WARNINGS: rated PG.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own NARUTO.

NOTES: Here's Kiba's first encounter with Naruto at the Ninja Academy playground.

This is delicious fluff. You must try some. Enjoy the beginning of a cute friendship.

There are no spoilers.

Castle KibaNaru

Kiba watched the other boy who was sitting in the middle of the playground, piling dirt upon dirt into misshapen blobs. The boy had blond hair, radiantly blond hair, and he was clad in an even crazier getup. How'd he expect to ever hide from other ninjas in an outfit like that? Kiba reached up and ran his fingers through the dark fur of his hood, easily hidden amongst the trees right now. Orange was definitely the last color he'd ever pick to wear as a ninja. He gave a grunt, squatting just outside the wooden square that surrounded the playground, and continued training his excellent espionage skills as the blond reached for more dirt and slopped it on top of that deformed lump. What was that thing supposed to be anyway? A Sand Salad? Dirt Biscuits and Gravy? Kiba bit back a scoff at the total lack of technique, but looked on, strangely curious, because whoever this boy was, he liked that sandpit a lot; and whoever this boy was, he liked it when there weren't any other kids around, too, and most importantly, whoever this boy was, he obviously liked building sandcastles.

Well Kiba liked destroying sandcastles.

"Hyah!" he hollered as he flew across the air, knocking down the partially-built Fortress of Doom.

"Hey!" the boy yelled, jumping up. "That was hard work, you jerk! Go kick your own!"

"Hard work?!" Kiba guffawed at the boy. "I could make that crappy thing in two seconds."

The boy growled. "Oh yeah?! Prove it!"

So Kiba did.

He started shoveling up dirt into a nearby bucket, dumping it back to the ground, stacking each mound on top of the other like a pyramid, feeling the other boy's eyes on him the whole time, and after only a few seconds, just as he'd boasted, he'd made another sandcastle.

"See?" he said, stepping back.

". . . It's not as good as mine was."

"It's a million, hundred, thousand times better—now bring it down!"

The boy blinked. "Wha—?"

"You got sand in your ears?" Kiba slapped the boy's back. "Kick it!"

A few moments of hesitation passed as the boy rubbed a finger under his slightly runny nose, wind chewing up his chapped lips just a little more, and then out of nowhere, he gave a crazed war cry, jumped high up into the air and came crashing down with a ginormous punch, followed by an uppercut and a clumsy roundhouse that landed him on his orange-clad butt.

"Ha-ha, nice punch!" Kiba grinned. "How'd you like it? Felt good, right?"

The boy stood up, dusting off the seat of his pants. "Yeah, I guess."

"Oh, come on, don't guess!" Kiba clenched his fist. "It was awesome!"

The boy finally smiled. "All right, it was awesome!"

"Good! Now let's make another one! And pay attention this time! You might learn something!"

"Can I kick it down again?"

Kiba was already down on his knees. "Sure."

"Cool!" The boy joined him, then: "Uhh . . . what's you name, anyway?"

Kiba started scooping up dirt into the bucket. "Inuzuka Kiba." He looked the boy over. "You?"

The boy pointed a thumb at himself. "Uzumaki Naruto!"

Kiba nodded and immediately got back to work. "All right, Naruto," he said. "Now all you gotta do—is get this thing filled up to the top—then—" He planted the bucket upside-down on the ground and lifted it up. "There. Now you try."

Naruto hesitatingly took the bucket from Kiba and did pretty much just as he'd said, but it was all crumbly and crappy as usual.

"No, no, no," Kiba said. "You gotta pack it in a little." He snatched the bucket back and demonstrated. "See?" He dumped the sand out and threw the bucket back to Naruto. "Now get it right this time."

"Man, you're bossy," Naruto said, scooping sand up with his hands and pressing it into the bucket.

Kiba bit his lip, unsure of how to respond to that. Lots of other kids called him bossy with that exact same tone, and it always stung worse than his mom paddling his butt. He folded his arms, frowning a little as Naruto upended the bucket.

"Hey, I got it now!" Naruto started working on another mound, then looked up at Kiba. "Hey, what's the matter?"

