AN: Hey, I'm back, I've gotten messages asking me to keep writing and I am really grateful that people are still interested, as always I look forward to any feedback you care to give! I fully intend to finish this story, so thank you for your patience.
As a side note, I went back through all the previous chapters to get a feel for the story again, as a result ALL of the chapters have been revised and updated. As they say hind sight is 20-20, I tried to make sure that everyone was as in character as possible, and I cleaned things up a bit. I hope that everyone likes the changes.
Sakura jumped as Ino burst into the room, followed closely by Tenten, "Hey Forehead girl, we're back!"
The two kunoichi stopped in their tracks when they spotted Sakura sitting on the couch with Naruto sprawled across her lap.
Ino's eyes widened and she grinned, "Sakura? I didn't think you had it in you!"
Sakura blushed and waved her hands trying to catch her friend's attention, "Shhh! Ino don't yell, he's asleep! This isn't what you think!"
Her words were lost on the other girl; instead she turned back towards the door and shouted at the top of her lungs, "Guys get in here! You absolutely have to see this!"
Footsteps pounded up the stairs as the boys rushed to join the kunoichi; Sakura winced as she heard Chouji's booming voice from outside, "What's wrong? What happened?"
Shikamaru, Chouji, and Sai appeared in the doorway just in time to see Naruto jump; startled awake by the sudden noise.
Still half asleep, he sprang up from the couch; his hand automatically searching for a kunai; but before he could get both feet on the ground he tripped on coffee table that was situated in front of the couch.
His hands grasped at air as he fell; in the same instant Sakura's hand shot out and pulled on his arm to keep his head from hitting the edge of the table, but she couldn't catch him and he landed awkwardly between the two pieces of furniture.
Naruto gasped as his breath was knocked out of him, "Ow ow ow...."
Sakura leaned over him, "Idiot," she sighed, "Are you okay?"
Their friends crowded around them and the boys set the bags they had been holding on the small table.
Chouji bit back a laugh as he placed one hand on the offending piece of furniture and leaned over the shorter ninja, "Hey, you alright man?"
Naruto grimaced, then opened his eyes to see his friends hovering over him, "Yeah...what the hell was all the noise about?" he frowned and tried to sit up, but his leg got caught under the small table, nearly knocking it over.
Shikamaru slammed his hands down on the furniture to keep it from tipping over and dumping their dinner all over the floor, "Take it easy! You're such a klutz sometimes."
The blond flushed with embarrassment and glared up at him, "It's not my fault! Why the hell did you guys put the food on there anyway? I can't get up from here unless I move something; I don't have enough leverage."
Shikamaru sighed and moved around the table so he was in line with the shorter ninja, "Chouji slide the table away so he doesn't knock it over. Sakura tuck your feet up."
The pink-haired medic released her hold on her teammate's arm then sat back on the couch, tucking her legs underneath her.
"Here," the young genius leaned over his prone friend and held his hand out to him, "I'll help you up."
Naruto sighed and took the offered hand, "Thanks."
Shikamaru leaned back on his heels and pulled the other ninja to his feet, "You totally over-reacted you know."
"Did not! I was asleep!"the blond pouted at his friends, "I'm all comfy and suddenly the door slams open and there was a bunch of yelling; how am I supposed to react to that?"
Chouji laughed, "You fell asleep? You must've been really out of it. The look on your face was great!"
"I wish I had some pictures!" Tenten laughed; ignoring Sakura's irritated sigh, "That would give me blackmail material forever!"
Naruto glared at the larger ninja; he opened his mouth to reply, but he was cut off as Ino slid between them.
She grinned up at her fellow blond, "'All comfy' huh? You were asleep on Sakura's lap you know."
Naruto blushed and tried to stutter a reply but the kunoichi ignored him and turned to look slyly at her pink-haired friend, "Looked like you were pretty comfortable too. I wonder how you ended up in that position...?"
Sakura rose stiffly, her hands clenched at her sides, "I swear Ino-pig, I am going to kick your ass if you don't shut up."
Ino giggled and waved off the threat, but she took several steps back to put herself out of the range of Sakura's fists before she spoke again, "Aww, don't worry, we understand. You are teammates after all."
