Fandom: Naruto (by Masashi Kishimoto)
Character(s): Naruto, Sai, Sakura
Genre: General, Humor
Word Count: 1,080
Notes: I'm getting a bit carried away with these short ficlets, perhaps.
Summary: Because Sai has to have some inkling of what he's doing.
Naruto liked having Sai around when Sakura was angry. It was like having a comrade in arms – meaning, Sakura wasn't afraid to throw her monstrous fists at the other boy, which let Naruto off the hook from time to time. The only downfall to the boy's presence was that he managed to tick Sakura off more than what seemed humanly possible; thus, creating a hazardous situation wherein Naruto tried to no avail to hold her back, and she in turn wound up smashing him regardless of whether or not he had played any role in the offense. Before, Naruto thought the award of earning the girl's ire had fallen to him, but Sai was obviously a fitter specimen for the title of human punching bag.
The first time Sakura had hit Sai, the hopelessly stoic and emotionally retarded boy had not seen it coming. The second time, he had allowed the transgression, pouting and rubbing his cheek in an attempt to inspire sympathy afterward, which Sakura gave in to eventually. The third time, he had been sent sprawling across the table in the middle of what was supposed to be a friendly meal, his face landing in a perfectly good bowl of Naruto's special ramen. Naruto had been torn between gaping at his angry female teammate and guffawing loudly at the steamy red color Sai's face had turned upon exposure to the hot broth of miso.
He didn't understand. At times, his two teammates seemed to get along splendidly. After all, Sakura was, at heart, one of the kindest people he'd ever met, and she tried valiantly to give Sai a little leeway for socially unacceptable displays and comments. But, unfortunately, Sai had learned to tease. The worst part was that he had learned it from Sakura herself, after watching her playfully poke fun at Naruto. And rather than learning from his mistakes, he took delight in making her face turn pinker than her hair – he was like some kind of masochist. Teasing Naruto was safe. Teasing Sakura was most certainly not, and the results were probably equivalent to the violence of a world war.
The day they dragged him along to the library to research, Naruto felt like scraping his brain out with a spatula. It was pure torture. It didn't help that Sai was in one of his teasing moods, chipper smile firmly in place. He had already lost one Chinese button by the time they reached the reading table, courtesy of Sakura trying to choke him with the fabric of his shirt when he'd made a rude remark about the natural colors of hair and the mysteries involved therein.
When they stacked the textbooks on the small table, Naruto smiled widely and snuck a comic book in between the pages of Chakra Rehabilitation. He pretended, for the next hour, to study courageously, inwardly surprised that Sakura hadn't caught him yet – something else to thank Sai for. The torture passed without incident. Consequently, the outing was without real conversation either. For once, Naruto didn't feel like taking a chance that Sakura's frail mood might disintegrate. He could imagine her happiness curling up like the paper on Asuma's cigarettes.
On the way to the door, though, Sai started up again, spilling out something Naruto didn't really pay attention to. The one-sided conversation had something to do with art and sculpture and adequate shapes in regards to women. Naruto didn't think it sounded too personal. Sai was an artist and he paid attention to those kinds of things.
But Sakura, evidently, took Sai's dark attention on her to mean that he was inferring something about some inadequacy he believed she had. She started forward, and before Naruto could move to shield Sai from her, or her from herself for that matter, she tripped, the pile of books she had been carrying tumbling down the steps. One of her fists was swinging wildly as she fell, and she tumbled head over feet in a rare display of complete gracelessness. Naruto stared aghast as she gained speed and momentum, like some perverse impression of a kick ball rolling down a hill, until she finally hit the stone floor. Naruto snapped out of his shock and flew down the stairs.
Sai beat him there, taking one elegant leap to get to the bottom. The boy bent down on one knee, putting a hand on her shoulder to steady her and examining her form for injuries with a critical eye. When she noticed his hand on her shoulder, she looked like she wanted to bite it right off.
Naruto moved close, trying to diffuse a possibly dangerous situation. He shoved his face close to her in a brilliant method of distraction, his watery blue eyes full of worry.
"Sakura-chan, are you okay?" he asked anxiously, hands hovering around her but not entirely invading her space.
She bit her lip, pride wounded more than anything.
"I'm fine, Naruto," she gritted out, eyeing Sai's helping hands viciously.
Sai's brow creased, his eyes dropping more so than usual. If Naruto had ever doubted that Sai considered Sakura one of his friends, that was disproved now.
"Do I need to carry you?" he asked tonelessly, voice at odds with his expression.
"Yeah, yeah!" Naruto put in. "We can carry you!"
Sakura shook her head and sighed, the tension seeping out of her shoulders as she laid a glowing hand on her ankle, mending it in a matter of seconds.
"Nah," she smiled sheepishly. "It's my own fault, I guess."
"Good," Sai said with a breath of relief, smiling in the genuine way that was so rare but so nice when he did.
Naruto watched in horror as Sai's smile took on a bit of a lost quality – the look he got whenever he wasn't sure what else to say – the look he got when he shoved his foot so far into his mouth that it was a wonder he didn't choke.
"Because you're heavier than you look," Sai finished lightly, oblivious to the fresh bout of color that was now coming into Sakura's cheeks.
It really wasn't a good day for Sakura, Naruto thought, for her control to be this bad. The stress must have been getting to her lately. He couldn't really blame her for blowing up – it was her way of coping. Nevertheless, his survival instincts kicked in, and he linked his arm with Sai's in a flash.
"Run," he whispered fearfully, already sensing the crackle of electricity in the air behind them.
Sai smiled again, and Naruto was shocked to find a hint of mischief in his eyes.