Kiba was about to say something but—

"Oh, it's your turn, right?"

"No, no," Kiba said. "You can make the whole thing if you wanna."

Naruto looked at the bucket, then back at Kiba. "We should take turns," he said. "Teamwork."

Kiba felt a grin crack across his face. "You're right." He put a hand to his lips and whistled. "Akamaru!"

His dog barked, rushing from where it'd been hiding, just as Kiba'd instructed. For backup, in case things got a little hairy.

"Hey!" Kiba put his hands up. "Siiit!"

The dog came sliding through the sand, its claws kicking up a dirt cloud as it tore to a halt then plopped back on its haunches, tongue wagging in and out.

"Good boy." Kiba looked over at Naruto. "This is my ninja dog, Akamaru, by the way. Just got him a few weeks ago. Our clan knows all about teamwork 'cause we fight with our dogs! . . . You don't care if he helps out, too, do you?"

Naruto leaned over, reaching to pat its head. "You have a dog?"

"Yep," Kiba said as Akamaru grinned and let Naruto pet him, rubbing its head affectionately into his palms. "He'll dig us a moat while we make the main garrison, and the drawbridge, and the courtyard, and the tower, and all that other stuff."

"Wow, that'll be cool." Naruto stopped petting and pointed. "So we're gonna put the Hokage's Tower here?"

"No, no, you wanna put it in the middle. That way it'll be harder for the bad guys to get." Kiba pointed in the center and raised his hand to the sky. "And you wanna make it real high, too; that way they can never get the Hokage!" He folded his arms again. "Not that the Hokage'd be scared of a bunch of wussy ninjas from some other village, right?"

"This is the middle," Naruto said. "But yeah, we'll make it real big, 'cause when I become Hokage, I'm gonna be the powerfullest."

Kiba scoffed. "You? Hokage? That's my job you're talking about."

"Nuh-uh! I'm gonna be Hokage!"

"But you can't even build a sandcastle without my help!"

Akamaru barked in agreement, already digging a trench around the dirt mounds.

"I was building fine without your help!" Naruto said.

"Oh, come on! I knocked it down in one kick!"

"That's just 'cause I didn't get to reinforce it with my chakra! I can knock down the one you built with one kick too!"

And as though to prove his point, Naruto stomped on the partially-built sandcastle, dancing all over the place. Quit a few more kicks than one, but effective nonetheless.

"Hey, stop that!" Kiba bent down to start rebuilding. "You made some of this, too!"

Naruto crossed his arms. "I'm gonna be Hokage first."

"Then get down and here and build your castle, stupid." Kiba angrily started shoveling sand.

"I'm not stupid," Naruto said, kicking the dirt. "I'll just order you to build it for me."

Akamaru whimpered.

"Then you're gonna be one big, fat, stupid, lazy Hokage," Kiba said, his ears picking up on Akamaru's scolding. He bit his lip again.

And sighed. "Look," he said. "Akamaru and I are supposed to learn to work together all the time . . . and when I become Hokage, he'd have to be Hokage, too, wouldn't he? . . . So . . . so I guess I wouldn't mind sharing it with you, too, if you wanted it that badly, so, uhh . . . you-can-be-Hokage-with-me-and-Akamaru-if-you-wanna."

There, I said it, he thought at his dog. That wasn't so bad.

Naruto's lower lip slid out. "Don't wanna share it."

Kiba slammed the bucket into the ground. What a brat! "Well get down here and help me anyway! Maybe I'll just move to the Cloud Village and become Hokage there!"

"That'd be the Raikage, Mr. Bossy," Naruto said—but then he squatted down and actually began to help Kiba shovel. "You got another bucket?"

Kiba grunted, upset that Naruto didn't want to share, but reached into his pockets. At least he'd share. "Yeah, let me get it."

". . . You can fit a bucket in your pants?"

"No, idiot—I mean—"

"I'm not an idiot."

"Sorry, I know. Let me start over."

". . . Okay."

Kiba pulled out a summoning scroll and rolled it across the ground. "Yes, I can fit a bucket in my pants."