"I'm not sure I do." Sai tilted his head slightly as he looked at his blond teammate, "Your reaction time was good Naruto, but you shouldn't have lost your balance like that. If we were your enemies we could have killed you by now."
The blond glared at the socially inept ninja, "Really? Thanks for the tip bastard. I just thought I'd try a new move where I fall on my ass like an idiot in order to surprise and confuse the enemy." he continued, not caring if the sarcasm was lost on the other teen, "So, how'd it work?"
Sai put his hand on his chin with a small smile on his face, "Hmm, well I was surprised but it doesn't seem very practical. Unless that was meant to be sarcasm, I'm still not entirely clear on it's uses."
Naruto rolled his eyes as he flopped onto the couch beside Sakura, "You have got to be kidding me..."
Ino and Tenten laughed as they settled themselves at either end of the small table; Tenten smiled and reached for the bag closest to her, "Lets eat before it gets cold."
Naruto grinned, forgetting his irritation with his teammate, "Great I'm starving, what'd you guys get me? Any ramen?"
Ino laughed, "Sorry, the place we ended up at didn't serve ramen, you'll have to make do with what we bought." the kunoichi smiled as she reached across the table to hand a takeout box to her fellow blond.
Naruto pouted, "No ramen? But I know there's a ramen place around here." he started to stand, "I'll be right back."
Sakura sighed and caught him by the arm and pulled him back onto the couch, "You probably know every place to get ramen for a 30 mile radius, but that doesn't mean you can't eat something else once in awhile. Just eat what they brought for you."
The blond turned his pout at his teammate, "But Sakura-chan..."
"Naruto..." she brandished her fist at the other ninja.
Naruto cringed away from her and hastily reached for the box that Ino was holding out to him, "Ah, thanks Ino this smells great!
Ino and Tenten laughed while the pink haired kunoichi at his side just sighed and shook her head, "You're such an idiot."
Tenten grinned, "Wow Sakura, I wish I could control Lee that easily. If I hit him, he barely feels it."
Ino nodded, "Seriously, I know what you mean," she gestured at her teammates, "These guys hardly ever listen to me. They just do what they want."
Shikamaru grimaced, "You'd better not starting hitting me like Sakura hits Naruto...."
Chouji nodded, "Yeah, we're not push overs like him."
The blond frowned, "Hey! I just-! Well--!" he pointed at Sakura, "She hits really hard!"
Shikamaru raised one eyebrow, "Oh come on, you've been injured to the point where you can't even stand and haven't complained about it and she scares you?"
Sakura glared at the taller ninja, "What's that supposed to mean?"
Tenten grimaced, "Now, now, let's just eat okay? We're here to have fun and celebrate Sakura's birthday right?"
Sakura shot one last glare at Shikamaru before turning back to her dinner, "If I had known that the five of you were going to be here, I would have invited everyone." she flashed a smile at Naruto, "but this was sort of a last minute decision."
"Being spontaneous is the best part Sakura-chan!" Naruto grinned and shoved some tempura into his mouth.
"It wouldn't have mattered anyway, Hinata, Kiba, and Shino are leaving for a mission early tomorrow morning." Chouji informed them between bites.
Tenten nodded, "Lee and Neji are out on a mission too. They were supposed to leave this evening and won't be back until next week."
Naruto shrugged, "You can always have a party with everyone once we get back so no one will feel left out."
Ino clapped her hands, "That's a great idea, we haven't gotten everyone together in such a long time!" she grinned, "We can use Chouji's place since it's the biggest, well beside Hinata's home, but I really don't think that's an option."
"Hey!" Chouji hastily swallowed the rice he had been chewing, "You can't just volunteer my house Ino!."
She waved him off, "It's got the most space; your parents won't mind. They let me and Shikamaru hang out there all the time."
"That's different, there's only two of you. You're talking about a party for a dozen people." he pointed at Naruto, "Anyway wouldn't it be better to use his place? It's not like Naruto has to get permission for this kind of thing."
Naruto blinked in surprise, "Well I don't mind as long as we keep it down so we don't bug my neighbors, but isn't my place kinda small for that many people?"
