Ahem, this is just a brief intro to the story, to see if there's any reaction to it, you see. Anyway, please read this is you got the chance (it's not gonna be a perfect copy of Beauty and the Beast, you know) and let me know if you think you'd be interested in reading the whole thing, OK? (it's kinda short now, but I'll make the chapters longer if people show actual interest!)

Beauty and the Beast

Chapter 1

"Once there lived a stern, but fair king with his beautiful wife and their beloved son. Although the prince was well loved, he was cold and distant from the hearts of his people. Uncertain of what to do, the king and queen sent the boy to a neighboring kingdom for training as a soldier, praying that this would soften the boy's heart, but on the journey the prince's company was attacked and the prince was taken. Soldiers were sent far and wide in search of the prince, but not a trace of the boy could be found.

"The king and queen grieved the loss of one son even as they welcomed the birth of another. They named their second born 'Sasuke' and raised him to take over the kingdom when his father was no more. To their relief, their second son contained the innocence and love of the world that their first born had been so severely lacking. And, as time has a habit of doing, the kingdom soon all but forgot about the older prince. So things went until the eve of the princeling's twelfth birthday when the kingdom and all those living within it mysteriously vanished. Only a dead, twisted castle remained.

"Five years passed and once again time did its work and the neighboring kingdoms forgot the once thriving but now cold and dead place. Towns bordering the kingdom had whisperings of a demon that stalked the land at night, stealing fowl and sheep from farms bordering the dark land's edges, but not a trace of the creature was ever found though none dared to wander too far into the foreboding land to hunt the monster. Some say the monster is the angry spirit of the oldest prince, come to take revenge on the kingdom for forgetting him, others say it's a demon called upon by the dark mage that lives in the mountains, revenge for some unknown trespass. The only thing that's certain is 'tis suicide to prowl those lands at night."

Naruto gulped as he listened to Shikamaru's story. It's not like he hadn't heard it before, but every mention of the monster shot much closer to the hidden fear in his heart and starting tomorrow morning he would be traveling with his master through those lands to the kingdom on the other side. It was his first mission as sole protector of his master and he was determined not to let the chance to prove himself go to waste, however, a monster may well be beyond his skills to defeat.

His spiky headed friend, stable hand for the same master as Naruto, Haruno-sama, grinned as he noticed the discomfort in the other boy. "Take care tomorrow."

"Shut up, you bastard!" Naruto suddenly jumped to his feet, finger pointed. "You're just trying to make me mess up my chance to prove myself, you lazy ass."

Shikamaru groaned as his friend began yelling. It was far too noisy for mid-afternoon. Of course, Naruto was always noisy, a fact which Shikamaru knew more than most as the two shared sleeping quarters and went to lessons together. But there was also something very likeable about the blonde haired boy. Naruto had wandered into the Haruno property almost five years ago to the day. He'd been cold, shivering and half naked and seemed to have no memory of anything. Just his name.

Haruno-sama was a kind hearted man, and so he took the boy in, allowing him to perform odd jobs in the household until one day it was discovered, to the surprise of everyone involved, that the boy had already had the beginnings of a fighter's training when he managed to save the master's daughter from a pack of wild dogs armed with only his bare hands. He'd managed to come out of the scuffle with no more than a small scratch and Sakura, the master's daughter, did not even have that much of an injury. Naruto was immediately transferred from outside chores to the supervision of Gai-sensei, the master's head bodyguard. That made them a unit of three body guards, Gai-sensei, his protégé Rock Lee and of course, Naruto himself.

Throughout all of this Shikamaru, who was stable boy and apprentice to Asuno the head horse dealer, developed a close friendship with Naruto. They were the only two boys of the same age in the whole of the Haruno household, so their friendship made sense. Of course, the master's daughter, Sakura, was also the same age and so the three of them had frequently palled around. Naruto'd gotten the others into a lot of trouble over the years; the boy had a knack for being at the wrong place at the wrong time and also was a trickster at heart. The only thing that stood in the way of the three's friendship was Naruto's incessant crush on Sakura and the girl's own obliviousness to the boy's feelings.

And so Shikamaru was now ducking out of work to sit with his friend as he talked about Naruto's next mission, the first time he was being trusted with Haruno's life without Gai-sensei or Lee joining them. It was a big step for the blonde.

"Anyway…" Naruto was saying, wistful look in his eyes, "If I can prove myself on this trip with the master than maybe next time I'll be put in charge of Sakura-chan's protection and she'll realize how great I am and fall in love with me and then I can marry her and we can have four children, two boys two girls and a dog and live in a little cottage on the northern edge of the property-"

"Not likely." Shikamaru interjected, interrupting his friend as he continued on showing no signs of slowing in his ranting or pausing for a breath. "Just give up on Sakura, man." He continued as Naruto pouted at being interrupted. Picking a long strand of grass listlessly, Shikamaru twirled it in his hands. "She's head-over-heels for Neji, and anyway, he IS the master's heir. It makes sense that they'd get married some day."

The blonde's bright blue eyes darkened as the name of the master's apprentice was mentioned. "Neji…" His voice came out almost as a growl and his fists clenched. "That bastard… He's had it out for me ever since that time I put rotten apples in his dresser…"

Shikamaru's eyebrows rose skeptically. "Well, you DID destroy a number of his shirts and the drawer… not to mention the smell. But I don't think that's why he's so hard on you."

"Then he's jealous of how close I am to Sakura-chan! That bastard wants to monopolize her all to himself, can't stand her havin' someone like me-"

"Not possible." Shikamaru once again interjected, shaking his head. "If he told Sakura to stay away from you she'd drop our friendship like a bad habit, remember, she's totally hot for the guy, idiot." Shikamaru rolled his eyes as Naruto went on a rant about how Sakura wasn't like that.

The real reason, Shikamaru suspected, that Neji was so hard on Naruto came from the basic reaction boys had to pick on those they liked. Neji had a crush on the blonde boy and so made sure to give him an extra hard time with things. Of course, if Naruto were to ever find out then he'd probably die from the shock. He was far too simple minded to be ready to grasp the idea of a MAN, especially one like Neji, having romantic ideals for someone like him. He wasn't even able to pick up the way Gai-sensei so obviously felt about Iruka-sensei, Sakura's personal tutor and also the man who taught both of them lessons irregularly throughout the week. Neji seemed aware of that, too, hence the slight cruelty on his part towards Naruto.

And so, Naruto was only part way through his seemingly daily tirade about how wonderful Sakura was when the young master himself appeared. Shikamaru watched as the longhaired boy rounded the corner, eyes catching on Naruto and freezing as the blonde began to explain all the reasons Sakura deserved better than Neji. Shikamaru watched as a slight blush crossed the young master's face before he balled his fists and stormed towards Naruto, face menacing. "What was that?"

Naruto glanced at him; eyes narrowed, but remembered his place. To be outright disobedient to the boy would reflect badly upon the master and his training. If not for that… "Nothing, sir. Is there anything you require of me?"

Neji's mouth froze open for a moment, blush once again resurfacing across his face and Shikamaru was certain he was thinking of something perverted. The young master quickly cleared his head, eyes narrowing. "There is something I could use your assistance with, in fact. Follow me." Without waiting for a response Neji turned on his heel, storming towards the main house.

Naruto made a face at the retreating back, rolling his eyes towards Shikamaru. His friend rewarded him with a sympathetic smile before gesturing that Naruto had better hurry, Neji hated to be kept waiting. When the blonde was out of sight Shikamaru shook his head, disbelieving snort escaping him at Naruto's total obliviousness, before he leaned his head back against the barn, looking up at the clouds. He should have a bit more time before he'd be missed in the barn. Or at least, before he'd be found.

:BREAK:

Naruto groaned as he climbed onto the roof of the main house, one arm full of spare shingles. The roof apparently had been leaking the day before during the storm and Neji was now directing him to repair it. It wasn't the work that Naruto minded. As there was no carpenter currently employed by the Haruno estate odd jobs often fell to the blonde. What really annoyed Naruto about the situation was that Neji was doing the work along side him. "If you've something better to do, young master, I'd be happy to finish this work on my own."

Neji glanced up from his position where he sat pounding nails into the shingles of the roof. He knew that Naruto called him young master to get his hackles raised, and it was something he almost found adorable about the other boy. Looking back down in an attempt to hide the blush growing across his face, Neji shook his head. "Haruno-sensei," Neji, as the man's apprentice, was the only one allowed to call the master that, "said that I should have experience with it at least once."

"Oh…" Naruto didn't bother to hide the disappointment he felt at not being able to escape Neji's company. "Well, whatever." Naruto quickly moved to the far side of the roof, at least, if he was going to be forced to work with Neji, he would work as far away as possible.

Neji watched as Naruto moved away from him, shaking his head as he did so. The blonde wasn't very good at thinking ahead. There weren't very many spaces that heeded patched on the roof and if Naruto started from the exact opposite side he would be forced to move inward, as would Neji. They would end up meeting in the middle. If the boy had instead started closer, but not overly close he could have been able to maneuver it so their contact was limited and spread out. Of course, his simple nature was one of the many things that drew Neji to having these frustrating feelings for the blonde. These feelings were hell, and his teenaged hormones weren't helping the matter any.

Glancing up, Neji allowed his eyes to wander towards the area Naruto was working. The blonde was sitting blissfully unaware of the tortured state he put Neji in, whistling as he hammered away at the roof. Slowly, as Neji predicted, the work moved the two closer to each other until they were working side by side on the same patch of roof. Neji glanced at the boy. His happy demeanor of earlier had fallen, he was now working as quickly as he could in an attempt to get away. Unable to stop himself, the dark haired boy opened his mouth; this would be the last time they could talk before the blonde took his master out tomorrow. "Tomorrow…"

Naruto stiffened. What could Neji have done? Oh, no… He wasn't going to try to go with them, was he? But that would ruin everything! If Neji went along than they'd have to send Lee or Gai-sensei along, too. They couldn't afford to loose both the master and Neji and so the trip would become too important to trust up to just Naruto. "What about tomorrow?"

Neji allowed a small smile as Naruto's voice responded to him, cold as ice. He wondered what it was about his own personality that made him want to torture the one he loved. "Don't mess up; the master's life is in your hands."

Naruto jumped to his feet, face flushing in anger while he sputtered irately as the other boy's words sunk in. Finally he managed to calm himself, staring with a fire behind his blue eyes he replied, "YOU take care of yourself and let ME worry about the master."

Neji turned as his own face flushed, although for a completely different reason. He needed to get away. It had been a bad idea to have Naruto help him with the roof. As Neji turned his foot caught on his hammer and suddenly he felt his body rushing forward, towards the edge of the roof. /I'm going to die./ He realized suddenly. /And I'll have never told him how I really felt, or even have ever said a kind word to him./

Before Neji could reach the edge of the roof, a pair of strong hands clamped around his arm. He was pulled up and for an intoxicating moment, he felt two warm arms wrapped around him, steadying him on the roof top. He looked into Naruto's endlessly blue eyes, startled blush covering his face.

"I TOLD you to take care of yourself, basta- sir." Naruto's voice was soft for a reprimand and he couldn't quite figure out why. All he knew was, when the thought passed his mind/If Neji were a girl, he'd be prettier than Sakura/ it was time to let go. "I'll go down first, assuming you're alright to go down yourself."

Neji nodded and watched as the blonde grabbed the bulk of the left over roof tiles and tools and climbed slowly down the ladder. Naruto's face was still flushed and Neji wondered idly if it was because he was still annoyed or if it was something else… He shook his head/Naruto's not like that. He's still in love with Sakura./ His eyes narrowed as he thought the name of his rival. His greatest fear was that one day she would realize how the blonde felt and how lucky she was that he felt it. Her father was an open-minded kind of man, a scandal about his daughter marrying her protector wouldn't faze him in the least. That's why, every time it was brought up that Naruto become Sakura's personal bodyguard, Neji had managed to block it. But it was only a mater of time before he proved himself enough that Neji's words would hold no sway with Haruno-san. This trip might well be Naruto's big chance and then… Neji shook his head. He would make SURE that Naruto didn't go to Sakura.

:BREAK:

OK, Well, let me know if this seems like something ANY of you would be willing to read. Like I said, the idea popped into my mind and I couldn't get it out until I wrote some of it down. IF that makes any sense at all. PLEASE review to let me know if you are interested in seeing more of this story! I may continue anyway, because I'm enjoying the story, but I'd kinda like some readers...