"How?"

"Like this."

Kiba bit his thumb, drawing a bead of blood, then dabbed it on the scroll. In a poof of smoke, a box of milk-bones, a bag of soldier pills and smokebombs, other assorted materials, and a bucket, of course, appeared.

"Whoa," Naruto said. "Hey, where'd you get one of those?"

"What, the bucket?" Kiba clasped it by the handle, offering it to the boy. "At one of the toy stores, of course!"

Naruto took it. "Meant that." He pointed. "The scroll. With the blood and all. Where'd you get one?"

"Ha-ha, you actually believed me. Of course I knew you were talking about that." Kiba spirited away all the remaining items back into the scroll—but not before tossing Akamaru a milk-bone. "It's nothing special. You can find 'em anywhere that sells shuriken and kunai. Just ask 'em for a scroll . . . or you can make one yourself! All you need's some paper and a mom or a big sister who knows the right kanji thingamajigs!"

"I don't have a mom."

Kiba grit his teeth.

"They don't like me at the shuriken shops either," Naruto continued. "I have to borrow 'em from the school."

"Well . . . your dad then?"

"Don't got one of those either."

"No one?"

Naruto shrugged. "I live on my own. It's great, and I get to have all the ramen I want and stuff, and I can stay up all night studying jutsu."

Kiba patted a mound of dirt, feeling a little solemn. ". . . Well I don't got a dad either. He died before I ever got to meet him." Kiba tucked away his scroll. "I got an idea, though. You give me the paper, and I'll have my mom make you one."

"What kinda paper?"

"Any kind'll work."

"Just any old paper?"

"Yeah."

Naruto bit his lip and started rummaging through his pockets. He pulled out a crumpled sheet, red ink slashing through all his handwriting.

And Kiba bit back a laugh at the future Hokage's marks. "Uhh—well it needs to be kinda big."

"This won't work? . . . It's all I got on me."

"Well what do you wanna stick in it?"

"Uhh . . . maybe some shuriken and—"

"You don't need to store shuriken with 'em, really. You're supposed to put 'em here." Kiba pointed at his calf. "And your kunai go in your pouch, of course, but I don't got one yet, or a shuriken holster for that matter either."

"I know all that, you—"

"Then what'd you wanna put in it?"

Naruto looked a little angry. "Just . . . stuff!"

"All right, then. I think that'll hold a bucket at least." Kiba took the paper, stuffed it away, and started working on the castle again. "But you know how to summon 'em? How to store 'em away?"

". . . Not really." Naruto made a few motions with his hand and formed seals Kiba didn't think even existed. "Don't you just—bite and wipe some blood on it or something?"

Kiba nodded. "Yeah, that's pretty much it. Mom says when you get good enough chakra control, you don't even gotta bite your thumb anymore. Least not for the small stuff."

"Oh." Naruto noticeably hesitated, then: "Well, that'd be real soon, anyway. My chakra's awesome."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Kiba said, smirking amidst his digging. "When we're done with this, I wanna see how good you can reinforce it with your chakra. Bet I can take it down in one kick still."

"Ha! We'll just see if you can even touch it!" Naruto said as he moved down a few yards from Kiba, dropped to his knees, and started shoveling sand into the other bucket.

"Oh, I'll really tear it down this time!" Kiba said, already shoveling dirt so fast you'd think he was in a boat taking on water.

He scooted over with each block, the knees of his pants turning white in the sand, dirt scratching up the soft flesh beneath his lengthy nails, speeding along at a rapid pace now, nearing the other boy as he constructed castle wall after castle wall.

And then he bumped right into Naruto, his hips knocking the boy to the side.

Naruto yelped and went face-first into the sand. He started coughing, pushing himself back up out of the dirt.

"You—you pig-head!" he yelled, spitting sand out his mouth. "What'd you do that for, jerk?!"

"Hey, it was an accident," Kiba said, dusting off Naruto's back. "It didn't hurt that bad, did it?"

Naruto glared at him. "You didn't do it on purpose?"