Ino nodded, "That's why I said we should use Chouji's place."
"I told you, quit volunteering other people's homes!"
"Ah, Chouji. Didn't you just volunteer my home?"
Sakura laughed lightly, "Why don't we worry about the details later. We don't even know when we'll have a chance to have everyone all together again."
"I would certainly like to go to Sakura's birthday party," Sai's soft voice caught everyone's attention and they turned to watch him, "I've never been to a party before."
Everyone was quiet for a moment until Naruto broke the silence with a laugh, "Sai, you dummy, you're at a party right now!"
The young ANBU blinked at him in confusion, "I don't understand. In the books parties have games and decorations and-"
His explanation was cut short by Naruto patting him hard on the back, "That's one kind of party sure, but there are lots of different kinds."
Sai still seemed confused so Sakura continued the explanation, "A party is really just a bunch of friends hanging out together. Decorations and games are fun, but that's not the important part."
Chouji nodded, "That's right, a party is just about having fun with your friends."
"I see," he chewed thoughtfully as he absorbed this new information, "I guess I 'll have to go to as many parties as I can to experience the different types."
Ino smiled, "That's the spirit. When things settle down we should have as many parties as we can."
Shikamaru lifted his cup, "I'll drink to that."
They laughed and wished Sakura a happy birthday as they tapped the disposable cups together in a toast.
The young shinobi talked happily while they ate, laughing and telling stories of other, similar nights that they had spent together.
After their meal Shikamaru stepped outside for a cigarette and Chouji went out to keep him company, so Naruto began to clean up as the girls drifted to one corner of the room engrossed in their own conversation.
He grinned when he spotted Sai, sitting cross legged just off to the side listening intently to their conversation.
As he watched Sakura laughing and chatting with the other kunoichi he realized that he was glad that their friends had followed them even though it meant he got less time alone with his favorite kunoichi, "I guess I'll give Baa-Chan a break on this one since everyone is having so much fun."
The blond turned back to his work, humming tunelessly to himself as he started scooping the leftovers back into their boxes and gathering up the trash.
He was just heading to the door to take out the garbage when Shikamaru came back inside smelling of tobacco with Chouji at his heels.
Naruto wrinkled his nose at the other teen, but said nothing as he slipped past his companions. Chouji turned back into the hall and caught the shorter ninja by the arm, "Where are you going?"
"Just taking out the trash, I'll be right back," he replied, holding up the remnants of their dinner for emphasis, "Don't worry I saved all the leftovers, they're in the mini-fridge."
Chouji nodded in approval, "I see, need a hand?"
"Nope, I've got it. Head back in, I'll just be a second."
As the large teen walked back into the room Sakura turned around, obviously unaware that her blond teammate had gone out, "Hey Naruto didn't you say that there was a theater around here....."
She trailed off as she looked around the room, quickly scanning the area for him, "Naruto?"
Ino looked around and blinked, "He was just here, where did he go?"
Chouji flopped onto the couch beside Shikamaru, "He was cleaning up; he's taking the trash out. I passed him on my way in."
Sakura turned her gaze to the now clean coffee table, "He took care of that mess by himself? He should have said something, I'd have helped."
Shikamaru chuckled lightly, "You three looked like you were having a lot of fun, so he probably didn't want to bother you. Besides, do you really think he'd want you to have to clean up on your birthday?"
Ino grinned and threw one arm around her childhood friend's neck, "You're so lucky Sakura. When are you two gonna make it official?"
"I-Ino! What are you talking about?" Sakura's face turned a shade of pink that almost matched her hair.
"He's a great guy. A bit of a dork at times, but he really cares about you." Ino winked at the other kunoichi, "Did you know he knows what your favorite flower is? He knew exactly what he wanted when he came into the shop this morning."
Sakura glanced at the daffodils that Naruto had placed on the nightstand and her eyes softened as she thought of the blond.
Ino shared a knowing look with Tenten as she stepped away from Sakura and patted her on the back, "Actually, you better make a move soon or I might beat you to him."
The pink-haired medic's head snapped around to stare at the other girl, "What? Since when do you like Naruto like that?"
