Here's a fic to pass the time. Assume it's set in the vague future of the recent manga chapters.


Little Steps To Adulthood

Sun was setting over the desert, silhouetting the forms of two ninjas atop the village walls. Sakura and Naruto sat side by side, kicking their heels against the outside edge of the wall as they awaited the return of their sensei. Inside the village the Kazekage (the youngest kage since the ninja villages were founded) was laid up in a hospital bed, recovering from his wounds. The village had a somber feel, relieved at the return of their leader but humbled by the apparent ease of his botched kidnapping. There were several leaf nin in the sand village at the moment, given the presence of Maito Gai's team and the additional medic nin sent out by Leaf, but Naruto and Sakura had declined the chance to socialize with the Sand nin in favor of waiting for Kakashi (who was at this moment delivering a highly classified message from Gaara to Tsunade regarding the former's experience with the Akatsuki), and having a few moments of catch-up.

"It's so beautiful, but so alien," Sakura said, staring out at the dunes and the fading light.

"Yeah," Naruto agreed, and made a wrinkly face. "Jeraiya had us hide out in the desert for three weeks one time to escape a local daimyo he had pissed off. It was interesting at first, but not very fun afteraday or two. It's always cold late at night, and the wind over the dunes sounds like a monster coming to eat you or something. At least I had lots of time to train."

A wistful expression crossed Sakura's face. "It must have been wonderful, traveling about. Training with Tsunade has been more than I've ever dreamed, but as Hokage she's pretty much stranded in the village. I haven't even been outside Fire Country since that time when we were genin."

"Hey! I still am a genin." Sakura laughed, and poked him in the shoulder.

"Sorry, I forgot. I outrank you, now," she said saucily, "How do you like that, Naruto?"

He turned from the desert to look her in the eyes. "If it makes you smile, I like it just fine."

They stared at each other a moment before Naruto seemed to realize what he'd said, and quickly looked away again, blushing. "Anyway, enjoy it while you can, Sakura-chan! As soon as the next exam happens I'll win, easy."

"Sure, whatever Naruto!" Sakura laughed. "Just don't beat up the poor little twelve year olds too badly when you try."

Her laughter faded into a comfortable silence, accompanied by quiet smiles. They sat together like that for a few minutes before Naruto said softly, "It wasn't all that great, you know."

"What wasn't?"

"Travelling all the time. I mean, I learned so much, and I wouldn't trade that for the world. Jeraiya truly is a legendary sanin. But he's not like family at all. I missed Iruka-sensei, and I missed you, and I missed Kakashi-sensei and the rest of the village. Over two and a half years without seeing any of the people I loved or grew up with."

"I'm sorry. We missed you, too, you know."

"Yeah. I'm sure they all missed the graffiti on the monuments and the bombs in the toilets." With a frown, Sakura smacked him on the head.

"Oww!" He squealed, leaning away from her and clutching the side of his skull. "You hit my ear! That hurt, Sakura-chan!"

"That's what you get for being pig-headed. We missed you for you, Naruto. You stopped doing pranks a long time ago."

"Yeah, yeah."

"So," Sakura said, brushing her hairbehind her earand scanning the horizon for any hint of Kakashi, "Make any girlfriends in the other villages? I need details so I can tell everyone about it when we get back to Leaf."

Naruto looked at her sideways, "I was training, Sakura. And moving around. And training."

"You're saying that perv your sensei didn't rub off on you at all?"

"Eh…I don't know. I hope not."

"Do you think about girls at all?"

"Why should I? I was training!"

Naruto seemed to be having trouble with this concept, and Sakura shook her head amazedly.

"You're also sixteen! Traveling for years with a man who writes pornography for a living! Come on. You must have at least kissed someone by now. Girl or guy."

"Well what about you!"

"I asked you first."

"That doesn't mean anything."

"Yes it does," she insisted, waving a finger in his face like a teacher would. "I asked you first, you have to say first."

"Alright, fine. Yes, I've kissed someone before. A girl."

"Who?"

"It's no one," Naruto mumbled evasively. "You wouldn't know her."

"Satisfy my curiosity."

"Alright, fine!" Naruto shouted, standing on the wall and pointing down at the bemused Sakura. "Since you asked, it was another genin I met in the Hidden Cloud Village. Just once, and it didn't mean anything!"

Sakura grinned. "God, sit down Naruto. It's okay." He sat down again with a huff.

"Well? What about you?"

Sakura turned away, chin held high. "Oh please. A lady never kiss and tells."

"Girls kiss and tell all the time. You get together in packs to giggle about it and stuff."

"Says you," she replied primly.

"Okay, okay, fine. …I bet you haven't."

Sakura's head whipped around, hair flying. "I have so!"

"Who'd you kiss then?"

"I said, I'm not telling."

"Then how do I know you're not fibbing just because you don't like the idea of 'ugly baka Naruto' havinghisfirst kiss when nobody's kissed you yet?"

Sakura stared at him, mouth gaping, and Naruto started to laugh. "That's it, isn't it! I got kissed before you did and you're jealous!"

"I am not!" she yelled. "Take that back!"

"You are! You're sixteen and haven't even had your first kiss!"

"I have too!"

"But you can't prove it without telling who," he snickered.

"Wanna bet?"

"What?"

Sakura grabbed Naruto by the back of the neck, pulled him forward, and kissed his surprised open mouth, tongue and all.