"On purpose?" Kiba sniffed, sawing a finger back and forth under his nose. "Why would I wanna bump into your smelly butt? Smells like noodles and pork."

"Does not! Yours smells smellier! Like—like—"

Kiba tried to ignore him, already aware of what was coming; because lots of kids also accused him of this, and lots of kids were usually quite specific, too, always narrowing it down to just two words:

"Dog breath!"

Those two words.

"And wet dog!"

Those, too.

Kiba grinded his teeth, controlling himself. "Sheesh, it wasn't that big a deal, just get back to work!" he said. "We're almost done anyway! All we gotta do is make the tower!"

Naruto looked him over a few seconds, then kept oddly quiet, continuing to shovel more dirt as Kiba stood up and stepped over the outer walls of cobblestone (it was coming along real good, wasn't it?). He put a hand over his brow and gazed up at the imaginary heights of his castle in the sky.

"Man, if only Akamaru and I could do man beast clone by now," he said. "We could get this tower a lot higher."

Naruto looked up. "Man beast clone? How would that help?"

"You could squat at the bottom and hold him on your shoulders while I stood on his back at the top. Make it higher. Duh."

"I could do that right now." Naruto scanned Kiba up and down. "You're kinda weedy, I could carry you; I'm real strong."

Kiba pulled back his sleeves. "Show me your muscles."

Naruto slid the sleeves of his outrageous jumpsuit back to reveal partially-surprising truth to his words. "See?" he said. "Bigger than you."

Kiba flexed his tanned arm. "Nuh-uh. We're about the same."

Naruto flexed, too, then poked Kiba's arm. "Yeah. Guess you're right."

Kiba grinned. "But you said you could hold me up, first, so I'll take your word for it. We wanna get this thing taller than the Hokage Mountain, don't we?"

"Yeah! It's gonna be taller than the sky!"

"Then get down on your knees so I can get up there." Kiba took his bucket, about to climb onto Naruto's back, then felt a little stupid. "Oh . . . crap, though . . . how am I gonna get the sand from up there? You'll get too tired if I have to climb up and down your back every five seconds."

"No I won't!"

Kiba's eyes lit up. "I know! You can make a clone, right?"

". . . Yeah."

"Then go ahead and do it and have him fill up the bucket for me."

Naruto's face tensed up, grimacing, oddly looking as though he were trying to take a dump to Kiba, then his hands flashed in flurry of half-gestures and approximate seals; either the fastest spiel of jutsu seals Kiba had ever seen, or the equivalent of a sign language mumble.

But suddenly, there was an explosion of smoke, a sign that something had actually worked, and after it cleared, Naruto was tall. Tall enough to carry Kiba pretty high . . . but he looked a tad different. He had longer hair, a slightly more angular face, and—and—

"Eww!" Naruto shrieked. "I've got tits!"

Kiba laughed, remembering his big sister flipping out at him when he'd seen her in the shower once. "Can't you transform with some clothes on?" he asked, averting his eyes as the smoke dissipated. "That's nasty! You're gonna give me cooties!"

"I ain't got cooties!" Naruto fumbled with his words. "And—and this is a special sorta transformation! You can't do it without doing it naked!"

"Here, then." Kiba took off his jacket and offered it to the girl-thing. He had on a white t-shirt beneath.

Naruto took it, pulling it on, and Kiba made sure not to catch any glimpses of the boy—er, girl-thing's butt.

"Thanks," Naruto said.

"No problem."

And with that, Kiba hopped up onto Naruto's shoulders. "Hope you do a lotta squats, man. Or woman, I should say, eh?"

"You sound like a dork," Naruto said below.

Kiba grinned and dumped a bucket then handed it down to Naruto. "Fill it up!"

Naruto did so, then handed it up to Kiba, who piled the blocks one on top of the other, higher and higher, going back and forth, up and down, up, down, until finally, they couldn't reach any higher.

"Are we done yet?" Naruto asked, not sounding too strained after all that lifting.

"Yeah," Kiba said, hopping down. "How's it look?"

He caught a glimpse of Naruto's butt by accident and looked away, blushing slightly. "You can release that jutsu now, you know?"