The blond silently noted that Sakura had yet to deny her feelings for her teammate, "I told you, I think he's a great guy." she smiled mischievously, "Besides, he knows what my favorite flower is too. He overheard me talking about it years ago and he actually remembered."
Sakura blinked at the other girl in surprise, "He remembered after all that time...."
"Yeah, it's funny; he can be so dumb sometimes, but I guess he's a genius when it comes to people."
Tenten placed her hands on either side of her face and sighed, "I wish my teammates would remember stuff like that. All they seem to think about is training and missions, especially Neji....."
At that moment Naruto walked back into the room absently wiping his hands on his pants; he paused when everyone in the room turned to look at him, "Uh, did I miss something?"
Sakura blushed and looked away; Ino laughed, "Nothing important."
Naruto looked puzzled, but after a moment he shrugged and went into the bathroom to wash his hands; when he turned to walk back into the main room he almost ran into Sakura, "Ah, sorry Sakura-chan. Did you need to use the bathroom? I'll get out of your way."
He put one hand on her shoulder to guide her around as he squeezed past her in the narrow doorway, she smiled and reached up and put her hand on his, "Thanks for taking care of everything Naruto"
"No problem, I just want everyone to have fun!" he grinned and she felt a tingle run down her spine.
"Still, you could have waited a bit to clean up; we would have helped you." she smiled up at him, her face still colored a delicate pink.
"Ah, it's not a big deal, I always cleaned up when I was traveling with Ero-sennin. This mess was nothing compared to that." he shuddered at the memory, "Besides, everyone else went and brought everything back. It's only fair for me to clean up."
She patted his arm with her free hand, "Well anyway, I wanted to say thanks. I'm having a really great time. Just don't worry too much about things being perfect, I really want you to have fun too."
He tensed for a moment as he fought the urge to hug her, "I'm having a lot of fun Sakura-chan. I'm glad you agreed to spend your birthday with me!"
Naruto gently squeezed her shoulder before he pulled away and moved back into the main area of their hotel room.
Sakura laughed lightly as he jumped over the back of the couch and settled himself between Shikamaru and Chouji. The larger boy just laughed, but Shikamaru grumbled in annoyance as he was jostled by the blond.
As she moved to join her friends Ino turned to her once more, "Hey Sakura, didn't you say you'd like to see a movie?"
Tenten nodded, "Yeah, that sounds like fun."
Sakura shrugged, "I'd like to go," she turned to Naruto, "Actually I was going to ask you. Didn't you say something about a movie theater earlier?"
"Yup," he stood up and stretched, "There's a movie theater on the other side of the outdoor market. It's part of the resort."
The blond turned to his teammate, "If you want to go I'll take you."
Tenten moved to stand beside Ino, "We're coming too!"
Naruto smiled and turned to face Shikamaru and Chouji, "What about you guys? You coming?"
"I guess so," Shikamaru shrugged, "No point hanging around here by ourselves."
Sakura offered her hand to Sai who was still seated on the floor watching them intently, "What about you Sai, do you want to come?"
The young ANBU took the offered hand and let her pull him to his feet, "Yes, it seems like it would be quite interesting."
"Okay, just give me a minute to change. I don't really want to go to a movie in my guest robe."
"Good idea Sakura-chan." Naruto turned to Shikamaru, "Mind if I change in your room to save time?"
Shikamaru tossed him the key to their room, "Sure why not. It's across the hall."
A few minutes later Naruto was leading them away from the main hotel building towards the busy market streets. Sakura looped one arm with his as they walked, letting him lead her as she gazed around at the shops and the other tourists.
Sakura squeezed his arm a bit, doing her best to ignore the delighted look on Ino and Tenten's faces, "Naruto..."
He looked down at the woman at his side, "Yeah?"
"After the movie lets look around the shops too okay? This area looks really fun."
"Sure Sakura-chan," he grinned, "Anything you want."
Sorry this chapter was a bit shorter than previous ones, but I've been pretty swamped with homework (1 more week!) and this seemed like a good place to stop. Hopefully I'll get the next chapter up in a MUCH more timely manner. Again, I really appreciate the people who have reviewed and sent me messages asking me to continue, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter.