Author's Note: Well, finally. After two damned years, I'm back.
I started this story when I was a young thirteen years of age. I've grown, I've gotten better, and perhaps a little less "happy". No, no. Serious stuff, now. Chippie is pleased to present to you: BODY SWAP, REDUX.
This fanfiction was written before I got too deep into the story, so it can very well be considered part of the filler arc before the Retrieval of Sasuke and after the Chuunin exams.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, except my own imagination.
It was about five o'clock in the afternoon, the sun no longer dead smack in the center of the sky and now steadily moving towards the west. The hum of people socializing in the streets gave a nice, friendly atmosphere. One could even hear some children playing together, which added to the warm, comfortable feeling of security that Konohagakure gave to its' villagers.
A quiet young lad of about 13 years of age sat at the Ichiraku Ramen Bar, his head resting on the palm of his open hand that was held up by his elbow on the bar's countertop. He didn't look at anything in particular, his obsidian orbs glazed over in his look of utter boredom. His pale fingers drummed absent-mindedly on the hard, plastic surface, a few inches away from his companion's now empty bowl of ramen.
The addressed glanced up to meet the eyes of the man in charge: Teuchi Ichiraku.
"Would you like anything to eat? You two have been sitting here for a good long time, and only Naruto-kun's been eating anything." The tan, good-hearted man asked the boy.
The Uchiha survivor gave a brief shake of his head, his duck-butt hair ever so slightly moving as he did so.
"No, I'm fine, thanks."
Teuchi stretched his arms out a little. "If you ever want anything, don't hesitate to ask." Sasuke nodded to show his understanding. Then, Teuchi went back to organizing his workplace behind the counter.
Letting out a barely audible sigh, Sasuke turned his head to look at his aforementioned companion at the bar, Naruto. Around the same age as Sasuke; the radical, blond-haired boy was nearly Sasuke's polar opposite not only in appearance, but in attitudes as well. It was normal and even expected when they regarded each other as rivals, but it was quite the sight, really, to see them both in the same Genin Team 7. It was even weirder to see them sitting together at the same food joint. Needless to say, the two boys had fights and quarrels almost constantly. Despite this, however, they've somehow managed to reach some sort of mutual camaraderie. Somewhere among the rubble of rivalry and the need to be better than the other lied acknowledgment of each other's skills, bringing about a twisted sort of friendship between the two boys of only 13 years.
Light from within the little ramen stand glinted off of the blond-haired, blue-eyed ninja's headband. His trademark orange jumpsuit was unmistakable even among the biggest crowd of people, and even easier to spot in a great, green forest. Oh yes, his lack-of-stealth and bombastic personality seemed to be copyrighted to the one and only Uzumaki Naruto.
But today, there was something strange lingering in the air around him. It must've affected Sasuke too, since he'd usually not even be at the Ichiraku's. Where it would have been the usual pestering and empty threats that would be used in an attempt to usher the Uchiha to the stand, today there was none of that.
"Come with me to the stand, please." Naruto had asked in a calm, somewhat solemn manner.
At this, Sasuke nearly had a stroke. Thoughts clashed in his head, like:
'This must be a joke, he's only pretending to be serious.'
'Maybe…he's an enemy ninja, only pretending to be Naruto. I'll just get my kunai…'
'Maybe I should get some more sleep.'
In the end, he simply complied and followed Naruto to the bar.
Which brings us up to speed.
Finally deciding that too much time has been spent without justification for his actions, Sasuke felt that it was time to ask Naruto what was wrong. Somewhere in that cold, clouded heart of his, he felt a tiny nagging creature that told him to feel some compassion for his rival-friend. And so, without even swiveling his stool to look the other boy in the eyes, Sasuke mustered up some 'concerned' words.
"Dobe, what do you want." It was more of a demand than a question.
Seconds ticked by. Naruto popped the last of a noodle into his mouth and chewed for a bit. He swallowed, and replied with:
"Ramen, what else would I—HEY!" Finally cluing in to the insult, a flash of Naruto's usual behavior came across. For the first time since they sat down, Naruto turned to look at Sasuke.
"Teme…don't say things you'll regret!" He pouted, and lifted his ramen bowl with both hands. Bringing the ceramic rim to his lips, he began drinking the soup.
Sasuke smirked, clearly pleased with the reaction he got. "Why are you brooding?" He ventured.
Naruto did a spit take. "WHAT?"
"Hey! Watch what you do, buddy!" Teuchi yelled, clearly dismayed by the mess Naruto had created. The once warm, delicious soup that had been in Naruto's mouth was now shamelessly spread out disgustingly over the counter. Teuchi clicked his tongue, turned to the back of the bar, and yelled out: "Ayame! Clean up this mess!" to which she replied, "Do it yourself!"