"Yeah." Naruto fidgeted and dispelled it with a sharp, "Release!"

Kiba backed up, waving away the smoke then staring up at the magnificently high tower, their incredible Hokage Fortress. It was leaning to the left a bit and looked about eight feet tall.

"This is the best castle I ever built," he said.

Akamaru barked, sitting on his haunches to the side, finished with the moat.

"It's awesome," Naruto said, taking off Kiba's jacket and handing it back. "But we built it, not just you."

"Yeah, you're right, sorry." Kiba grinned and slid back into his jacket. "So," he said, "now it's time to name it."

"Castle Awesome!" Naruto said. "Or Castle Grayskull!"

Kiba chuckled. "How about Castle KibaNaru?"

Naruto appeared to consider this, then: "Nah, it'd be better if it was Castle NaruKiba."

Kiba violently shook his head. "No, it sounds better the other way!"

"No it doesn't!"

"Yes it does!"

"Well what do you know?!"

Naruto pounced on Kiba, and they started wrestling in the sand, rolling around in the dirt like dogs as Akamaru barked in the background.

"Castle KibaNaru!"

"Castle NaruKiba!"

This continued until Akamaru scurried over and bit his master's butt, dragging him out of the tangled cloud of limbs.

"Ow!" Kiba yelped, clutching his rear end. "What was that for, Akamaru?"

The dog barked, sternly.

"Ah, right." He looked back at Naruto, who appeared to be wrestling with himself at this juncture. "Hey, we still gotta reinforce it with your chakra," Kiba said. "If you can't do a good job of that, it's not even worth naming anyway."

Naruto's self-wrestling abruptly came to a halt. He slowly stood up and looked a little reluctant to do anything to their masterpiece. "All right," he said, heading over to the Hokage Tower. "I can do that. . . ."

Kiba could somehow feel the boy's hand gently easing onto the sandy surface of the tower. He could smell an unfamiliar canine-like scent that wasn't there before. It was alien to him, yet intriguing at the same time, and he watched on curiously as Naruto's bizarre chakra began to flow, beginning deep in the various pinpoints of his body, crawling up his shoulder then streaming on down through his arm, pooling in his palm, and finally draining out his fingertips into the tower.

There was a crackling noise, and the whole thing glowed a dark orange-scarlet.

Kiba watched intently, sensing Naruto's frown, hearing his jaws grind a little in frustration as the boy pushed a tad harder, that unique chakra no longer trickling but pouring into the castle, brightening the fiery aura, building up in intensity until it looked like a column of liquid-flame.

Incredible.

And then the castle exploded.

Sand erupted forth and splashed against Kiba's face, and he fell back on his butt, blown to the ground by these powerful waves of wind as that strange chakra began to shove him across the dirt, sliding him along on his rear, bursting through the sand walls behind until he was sitting in the moat Akamaru'd made.

After a few seconds of stunned silence, he started chuckling, lying back in the sand, watching the chunks of their castle plop to the ground around him.

"Man! that was a good one!" he said. "You really know how to take down a sandcastle in one punch!"

"Yeah . . . ," Naruto said, a grin crescendoing in his voice. "That . . . that was awesome."

Kiba stood up, dusting himself off. "Let's be friends from now on."

Naruto looked at him a little blankly, a little unsurely, a little happily. "Friends?"

"Yeah," Kiba said, walking over to stare down into the crater Naruto'd just made. "You know? We hang out together, and cut class together, and drink sodas together, and see who can burp the loudest? That sorta thing."

Naruto's face didn't change for a few seconds, then: "Yeah! That sounds like fun!"

"Good, 'cause it is! So let's build us another—"

"WHAT ARE YOU KIDS DOING?!" came their teacher's voice. "GET OVER HERE NOW!"

"Uh-oh, come on!" Kiba said, grabbing Naruto's hand. "Let's get outta here!"

Akamaru barked, already ten steps ahead of them.

"Right!" Naruto said, squeezing Kiba's hand.

Together, they ran off into the Leaf Village forest.