Disclaimer: Do Not Own. Do Not Want. Will remain poor.
AN: This is a two-parter…and this is the first part…yeah…
Part I: I Hate You
"Look! Oh, isn't that beautiful?"
Naruto watched Sakura, who sat two seats in front of him, stare and point out at the view through one of the ferry's windows as her friend, Ino, practically gushed beside her and took pictures with her gaudy pink cell phone.
Naruto had to admit, it was actually quite beautiful – the view. There seemed to be an orange torii gate out in the water ahead of them, right in front of an island that looked lush and green in the haze of the evening sun.
But he wasn't looking at the view.
Sakura's short pink hair tousled perfectly against the nape of her neck as she smiled prettily and pointed with one long, lanky arm toward the torii gate in the water. Her pale skin practically glowed in the setting sunlight, and as it was summer in Japan, she was only wearing a spaghetti-strapped top, showing off her milky shoulders and the top of her gently curving collarbone.
Naruto sighed, she was quite simply the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
"Are you ever gonna make your move, fox-face? You're starting to drool on the seats," his friend, Kiba, quipped, nudging him unhelpfully in the arm and smirking.
"I'm not drooling!" Naruto retorted with slightly more force than he'd intended, but managed to undercut the furosity of his statement by wiping the back of his hand hastily across his mouth only to find it dry.
"Well, no, not literally," his friend conceded, but somehow that didn't make Naruto feel much better with the way Kiba's mouth was still pulled into that knowing smirk. "But I can see it all over your face. You've still got it bad."
Naruto sighed and frowned. Kiba was right, he did have it bad. In fact, he'd been trying to ask the girl out since the beginning of the trip a whole three weeks earlier, but every time he had gotten up the nerve to even talk to her, that stupid bastard had gotten in the way.
Naruto looked over to one of the seats on the other side of the ferry and glared at said bastard as the teen slouched in his seat, looking aggravatingly cool in his blue, sleeveless hoodie and his huge noise-blocking headphones, which barely contained his annoyingly stylish black hair. The person who irritated him more than anyone else – his eternal rival in love – suddenly opened his eyes and looked Naruto's way, noticing Naruto's glare and answering it with one of his own. "What, dead-last?"
"Nothing, asshole!" Naruto clenched his fists, but turned his head away, fuming. That guy was such a prick!
For one thing, he'd made Naruto look like a total moron the moment he'd set foot in Japan – they hadn't even gotten out of the Narita airport!
That day, he'd offered to buy Sakura something to drink before they left, which he had been thrilled she'd accepted. At the food court, he'd been trying to figure out the Japanese currency, but he'd be damned if it wasn't one of the most confusing systems to understand, and he ended up scrounging through his millions of coins (seriously, why did they have coins for 100 yen when they could just use bills?) and accidentally dropped his lucky frog purse onto the ground, losing all of its precious contents all over the floor.
At that point, people in the line behind him had begun to get angry. As Naruto scrambled on the floor, Sakura and Ino, along with the rest of his class, had shown up to see what all the commotion was about. He had been embarrassed all right, but right before he'd been able to finish picking up all of his coins and reclaim his dignity, that bastard,Sasuke, had walked up, called him an idiot, and paid for him – effectively buying Naruto's gift for Sakura himself and ruining Naruto's chances at impressing her.
Sakura had been absolutely thrilled, of course, Naruto remembered with a grimace. In fact, she had been all over her Sasuke-kun after that, completely forgetting that Naruto even existed.
But it hadn't ended there. Every time he'd tried to do something nice for Sakura or even talk to her in the weeks since, Sasuke had always gotten in the way. What with his, being near them at all times, and his walking around in their general vicinity.
There was simply no time Naruto could get Sakura alone! She would always get distracted by Sasuke-kun and completely ignore Naruto altogether, but then the bastard would have the gall to completely ignore her – Sakura – the most amazing, most beautiful girl in their school! Naruto didn't know what aggravated him more, Sasuke's mere existence or his maltreatment of the girl Naruto adored.
And all that was on top of the fact that any time Naruto even looked in Sasuke's general direction, the boy would insult him with idiot this or dead-last that. Like he was looking for a fight or something.
Seriously, he was so aggravating!
"Dude," Kiba broke into his angry mental rant. "No need to hyperventilate, man. Just talk to her now while she's distracted by the sights – sure beats being distracted by other things."
Naruto stared at him, realizing that he was right. She wasn't cooing over Sasuke. Now was his chance!
Naruto collected his nerve and leant over the back of the seat in front of him, pushing his head a bit between an unamused Shikamaru and a surprised Chouji who sat in the bench seat between Naruto and the object of his affections. Sakura was still infatuated with the view out the window, so Naruto cleared his throat.
Ino turned first and then Sakura, who's eye twitched in distinct annoyance. "Yeah, Naruto?"
Naruto tried not to get discouraged by her exasperated tone. After all, he was used to it. "Uh…" Naruto suddenly realized he didn't even know what to say.
Ino was looking back at him darkly as though he was something quite revolting stuck to the bottom of one of her designer shoes. Sakura let out an impatient breath and blinked slowly.
"Erm…" He began, realizing he was going to lose Sakura's attention if he hesitated any longer. "Do you wanna go on a walk with me once we reach the island?"
Sakura looked like she was considering it, placing a finger to her lip in thought, and getting his hopes up, but her final answer decimated all of that. "No."
"But…" He began, grasping at straws now. He was sure that if she just gave him a chance she'd grow to like him. Of that he was certain.
"She said, no, loser," Ino replied bitingly, rolling her eyes at him. "Can't you take a hint?"
Naruto clamped his mouth shut, realizing that his effort was futile and he fell back against the cushion of his bench seat, frowning. By now the occupants of the entire ferry were silent, having all probably heard the exchange.
"Ouch," Kiba muttered unhelpfully from beside him, and Naruto sent him an irritable look.
Naruto felt a lot of eyes on him, but he also noticed from the corner of his eye that Sasuke was staring at him from across the aisle. Naruto looked away, not feeling in the mood to see his rival gloat like he most certainly was doing.
Naruto shoved his hands into the front pockets of his shorts and looked out the window instead. He couldn't wait to get to the island. He really needed a walk.
"There sure are a lot of deer here."
Naruto stepped out of the visitor's area and onto the soil of Miyajima, watching Kiba who had just made an eloquant observation as he walked up to a deer and attempted to pet it. Naruto's other classmates started ambling out from behind him, chatting amongst each other and ready to start moving after that fairly uneventful ferry ride from Hiroshima.
"Ah! Sakura, keep those things away from me! I just bought this!" Ino practically screeched, running behind her pink-haired friend as a deer edged closer. The girl clutched her specially-designed shirt as if it would get ripped off her back at any moment, and glared at the animal as Sakura simply rolled her eyes.
"Ino-pig," Sakura muttered, trying to turn around in order to address her friend directly, but Ino wouldn't have it, shuffling behind her friend everytime she moved. "You'll be fine as long as you don't go near it."
Both girls stopped their fussing, however, once Sasuke exited the visitor's center and took his place next to a wall, leaning against it and looking as though he was bored with life in general.
Naruto sighed and crossed his arms behind his head, turning away from Sakura as she and Ino apparently forgot about the deer in favor of giggling and casting Sasuke furtive glances. Sasuke, for his part, was ignoring them, but when he noticed Naruto glaring at him, his expression changed from one of boredom to irritation. Naruto frowned before looking away. He couldn't stop a bitter expression from twisting his face into a scowl.
He went to stand beside Kiba and was roughly shoved in the shoulder for his effort.
"Dude, don't get your panties in a bunch." Kiba sniggered when Naruto glared at him. "It's not like this hasn't happened before."
Naruto sighed in defeat. Kiba was right. He should have been used to this scenario.
After all, he may have felt a little morose from his rejection, but he was certainly never one to sulk. That just wasn't who he was.
Either way, Naruto was glad to be out of that stuffy boat and once again on dry land. Somehow, it made his spirits lift a little. He figured he'd just give Sakura a day or two before trying again. He pointedly ignored the voice in the back of his head that was insistantly telling him to stop being such a masochist and just move on with his life. He never gave up, though. That just wasn't his way.
The muggy summer air was beginning to cool down as evening quickly approached and the tide moved in. The temperature was comfortable and he had to admit the island was beautiful.
He looked around and noted that Kiba was right, there were a lot of deer – all staring at them with their beady black eyes. A shiver ran up and down Naruto's spine as the more imaginative part of his mind ran into overdrive – supplying him with a gamut of indecent things the deer were currently planning to do to him.
He didn't like those deer. He'd seen their counterparts all over Japan on this trip. There were an obscene amount in Nara, and he couldn't forget what happened there. For one thing, they may have looked harmless, but they constantly stared at you with no expressions. Like they were dead inside.
And for another thing…
"Ack! That's not food, stupid ungulate!" Kiba exclaimed loudly, smacking one particular deer on the top of the head as it tried to eat his shirt.
…the sneaky bastards ate everything.
It was true. He'd seen one in Nara chewing contentedly on a sock.
Their teacher and the group guide of their class's entire trip in Japan, Mr. Umino, finally stepped out of the visitor's center and looked down at Kiba exasperatedly. "Don't touch the deer! They're sacred!"
"But it's eating my shirt!" Kiba whined, finally tugging a large portion of his shirt out of the deer's powerful jaws. "Sacred, my ass."
"Sorry, sorry!" Kiba relented, stepping away from the deer and suspiciously watching its friends that meandered around the area as Mr. Umino passed him, followed by his assistant, a slightly less motivated teacher named Mr. Hatake.
"Troublesome." Shikamaru stopped beside Naruto and absently pet the head of the deer closest to him.
It was strange. The deer never attacked Shikamaru. Actually, in a crazy way, it seemed like they all looked up to him. Naruto swore they sometimes acted reverent in his presence like he was some sort of sacred-deer king or something. Naruto shook his head. The earlier heat of the day must have been frying his brains.
"Can I have your attention, students?"
Everyone's attention focused on their teacher who was now standing at the front of the group. Iruka smiled at them and placed a hand on his hip. Mr. Hatake stood nonchalantly behind him, his nose buried in one of his infamously trashy novels as Mr. Umino began his ritual start-of-the-trip speech.
"Our inn is up the path to the right, past the Miyajima temple, I will be leading you all there," He stopped as the students began to talk excitedly. "All of your luggage is being unloaded from the ferry and will be taken to your rooms at the inn. Now, I'm going to give you all your room assignments."
Naruto's classmates let out a collective groan, because this always meant that they could each potentially be forced into randomly selected groups of people they didn't like or get along with.
Naruto and Kiba shared a groan of their own. They'd only been able to share the same room for one night in the beginning of the trip before they were forced to stay separated after that. Naruto surmised that the real reason Mr. Umino did this to them was so that Naruto and Kiba, the known troublemakers, could be kept apart.
As with each time this happened, Naruto hoped and prayed he wouldn't be put with people he hated, which, luckily, was a pretty short list.
"The rooms at this inn, " Mr. Umino continued, ignoring the groans and raising his voice above them. "are only big enough for a pair each, but don't worry, you will all be separated by gender and you will all have separate futons." He paused as though he'd expected an appreciative chuckle from his captive audience, but when he was only met with an uncomfortable silence, he carried on. "The first randomly selected pair is: Shikamaru and Kiba…"
"Could've been worse," Kiba mumbled with a grin before he clapped Naruto on the back and moved to stand beside Shikamaru, who looked about ready to fall asleep standing.
"Hinata and Ten-Ten," Mr. Umino continued, reading off of his list. "Ino and Temari, Chouji and Gaara, Shino and Kankurou, Neji and Sai, Rock Lee and Konohamaru, Suigetsu and Juugo, Sakura and Karin…"
Both girls looked taken aback before glaring at each other, neither moving toward the other for the customary march to their night's lodgings. It was no surprise to Naruto,or anyone else, as it was well known that both girls were vehement rivals for Sasuke's attention. That had been one fact Naruto had preferred to ignore on most occasions, for obvious reasons, even though he knew it to be true. It was just another reason he had to hate the stupid bastard.
"…and finally, Sasuke and Naruto."
Naruto suddenly tensed and his eyes widened at Mr. Umino's words.
In the last three weeks he had never been paired up or even put in the same group with Sasuke. At first he'd considered himself extremely lucky but as the weeks wore on, what little logic he had convinced him that Mr. Umino must have been purposefully keeping them from being put together because the man had known Naruto hated Sasuke with every fiber of his being. He'd thought the man, who had been his teacher off and on since kindergarten, had been looking out for him. So, he couldn't hold back his shock that Mr. Umino had actually let it happen this time. And for him to be paired with that jerk today of all days…he just wouldn't allow it.
"I'm not going to stay in the same room with that bastard, Mr. Umino!" Naruto yelled this loud enough for Mr. Umino to hear him from the back of the crowd, and everyone else turned back to stare at him, including Sasuke who, as usual when looking at Naruto, appeared highly irritated.
"Excuse me?" Mr. Umino frowned. "You have a problem, Naruto?"
"Yeah!" Naruto stepped forward, speaking fervently. "I'm not going to be paired up with Sasuke so you're gonna have to change my assignment."
"I can't change your assignment, Naruto. Everyone else already has a partner for the night," Mr. Umino replied tiredly, rubbing the scar on his nose. "And your luggage has already been delivered. Your assigned roommate is final."
"But – !"
"It's final, Naruto," Mr. Umino interrupted, his voice commanding.
Naruto closed his mouth and frowned bitterly. Kiba sent him a sympathetic look, but it didn't make Naruto feel much better.
The group fell into pairs and formed a line, but Naruto only joined Sasuke's side at the very last moment, and even then he remained as far away as he could, skirting the side of the dirt road just before it dropped off a steep cliff down to the bay. Sakura and Karin were only a row ahead, but Naruto stopped watching them when he realized they were still bickering and glancing back at Sasuke furtively between each scathing remark. Sasuke had gone back to looking perfectly bored out of his mind – walking beside Naruto as if he didn't even know he was there.
Naruto huffed irritably and looked away after that, suddenly noticing that it was beginning to get dark as lanterns that hung along the pathway and flanked the water lit their way. Every once and a while, he'd spot deer lying down within the orange pools of light, watching the students as they passed. Naruto couldn't keep a slight shiver from racing up and down his spine as their beady black eyes locked on to him.
But he looked out across the water and saw that the Torii gate they had seen as they approached the island was now lit up brilliantly from below, the high tide lapping at its stilts and glittering beneath it. For a moment, Naruto completely forgot about his bad mood and stared.
There was a temple just within the bay, facing the torii gate, and it had been lit up as well. Its orange pillars sank into rising tide as the structure reached out toward the gate, hallways of pillars crisscrossed through the structure toward the middle, where a small platform adorned with the statue of a golden fish reached out into the nearly black, sparkling water.
The entire group was unnaturally silent as they made their way down the path toward the temple and beyond. Sometimes they would be passed by Japanese men and women in striped yukata all walking in the same direction they were. Some of these people would stop and stare at Naruto, Ino, or Temari – something they, as blonds, had all gotten used to as they traveled through Japan. At first the attention had been unnerving, but eventually, Naruto had learned to shrug it off.
Naruto couldn't help feeling a certain peace wash over him as he entered one pool of lantern light after another. A slight breeze whipped across the water and slightly cooled his skin as they walked.
The dark water rippled invitingly, but it also looked foreboding, like a well of black ink waiting to swallow a person whole. Naruto suddenly wondered how deep the bay was and if anyone had drowned. He'd heard a lot of myths during the trip, as he and his classmates visited temples and shrines all across Japan. A lot of the stories were dark and some were even scary. It wouldn't surprise him if there was a tale told about a poor soul who had drowned in the inky water of this bay and still haunted it to this day.
When they passed the temple, Naruto looked past the heads in front of him and saw a brightly lit inn at the end of the path. Mr. Umino entered it and everyone else followed, finding themselves waiting in a tastefully decorated, brightly lit lobby.
In minutes, Mr. Hatake came around to give everyone their room keys. Naruto and Sasuke were the last to receive theirs, having to watch most of the group make their way to their lodgings for the night, before Mr. Hatake stopped in front of Sasuke to give him his and Naruto's key.
Sasuke barely looked at Naruto before making his way to an elevator. Naruto followed at a distance, annoyed that Sasuke had to get their only key and Mr. Hatake hadn't even had the sense to give him a spare. Apparently, they were the only ones going up to the second floor at the moment, so when the elevator doors slid closed it was just the two of them.
Naruto tried his best to ignore the fact that he was alone in an elevator with his hated rival, but it was hard with the elevator walls being a shiny gold and thus reflecting Sasuke's sullen expression back at him wherever he looked. He even looked straight ahead and couldn't help but see Sasuke reflected back at him in the shiny doors. He was also irritated to notice stupid things like the fact that Sasuke was still taller than him by a few inches even though Naruto had gone through a huge growth spurt after his sixteenth birthday.
Needless to say, the tension was mounting. At least, it was for Naruto. Sasuke, the bastard, could have very well been secretly enjoying Naruto's discomfort.
Naruto was just beginning to think that this was the longest elevator ride to the second floor of any building he had ever been in when, suddenly, there was a short dinging sound and the doors popped open.
Naruto followed Sasuke down the hall to their room as he had no idea what their number was and he wasn't about to ask the bastard. Naruto was starting to feel particularly grimy in the air-conditioned hall as all the salty sweat from that day began to harden and itch on his skin. All he wanted was a shower and sleep. That way, he could completely ignore the fact that he was going to be rooming with Sasuke and just fall unconscious until morning.
Sasuke finally stopped at a room at the end of the hall and unlocked the door. He walked in and Naruto followed, quickly noting the two futons on the floor which weren't as spaced out as Naruto would like, but really, what did it matter once he was asleep?
Naruto made a beeline for the bathroom, noting the toilet and the sink, but panicking slightly when he didn't see a shower or bathtub anywhere. In fact, there wasn't any space for anything else in the room.
"I can't believe it," Naruto groaned, his voice getting louder and whinier. "There's no shower!"
Sasuke had only just turned around to look at him when someone knocked on the door. Sasuke, being closest, opened it, revealing Mr. Umino standing on the other side.
"Well, are you boys all settled?" the man asked rhetorically, stepping into the room.
"Mr. Umino," Naruto flailed, barely able to contain his panic. "There's no shower in our bathroom!"
"Actually, that's just what I came up here to tell you two," Mr. Umino replied calmly as Naruto settled down. "None of the rooms have showers because all the patrons are expected to use the traditional onsen downstairs."
"Onsen?" Naruto asked, dumbfounded.
"Yes, a public bath," Mr. Umino confirmed. "We're all currently meeting in the lobby to go into the onsen. I came up here to tell you two to change into your complementary yukata and meet everyone else down there in five minutes."
"But – !" Naruto spluttered. He had never been in a public bath before. Each time they had encountered one on their trip, they had all had the option of showering in their hotel rooms, and he had always chosen the shower. He'd never thought he'd ever not have a choice. He would never admit it out loud, but given the taunts he had endured in the schoolyard growing up, either about his whiskers or his height, the very idea of being naked in front of his classmates was terrifying.
"Well, that's all," Mr. Umino interrupted, smiling as he walked away and ignored Naruto's protest. "See you in a few minutes."
Sasuke closed the door, not appearing discomfitted in the least by the news as he turned around, picking up a folded yukata at the foot of one of the futons. Naruto remained rooted to the spot, his mind spinning, until he vaguely realized Sasuke was starting to undress himself. Naruto turned away as if burned, thinking through his options as he heard the tell-tale rustle of clothes behind him.
He really didn't want to go into an onsen. Especially when everyone else would be there. He'd never been naked in front of another person in his life. Being an orphan, he couldn't even remember being bathed by his parents.
On the other hand, he felt really gross, and he'd really wanted to take a shower before going to bed. It was a difficult decision.
"You'd better change into your yukata, dead-last. It's almost time."
Naruto turned around with a scowl to see Sasuke now standing in the striped yukata. Naruto couldn't keep himself from taking the image in, noting that everything on Sasuke's body was covered in tastefully long sleeves and a long stretch of cloth that fell down to his pale ankles. He looked back up at Sasuke's face and was startled to see the teen smirking at him, and he didn't know why, but it made his cheeks flush hot with embarrassment.
"I'm not going…" The words tumbled out of Naruto's mouth before he could stop them, and he only just remembered to tack a swear word at the end as a retort to Sasuke's usual rudeness. "Bastard."
Sasuke raised a thin eyebrow, a clear indication that whatever came out of the teen's mouth next was not going to be something Naruto wanted to hear. "Scared?"
That did it. Naruto was not one to let anyone call him a coward, especially Sasuke. So, really he had no choice for what he did next.
"No!" Naruto retorted loudly, probably louder than was necessary, but he didn't care as he turned around and grabbed the other folded yukata. He began to strip and got all the way to his boxers before he started to get cold feet. He looked back over his shoulder to see Sasuke watching him intensely, but then the bastard grunted unintelligably and turned away toward the opposite wall.
Naruto frowned at him and then sighed as he pulled his boxers off so fast he nearly ripped them on his right foot, and then he pulled the yukata around him swiftly, only to realize that he had no idea how to tie it together around his waist. Not wanting Sasuke to see him, Naruto frantically fiddled with the garment in order to find the strap that should tie it together.
Naruto froze as warm breath blew over the shell of his right ear and pale hands slipped around his front from the back. He nearly jumped out of his skin when those hands opened the front of his yukata, exposing him for a few moments to the opposite side of the room, before closing it again.
He tried to get angry with Sasuke for invading his personal space, but he couldn't help fixating on the distinct warmth emanating from the taller teen and seeping through the thin material of his yukata, making his back tingle.
"You've got to wear it with the left side over the right or else people will think you're going to a funeral," Sasuke stated from behind him by way of explanation. His voice still sounded haughty and a little exasperated, which made Naruto bristle, but then Sasuke's hands seemed to find the obi that held the yukata together and tied it tight, taking Naruto's breath away for a few seconds.
Naruto whirled around with a scowl only to see Sasuke's back as the boy opened the door and walked out of the room. With little choice, Naruto slipped into some sandals that were sitting at the foot of his futon and followed Sasuke at a distance to the elevator. Neither of them spoke on the way down. Although Naruto made sure to glare at the haughty teen on the other side of the lift every few moments as it made its frustratingly slow descent.
When they got to the lobby, everyone was already there, each of them, boy and girl, wearing the striped complementary yukata. Sasuke and Naruto joined the group, although Naruto broke off the first chance he had to stand by Kiba, Shikamaru, and Chouji, grateful that at least this allowed him time to be away from Sasuke.
"Hey, fox-face!" Kiba barked, cuffing Naruto affectionately on the side of the head. "Not dead yet, I see."
"Shut up," Naruto muttered, slapping Kiba's hand away, but feeling infinitely better now that he was back with his friends. "So, have you guys ever been in an onsen before?"
Naruto tried to ask the question casually without sounding as nervous as he felt.
"Yeah, I went to that last one in Nara," Kiba replied breezily. "What about you, Shikamaru? I don't think I saw you at that one."
"Nah, I passed that up," Shikamaru answered, looking as unimpressed as ever. "I went to the one in Kobe."
"Oh yeah," Kiba grinned. "Wasn't that the huge one that most of the class went to?"
Shikamaru nodded. "Yeah, Chouji was there too."
Chouji, who was standing right beside Shikamaru nodded as well as he munched a bag of chips from god knew where.
"Ah! Are you guys talking about that wonderful spring of youth in Kobe?" Rock Lee bounced into the group, putting an arm around Chouji enthusiastically. "That venue was fantastic, wasn't it? Even Neji went!"
"Yeah," Kiba replied, sniggering a bit as Rock Lee waggled his heinously bushy eyebrows. "I think everyone, even Sasuke, was there except for me and Naruto."
"So I'm the only one who hasn't been in one yet?" Naruto asked, his voice traitorously cracking with his anxiety.
"Nervous?" Kiba needled, looking quite amused at Naruto's expense.
"Nervous? Yeah right!" Naruto retorted, smiling widely in an attempt to show otherwise. "What the hell is there to be nervous about anyway?"
"Exactly!" Kiba clapped him on the back, making Naruto stumble forward with the impact. "You'd only have to be worried if you're lacking."
Kiba looked down in the direction of Naruto's crotch to emphasize what he meant when Sai came by right at that moment and added his timely observation. "I'd be worried if I was Naruto, he's got a really small pe-."
Naruto slapped two hands over Sai's mouth before he could complete his sentence, remembering with a slight shock of horror that Sai had in fact seen his naked crotch before, completely by accident – and that unfortunate turn of events had involved scissors, a poor aim, a wet floor, and some jello.
"Shut up, Sai!" Naruto growled out, before he released the socially-vapid boy. "You don't know what you're talking about."
But Kiba was already laughing, nearly doubled over and holding a stitch in his side. Shikamaru rolled his eyes and Naruto glared at Kiba as Sai walked away nonchalantly, his work apparently done.
"It's not true," Naruto muttered darkly.
Kiba finally caught his breath and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "Either way, we'll all find out in a few minutes."
Naruto frowned but didn't say anything, his anxiety doubling. He suddenly wondered if he should just run away and forget about getting clean. After all, it wasn't like he hadn't slept without taking a shower before. He could handle it.
"Well, anywho," Kiba continued, seemingly oblivious to Naruto's growing discomfort. "Word is, Sasuke is pretty well-endowed. No wonder all those girls want him."
Naruto followed Kiba's gaze to where Sasuke was standing, only to see the raven-haired teen surrounded by at least three girls, including Sakura. He looked a bit irritable, but Sakura was currently giggling profusely next to Ino as Karin smiled vapidly in his direction. Sasuke turned his head a bit and caught Naruto's eye, and Naruto hastily looked away.
Naruto scowled, his next words rolling out of his mouth before he could even think to stop them. "Yeah right. I bet I'm bigger than that prick."
Kiba smiled, his eyes glinting. "You wanna bet on that, fox-face?"
"Uh…" Naruto realized he was now between a rock and a hard place. He couldn't back down now, not when he'd already declared it so forcefully. "Yeah…sure!"
"Ooh! The ultimate battle of youth and vigor!" Rock Lee exclaimed, getting entirely too excited about this, in Naruto's opinion. "May the best man win!"
Shikamaru shook his head and kneaded the bridge of his nose, sighing out a nearly silent, "troublesome."
"Okay class," Mr. Umino finally raised his voice above the milling students, and gestured with his arms like an airline steward before take-off. "Girls on the left and boys on the right. Have fun!"
Naruto's heart began beating rapidly against the cage of his ribs as he followed the rest of the boys into their portion of the onsen. He was the last one to enter what looked to be a small locker room with cubby holes lining the walls. There were already some Japanese men there in various states of undress, and Naruto pointedly looked away from them as he followed Kiba to a cubby hole in the corner of the room.
Each cubby hole had a basket with a small towel. Naruto unfolded the towel to see with a sense of disappointment that it was barely big enough to cover up his most important area.
"That towel is used to dry your hair, I think," Kiba informed him from his left, and Naruto instantly regretted looking over at his friend when he realized Kiba was already most assuredly in his birthday suit.
Naruto ripped his gaze away and Kiba laughed.
"Time to get undressed, Naruto," the boy heckled. "Can't back out of our little bet now."
Naruto grimaced and looked around the room hesitantly, noticing that most of the boys had already stuffed their yukata into their cubby holes and left to the bath. But then his eyes locked upon a familiar figure in the far corner of the room, facing away from him and revealing a long expanse of pale skin that didn't leave much to the imagination. Naruto ripped his head away, his face heating up. Damn bastard. Naruto had never blushed so much in his life.
"Shit, fox-face, are you blushing?" Kiba sniggered, clapping him on the shoulder.
"No." Naruto scowled and glared hard into the depths of his cubby hole.
"Now or never," Kiba commented amusedly. "You can't stand here all night."
"Shut up, dog-breath," Naruto growled.
He waited until he heard Sasuke shove his belongings into his cubby hole and walk out to the bath, before he finally slid out of his yukata, trying not to care that Kiba was there smirking at him.
For some reason, the potential of Kiba seeing him naked didn't bother him as much as the potential of Sasuke seeing him naked. Maybe it was because he and Kiba were such good friends and he knew what to expect with him, or maybe it was because he didn't want his rival to see something that could give him blackmail material. Not that Naruto really thought there was anything about his body he should be ashamed of. He had been practicing karate after school, 3 days a week, since he was nine, after all. It's not like he was out of shape.
Naruto shook his head against that train of thought as he pushed his yukata and sandals into the cubby hole and snatched the small towel out of the basket. Somehow he knew that if he delved any deeper into the reasons behind his discomfort he would become way more uncomfortable than he was ready to deal with.
"You ready?" Kiba asked with a smirk.
Naruto, making sure to cover his private parts with the heinously small towel, nodded tremulously.
Kiba just laughed, standing with his legs apart and arms crossed over his chest as if he was some sort of conquering hero – a completely nude conquistador. "Remember, you're gonna have to uncover it eventually. You've got a bet to win."
"Yeah, yeah," Naruto frowned and made sure to look only at his friend's face. He seriously didn't even wanna know what Kiba looked like anywhere else. His mood was quickly dropping with each passing second. "Let's just get this over with."
Naruto followed Kiba bowleggedly into the bathing area to see most of his male classmates sitting on stools along the walls, scrubbing themselves with the small towels and soap that sat in bottles next to every faucet in the wall. Kiba casually waved at Shikamaru and Chouji, who both waved back. Everyone looked completely comfortable. Naruto spotted Sasuke's telltale pale skin as he sat near the other end of the room, before he looked away, grateful that the teen hadn't seemed to notice or care about Naruto's entrance.
In the middle of the room was the actual bath, steam rising from its surface as some older Japanese men soaked in it. Some of those men turned their heads his way as he entered, clearly taken aback by the color of his hair and skin. This was a reaction he'd gotten used to on the streets of Japan, but it disturbed him more now that he was actually naked. Naruto tried his best to ignore them as one man pointedly stared at his thankfully covered crotch.
Kiba nudged him in the arm with a plastic stool that he had apparently retrieved from a stack of them at the far side of the room, and Naruto took it, following Kiba to a pair of open taps. Naruto mimicked Kiba by placing the stool – which he only just realized was hot pink – in front of a faucet, and sitting on it gingerly.
"Now all you do is use these bottles of soap and shampoo to wash yourself," Kiba explained, squeezing out a large dollup of liquid soap from one of the bottles and rubbing it over his chest.
Naruto did what Kiba was doing and began rubbing soap onto his skin. He had to admit, it felt nice to finally begin washing away all that dirt and sweat he had collected throughout the day in Japan's humidity, even if he couldn't really get comfortable with the fact that he was currently naked in front of a bunch of guys he knew and even some he didn't.
Kiba turned on his tap and warm water flowed out into a drain in the floor. He used his towel as a rag, soaking up the water and washing the soap off. Naruto did the same, using his own tiny towel to wash the soap suds off of his skin. He did have to admit, it felt good and strangely refreshing.
"And then you just use the shampoo!" Kiba exclaimed excitedly, as if he was about to get on a ride at a theme park. He took shampoo from the other bottle and rubbed it into his hair, letting it get up a good lather.
Naruto did the same, closing his eyes as the shampoo began to drip down his forehead. He massaged the shampoo into his scalp and for a moment he felt really, truly relaxed. He began to think that maybe this whole onsen thing wasn't so bad.
Suddenly, however, a torrent of hot water rushed over his head and he spluttered, opening his eyes to see Kiba laughing at him with a bucket held in his other hand.
Then again, maybe it was.
Naruto punched him in the arm as hard as he could, before wiping the soapy water out of his eyes. "Asshole!"
Kiba just rubbed his arm and smiled, ignoring Naruto's foul mood and the fact that he may have been the cause of it. "Now that your hair is clean, time to go into the hotspring."
With that, Kiba stood up and kicked his stool out of the way, making his way to the bath in the middle of the room.
Naruto ran a hand through his hair, making sure it was fully free of shampoo, before standing up himself and forgetting all about his towel. He regretted that the moment he realized everyone was already in the bath and staring at him, Kiba pointing at his crotch as everyone else – including Neji, Gaara, and Sai – assessed him. Even Sasuke was looking over at him through the steam.
"I told you he had a small penis," Sai deadpanned, smiling in that creepy, fake way that only he could pull off.
Naruto flushed considerably, but if it was because of intense embarrassment or intense anger he initially couldn't tell.
"Well, the jury's still out, in my opinion." Naruto could just hear Kiba's voice over the sound of rushing blood in his ears. "I mean, he could be a grower."
Rock Lee was nodding his head sagely in agreement. "Yes, it may look small now, but who knows what it's like when it is full of youthful vigor!"
That did it.
"Kibaaaa, you asshole!"
Realizing that he had no more dignity to protect anymore, Naruto practically leapt into the bath, tackling Kiba and pushing them both into the water. Naruto punched aimlessly, hitting Kiba a few times underneath the water before arms wrapped underneath his armpits and pulled him up to the surface again. When he broke the surface, Naruto saw Kiba coughing and spluttering across from him. Naruto felt no small amount of satisfaction when he noticed Kiba's lip was split.
"Jeez, Naruto," Kiba wiped at his bruised cheek. He wasn't laughing anymore. "It was just a joke."
"Yeah, well…screw you," Naruto retorted heatedly, suddenly feeling more incensed and ashamed than he'd ever felt with his best friend. In fact, he felt betrayed.
Kiba frowned, looking more surprised than anything else, and Naruto scowled, suddenly feeling awkward and out of place before he jerked out of Shikamaru's hold.
"I'm going to bed," Naruto muttered, before hoisting himself out of the bath. The silence in the room was oppressive as he made his way to the locker room.
