiders had seemingly dropped out of nowhere. The Aburames had to have been contracted for that last one. Those spiders definitely had not been normal, and there had been far too many of them. Kakashi nursed a bite in his shoulder that he had gotten during one of the later waves of attacks from the swarms that had come for them. Sakura drew out the poison and told him that it didn't look like it was going to spread but she would check him again later.
They found the campsite that had been set up for them in the dusk light. There were supplies and wood set up for a campfire. Sakura found a package of medical supplies and injected Kakashi with the anti venom she found there. There had been several vials of it in there, as Tsunade had planned for the eventuality that they all got bitten, but gladly they had managed with minimal injuries. Kakashi and Naruto set up while Sakura started the fire.
"Look! I found a change of clothes too!" Sakura was glad to discover this, and told them that Tsunade was too obsessed about appearance to forget something as small as a cosmetic change for them all at the end of this long day. "I'll be right back." She grabbed her gear and the new clothes to wander off behind a bush and change.
Naruto and Kakashi dug through the food and started something up while they waited for Sakura. New clothes didn't mean much to them, and Kakashi would just as soon not use whatever clothes Tsunade had left for him. Naruto was of the same mind as the jounin, and they watched the food cook in silence.
"Your shoulder ok?" Naruto couldn't tell if anything ever got to the masked man next to him because of the way he concealed his features and controlled his emotions. If only the young boy could command such self restraint. That was probably years away.
As if the question annoyed him, Kakashi said, "Sakura's been gone too long."
It had grown dark, and Naruto had to agree that Sakura's absence had grown suspicious. These forests were relatively safe, but you could never be too careful. He got up to go check it out. The tangle of brush was dense and he pushed through in the direction he thought he had seen her go a while before. Eventually he found her gear, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary with it. The only thing that had been removed was the bandages. . .
Oh. Frikkin. No.
Life hated him. That was the only solution. He had never even had the chance to get it away from her. The whole day had been spent in a hell of his own (and Jiraiya's) creation. Now Sakura had disappeared and he didn't know why. What had been in the box? What if it had been some sort of trap? Naruto never wanted to hurt Sakura, and now he wasn't sure if that sick feeling that swamped his senses was hunger and worry together or mostly worry and self recrimination mixed with a hearty helping of guilt.
Broken twigs and branches led him further into the forest, and he followed the trail to where Sakura's old dirty clothes and a box lay. Around the box was the whole, carefully folded, red paper that had been wrapped around the box. Naruto bit his lip, worrying at it with gusto as he opened up the box to find it empty.
His fate was sealed now. The broken foliage led away to where there was a flat spot, as if Sakura had fallen down. She must have been struggling against whatever was in the box and had been overpowered. Her strength seemed to only manifest itself when Naruto said and did stupid things, and otherwise she could not sustain that kind of grapple. What nasty thing could Jiraiya have put in such a small box, and why would he want to harm his student?
Naruto's sharp eyes followed the broken trail where it looped over again into yet another small clearing. Here he found her clothes and Naruto gulped. So now she was weak, fighting an unknown enemy, and naked? Why hadn't she called for help?
The end of the trail brought a revelation he thought he had a few years yet before he would be lucky enough to see it, even in dreams. In the patch of moonlight, trying to get a good look at what she was wearing, stood Sakura. She examined her bare arms and legs briefly, but seemed more interested in the scrap of white fabric stretched taut over her body.
Frothy, white, lacy, and hardly covering anything important, Naruto had to consciously force his mouth to shut after his jaw had dropped. Sakura was by far the sexiest thing he had ever seen, and he found himself drawn forward by an urging he could not control, when someone grabbed his collar and yanked him back.
"Shhh." Kakashi startled him, clapping a hand over the noisy boy's mouth. The protector was no longer covering the jounin's eye and they were both widely appraising Sakura's outfit with an expression that force something jealous and competitive to rise in Naruto's heart. No one should be looking at his Sakura like that.
"It's that outfit." Kakashi whispered reverently. "From Volume 1. It's even more beautiful then I imagined it. . ."
Naruto stopped struggling and Kakashi let go, riveted by the vision in white before him. That was it? All that had been in the box was a little scrap of fabric? How lame. He had been so worried. Then again, even if she seemed to be enjoying it now, who knows how she would react to him when she saw him again. Everything was confusing again. As long as she liked it, he wasn't going to get beaten to a bloody pulp, right?
"Oi. Stop looking at her like that." Naruto elbowed Kakashi in the ribs. The jounin looked down at Naruto, sharingan intimidating him with displeasure over the interruption. "I mean it." It wasn't like Naruto to back down from any threat.
With one last longing look at his favorite novel come to life, Kakashi pushed his protector back down over his eye and gave Naruto his space. It was surprising, but it was nice that Kakashi had some sympathy for Naruto's feelings and predicament. Maybe this was all part of the new respect they deserved as being part of a team together as equals.
And on that note, it wasn't like him to lurk in bushes and spy. If he was going to take his punishment, he should take it now or else he'd be as bad as Jiraiya. That was one person he didn't want to be confused with any time soon. With greater bravery than he thought he would possess in a situation like this, Naruto stepped into the moonlight.
Sakura heard his immediately, now that he was no longer even attempting to be stealthy. Her arms covered her nearly exposed chest automatically in an age old reflex. Her eyes were wide, showing the whites all around.
"What are you doing here!? Get out!"
"Look, I was worried when you didn't come back and. . . and I think I need to explain. . ." Naruto struggled with his words, as always. She made his eyeballs burn because he was afraid of blinking and missing a second of seeing her like this. He could only hope she wouldn't gouge them from his head after tonight.
"Then talk fast, and it better be good." She let her arms fall, and Naruto's mind went totally blank. The white outfit was far more see through up close than it had been from the safe distance in the bushes. Something in his brain went 'pop'. "Stop staring at me!" She stomped one foot on the hard packed forest floor and advanced with intent to maim.
Naruto put up his hands defensively. "You look really good!" He threw out the words like a weapon. He had scrunched up his eyes, waiting for a blow that never came.
"You think so?" Sakura was so close, that when he opened his eyes this time he was sure she could see them cross. "And to think. . . when you came back you said I hadn't changed. . ."
Some obvious bodily changes were so close to him that he whimpered a little in an effort not to comment on them. This was his punishment, it had to be. She was going to tease him, make him feel secure, and then beat the living crap out of him.
"How good do I look?" She walked around him, trailing a hand around his shoulders. Naruto's eyes rolled back into his head and he groaned.
"Please, Sakura. . ." He didn't want to have to speak right now.
"Well?" She stood in front of him, and leaned in a little. Her hair fell forward and swayed in the breeze around them.
That's it. No more. If he stayed here, with her, like this, then he would do something that they would both regret. He wasn't ready for this. "Too good, Sakura. Too good." Then, on stiff legs, he swiveled around and marched himself back to the campsite to sit down next to an equally stunned Kakashi.
"She wasn't mad." Naruto said, wonder and something like dazed shock in his voice.
"I think I would have liked it better if she had been mad." It would have been more familiar certainly, and he would have slept easier that way too. As it was, his dreams would probably plague him for weeks if not months. That laugh she had given as he had run off. . . it echoed in his mind, taunting him.
Kakashi nodded again, as if he were listening.
"Remind me to burn anything else Jiraiya sends me." Naruto said as he tossed the card from his pocket onto the fire. It was going to be a long night.