"I'm cooking up a huge order for an important person, I can't be bothered with things like this! Hurry up and help me with the restaurant!" He called out in retaliation. Teuchi then resumed assembling said order.
Ayame huffed as she walked out to the storefront. "Mou…Naruto!" She whined, grabbing a towel. She cleaned up, though she was obviously discontented.
"Ehe…sorry." The Jinchuuriki said. He suddenly turned to point at the boy next to him. "Sasuke-teme made me do it! You should be blaming him, not me!" Ah, yes, the old Naruto had returned. At least, for the moment, he was.
Ayame sighed. "Either way," She said, slinging the now dirty towel over her shoulder and putting a hand on her hip, "I still have to clean it up." She sighed, reaching over to pinch Naruto's cheek. "Stupid little handful." Naruto recoiled in pain, clutching his now red face. He gave her a childish glare, to which she just giggled. She made her way back to the back of the bar, where she was unusually spending most of her time today.
Naruto seemed to slowly revert back to his quieter side, which honestly worried Sasuke. Not so much in the "I care and love this person" way, but more like "Is the sky falling? Apocalypse? What?" kind of way. In any case, he prodded the problem once more.
"Tell me, what's wrong." He demanded again. Naruto sighed, and threw his arms up in a frustrated, overly-dramatic way. He turned to look the Uchiha boy in the eyes, and honestly blurted out: "Girls are weird."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed as he tried to reason out Naruto's beyond-childish statement. "Yes…" He said, attempting to bring himself to Naruto's level. "I suppose they are. Why do you say that…?"
The blond sighed again, resting his forehead on the countertop. "I don't know, first Sakura-chan, and now Hinata-chan…" He turned his head on the surface so that he was looking at Sasuke. "They both acted kind of weird to me today…I guess it's understandable that Sakura-chan would get really mad at me sometimes, but Hinata-chan, too?" He went back to his original position, his forehead directly on the counter. "I saw her earlier, and I tried talking to her. But she was just all cold and stuff. Didn't even say 'Hi', like she usually does." He shrugged.
Sasuke went back to his original position, head resting on his arm, supported by his elbow. So, that was it. Just girls? What a pointless subject to be upset about. Though, he had to admit, Sakura was just a bit more temperamental than she usually was. In any case, that wasn't anything to really be upset about.
The situation with Hinata, on the other hand, was a little…strange. Usually, she'd jump at just about every opportunity to say 'Hi' to Naruto, or at least stare at him from afar. For her to outright ignore him was a rather unusual occurrence.
He shrugged. "Naruto's right, women can be quite the unpredictable factor in life. But that doesn't concern me, not right now, anyway." His attention was suddenly brought back to his companion beside him when he heard that stupid mouth shoot off something along the lines of: "What if I have no more friends? Do they not like me anymore? Then…then…is the teme my only hope for a friend? What a sad fate! Wah, I'm getting really scared the more I think about it!" The Uchiha boy twitched, his need to do something terrible to Naruto rising dangerously.
So, he did. Little did he know that he would ultimately hurt other people in the process. Perhaps not directly, but through the 'butterfly effect'. Several things happened.
First, Sasuke whopped Naruto on the back of the head.
Second, Naruto bashed his chin into the countertop as a cause of Sasuke hitting the back of his head, or rather, the force from it.
Third, Naruto recoiled in pain, leaned back a little too much, and fell backwards into the road.
Fourth, Shikamaru happened to walk by as this happened, bashed into Naruto, and tripped as a cause of it.
Fifth, Shikamaru dragged down Chouji, who had been walking with him.
Sixth, Chouji threw his chip bag into the air out of fright, which flew into Lee's face.
Seventh, Lee became temporarily blinded by the chip bag, and jumped into Neji's arms.
Eight, Neji dropped Lee, but Lee clung to Neji's leg.
Finally, Neji fell on top of the pile of screaming, kicking shinobi.
Ah, what a splendid day it was.
It took quite a while for everyone to detangle themselves from each other, but with some words of direction from Shikamaru and Neji, the glob of ninjas was able to become orderly again.
"What the hell, Naruto…!" Shikamaru exclaimed, seeming more exasperated than upset. "You realize that all of that was your fault. Troublesome idiot…" He said, scratching the back of his head. He looked up to the slowly darkening sky, and sighed.
"Naruto-kun!" Lee exclaimed, his eyes filled with manly tears. "Never have I seen such an effective way to immobilize multiple shinobi! Though your technique could use some work, I must commend you on your abilities!" He flashed a twinkling smile and a thumbs up.
Naruto groped for an opportunity to push the blame onto someone else. "Not me! Not my fault! It was Sasuke-teme! Everything's his fault, today!"
Sasuke simply looked away, not wanting to get into anything. His fault? Only the dobe would say something like that. Though he had to admit, he did kind of act as a sort of catalyst…
"Now, now. Calm down, boys." Teuchi said, finishing off the last of his order. "Why don't you discuss this calmly over some ramen? I'll get Ayame to serve some up for you."
Shikamaru, Chouji, Lee and Neji looked at each other briefly, and then Chouij raced for the stool next to Naruto. It wasn't barbeque, but any food was good. Shikamaru shrugged, and took a seat next to him. Lee bounced over to his seat, mentioning something about his utmost gratitude to the ramen bar owner, Neji following behind silently. The Hyuuga only nodded his thanks.
Smiling warmly, Teuchi called out to the back again. "Ayame! We have customers! Take care of them, will you? I'm going to deliver that order." When he heard no reply, he grunted. "Ayame! Get out of there! We have customers! What the hell have you been doing all day back there?" A faint 'Hai, hai!' could be heard in response from said girl, and Teuchi sighed.
"It'll take her a while. I suppose I'll just take your orders first. What would you boys like?"
The newcomers to the bar selected their items of choice, Teuchi writing it all down. He left the paper of orders on the counter for Ayame to serve when she got out. He waved his goodbyes as he set off to make the last order for the day.
Ayame came out from the back of the bar, carelessly tossing a small, red pouch onto the counter. She looked miffed. "Sorry for the wait, I had to deal with some things back there. I'll cook everything up for you guys in no time." The attention drifted from her as she did so.
"So, what's been up, guys?" Naruto asked. "Ne, do you guys know if anything's wrong with Hinata-chan?" He decided to ask. It really bothered him that her behavior changed so suddenly.
Neji's ears perked up. "What?"
"She was just kind of…ignoring me. Earlier today, I said 'Hi', but she didn't really notice me, even though I was kind of right in front of her. And she…kind of glared at me, actually." Naruto explained, figuring that talking to Neji about the situation would definitely be the best idea, considering he was Hinata's cousin. Neji simply shrugged.
"Beats me." Shikamaru added. "Ino was a little weird today, too. She was more calm, less fiery, very…lenient? Whatever, too troublesome to think of." He said, resting his head in his arms on the counter. He did, however, think that Hinata's actions were a little strange. Everyone except the fool himself knew that she liked Naruto.
Chouji nodded, agreeing with Shikamaru. "Yeah, it was really quiet this week. Usually she's really on people about slacking and being lazy," His eyes shifted to Shikamaru for just a moment. "But lately she's been really dazed. She even let Shikamaru sleep on the mission, today." He too, shrugged, and ended up watching Ayame cook to ramen.
"Ah, since we are talking about women, I have something to add!" Lee said enthusiastically. "Tenten, the beautiful flower of our team, has also been acting rather suspicious!" He stood up from his seat to emphasize his point. "Her fountain of youth has been very out of control! She hasn't been very strong in battle as of late, and she's been very quiet." He turned to look at Neji for a brief moment, and then looked back to the others.
"And then, she became furious with Neji, and ultimately beat him up!" said Lee, who thought he was being a very good reporter of mission statuses. Neji twitched, his fists balling up.
"It was quite a sight! He asked her something, and she just reacted as if he was the enemy! Kicked him right in the groin, too. Effective taijutsu, in my opinion."
Snickers could be heard not only from Naruto, but from Sasuke too. Naruto ended up bursting out laughing.
"WAAAAH! Neji got beat up by Tenten!" He screamed through fits of laughter. Neji shot the boy glares that effectively silenced him. Conveniently, Ayame had just finished cooking up the first two bowls, which she placed in front of Chouji and Lee.
Searching to change the topic, Naruto noticed the small pouch Ayame had left on the counter earlier. "Ne, what's that?" He asked, pointing to said pouch.
Ayame looked up from her work, reaching over to grab it. "Oh, this? Just an idea I had to try and boost sales. For every ramen you order, you get one of these." She loosened the drawback string around the neck of the pouch, and let the contents fall into her hand when she turned the little bag upside down. Four coins fell out, and she put them on the table for everyone to see.
"What are these? They don't look like our currency…" Shikamaru said, looking up to see what had disturbed his half-sleep. He picked up one of the coins, inspecting it. A muted silver in color, all the coins had a six-pointed star shaped hole in the centre. They all had an interesting, grainy sort of texture, and a little dirt was caught in some of the grooves.
"I know! They must be youth enhancers!" Lee said, deciding to dramatically stand on the tabletop and hold one of the coins to the sky. Ayame grunted, and told him firmly to sit back in his seat. Thankfully, he did as told.
"They're 'wishing coins', so I was told." Ayame said, getting back to work as she explained. "Make a wish, it'll come true. I figured it'd be a nice thing to give to people whenever they order, but that idiot who decided to sell them to me ripped me off!" She squirted an excessive amount of oil into the bowl as she became more and more upset over the ordeal. "He only gave me four! I paid a month's worth of my pay, and he only gives me four!" She sighed, still upset. "Whatever, you guys can take them. They're no good to us if we don't have enough to give out."
Lee slumped into his seat, a little disappointed. "Not a youth enhancer…?" He suddenly perked up again. "Ah! But then I can wish for more youth with Gai sensei!" He finished off the last of his soup and swiped a coin. "I shall be off to do that now! Thank you very much for the meal!" He said, overflowing with gratitude and excitement. He reached into his green jumpsuit and put some money on the counter. Then he skipped off, looking for his beloved teacher.
"Thanks for the food!" Chouji said, his bowl being clean as well. "I'm off to each dinner now." Ayame nodded her thanks for the business, though she was a little offended that her dish didn't exactly qualify as one of Chouji's meals of the day.
"Mah, I guess Chouji left his coin here." Shikamaru said as he picked it up. "Well, there wasn't even enough for all of us anyway." He spun it on the countertop, playing around with it.
Naruto nudged Shikamaru. "Ne, what are you gonna wish for?" He asked slyly. The lazy Chuunin shrugged. Naruto then got an idea.
"Hey, since we were talking about the girls, let's make a which about them! Like…get to know them better, or something?" The blond suggested, looking around at the others to see if anyone would bite.
"Naruto," Shikamaru started. "They're our teammates. Don't you think we already know them?"
"Well, no! I mean, we should wish that we could get inside their heads! Like, really understand them! Get in their shoes, you know?" Naruto tried to explain, but wasn't really doing a good job of it. Shikamaru sighed.
"That's such a troublesome wish…" He said, resting his chin on his outstretched palm.
Sasuke looked over a little. "Wouldn't it be more troublesome to deny it, and come up with your own wish?" He mumbled. Shikamaru barely heard it, but when he did, he simply harrumphed.
"That's true, I guess. Nothing to lose, anyway." The troubled Chuunin said as he flicked the coin in the air, and just barely caught it.
Neji had heard enough of the nonsense. Without saying anything, he just got up and left.
"Ne, ne! Where are you going, Neji?" Naruto called after him. Without turning around, the Hyuuga simply replied, "I've no time to play around with kids like you."
Naruto growled childishly. He was going to say something else, but the prodigy had vanished. Naruto grunted, and turned back around.
"Well, we gonna do this?" He asked his companions, grinning to himself goofily.
"I suppose." Sasuke replied.
"Like I said, we have nothing to lose." Shikamaru agreed.
Naruto grinned, and suddenly became determined. "Here we come, understanding the female mind!"
Neji was walking back to the Hyuuga estate. The sun was setting already, not that it mattered much to him. Even when it would turn dark, he would always be able to see just where he was going, and what he was doing.
He was about to take another step when he noticed a circular object in his footpath. He stopped, bent over, and decided to pick it up. The familiar six-pointed star hole in the center of the aforementioned 'wishing coin' only mildly surprised him, because he knew that there were only three on the counter when he left the Ichiraku Ramen Bar.
"Lee must have dropped this." He thought to himself. He continued walking. "No doubt he'll be doing five-hundred push-ups when he finds out he dropped it." He smirked a little. Despite Neji's serious, stoic demeanor, he had grown to take a bit of a liking to his teammates. They weren't useless, and they weren't nearly as simple-minded as other teammates could have been. In fact, they could be quite formidable at times.
His thoughts flickered to Tenten and her odd behavior earlier that day. Though maybe not to the extent Rock Lee had mentioned before, Tenten had indeed posed as a formidable opponent right after training. At that moment, she was really irritating. Neji didn't do anything to be a threat to her in any way, and she decides to attack him.
He idly rubbed a scar he had gotten from one of her weapons she decided to ever so elegantly chuck at him. Sure, Neji was agile and quick, but Tenten had a very nice throwing arm. Plus, with the weight of the weapons she attacked him with, and the sheer amount of them, there was no way he could have dodged every single one of them.
It could have made a good sparring match, but then she took to to an unacceptable level.
She kicked him in the groin. And that, was just low. It was a chicken move, it was simply something you don't do, even if you're about to get killed by another shinobi. Simply unacceptable.
The prodigy figured he was thinking about the situation too much, and refocused his attention back to the coin. By doing so, he could help but think about the conversation he had left only twenty minutes ago:
"We should wish that we could get inside their heads! Like, really understand them! Get in their shoes, you know?"
"That's true, I guess. Nothing to lose, anyway."
Neji exhaled, aggravated. Really? Was he really going to do this?
"I wish to understand…her."
Author's Note: Finally. It's not much, now that I attempt to proofread it, but I hope you're satisfied. Few changes made to accomodate with my new writing style and need to make everyone not nearly as OOC. I hope this doesn't scare off the old fans.
I will be leaving up the specials, they don't add much to the plot (except the Christmas special, but that's not nearly as badly-written as the first few chapters).
It's good to be back.