He pulled his yukata out of the cubby hole with more force than was necessary and flung the sandals that were sitting on top over to the other side of the room. Naruto cursed and walked over to pick them up.
He was angry at Kiba, but worst of all, he was angry at himself for being as embarrassed and as irritable as he was. He should have been prepared for Kiba's usual pranks, but he had honestly thought Kiba would lay off if he was truly having a tough time of it.
Obviously he had forgotten that Kiba was as dense as a brick.
Naruto pulled on the yukata and once again struggled with the obi around his waist, cursing yet again when he realized the flaps were on right over left instead of left over right.
"Still being a moron, I see."
Suddenly pale hands were at his waist again, situating the sides of the garment correctly and tying the obi tightly from behind before letting go. Naruto frowned and leaned his forehead against the cubby hole in front of him. He really didn't need this right now.
"Yeah, I'm a moron. Happy?" Naruto muttered bitterly, finally turning around to face Sasuke with a glare. "Now you can go gloat about it, along with everything else."
Sasuke only stared down at him from the slight height advantage he enjoyed. His face was expressionless but his eyes were searching. Naruto suddenly got the strong impression that the other boy was pitying him.
Naruto frowned and stepped into his sandals, pushing passed Sasuke and making his way out of the locker room. He couldn't even gather up the nerve to be angry at the bastard anymore. He didn't even want to deal with it. This had probably been one of the worst days of his life and he wanted to be unconscious before anything else could go wrong. Everything was always better in the morning anyway.
Naruto walked to the elevator and pressed the button for the doors to open. He bristled a bit when Sasuke stopped beside him.
"What are you doing here?" Naruto's voice sounded rough even to his own ears.
Sasuke turned his head to look at him, unperturbed by Naruto's tone. "I've got the key to the room."
"Hmph," Naruto grunted, feeling stupider by the minute.
They both stood there in silence after that until the tell-tale ding! sounded and the elevator doors slid open.
They rode up in equal silence, Naruto once again trying to look away from Sasuke's image and failing as it reflected back at him from every angle.
When they got to their room, Naruto followed Sasuke in and collapsed on the futon next to the window. He rolled to his side, away from the other futon as Sasuke slid into it, rustling the covers.
Eventually, Sasuke clicked out the lamp-light and the room went dark, only silver moonlight washing in through the window.
Naruto closed his eyes but his mind was racing and he couldn't fall asleep. He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, noticing belatedly that Sasuke's breathing hadn't evened out either.
Naruto sighed and turned his head to look over at his room mate. Sasuke was on his back as well, his black hair parted away from his face and his dark eyes tracing patterns on the ceiling. Naruto couldn't help noticing how the moonlight lit up the edges of his profile, making his pale skin glow.
Naruto looked away quickly after that, realizing that he had been staring.
It was strange, but he'd spent so much time worrying about rooming with Sasuke, thinking that the entire situation would ruin his day, when, in the end, Sasuke had been the least of his problems. In fact, if he could be totally honest with himself, Sasuke had actually helped him today more than anyone else.
Naruto suddenly found himself wondering if maybe he hadn't been overblowing his hatred of Sasuke, simply because he'd been envious over Sakura. Maybe he'd been blinded all along to who Sasuke really was. Maybe, if Naruto hadn't been so obsessed with getting Sakura, he would have realized Sasuke would make a really good friend.
Sure, Sasuke was still an arrogant asshole who couldn't seem to stop insulting Naruto whenever he had the chance, but that didn't mean they couldn't be friends, right? After all, Kiba insulted Naruto all the time, and even though Naruto could get really angry at him for that, he knew in the end that they would always be really good friends. Even now when he still felt a little angry, he knew that tomorrow they would eventually make up and everything would be all right. That's just how they were, and it helped that Naruto was notoriously forgiving.
Naruto looked over at Sasuke again, noticing he was still awake.
"Hey, Sasuke?" Naruto voice was louder than he'd expected it to be, almost shattering the still atmosphere in the room, and he cringed.
Sasuke turned his head to face him. "What?"
Naruto bit his lip, wondering how he should phrase what he wanted to say without sounding like a complete idiot. He could feel those black eyes trained on him and somehow it made him feel nervous.
"You're…" Naruto began, licking his lips again, which were suddenly dry. "You're not as much of a bastard as I thought."
One of Sasuke's eyebrows twitched upward for a moment, before he looked back up at the ceiling. "Hn."
Naruto smiled and turned onto his side, looking out the window. He was pretty sure Sasuke had taken it as the compliment it was meant to be.
He yawned and his eyes suddenly felt heavy. He finally allowed sleep to overtake him, and halfway through the night, he unconsciously rolled onto his side and faced Sasuke, one arm stretched out across the space between their futons with a small smile tugging at his lips.
End of Part I.
AN: I know, this is crap, right? I totally tried to write a one-shot but it grew into a behemoth and I had to cut it into two. It was really just supposed to be an exercise to get me back into writing after spending so much time playing video games and neglecting my fics.