Paint Job: First Coat

Disclaimer: Guess what? I don't own Naruto. I know, shocking isn't it?

Takes place early shippuden. No spoilers to speak of...


Naruto rubbed the sweat from his face as he jerked the last windmill shuriken from its target. Good training today, and what better way to follow up good training with a good meal?

"Ramen, here I come!" he announced to the empty training field and started running toward the village. As he ran, imagining all the extras he would ask for on his ramen, he wondered if he should stop by Sakura's place and see if she wanted some ramen as well. Maybe he would finally get a date? That cheered him up almost as much as the thought of ramen. However… Naruto paused in his run to raise an arm, noticing the very unattractive sweat stain on his jumpsuit.

Whenever Ero-Sennin had started lecturing Naruto on women, he'd mostly tuned him out. How could the author of such boring books know anything about girls anyway? But one thing the old Toad Sage did seem to know… women liked cleanliness. Naruto frowned. Was a date with Sakura worth delaying ramen for?

After a few moments' deep thought, he decided that yes, it was. After all, the more he waited, the hungrier he would be and thus the more ramen he could eat. Naruto chuckled to himself. Genius!

Going through the main gate would take too long to get to his apartment, so he simply concentrated chakra on his feet and ran up the red walls of Konoha. A chuunin guard on one of the watchtowers stood in shock as he leapt over, but Naruto gave a jaunty wave and continued onto the rooftops.

Fifteen minutes later, Naruto leapt onto the rail outside his apartment, sweat free and clad in a clean jumpsuit.

His wet hair was dry by the time he dropped down in front of Ichiraku, smiling with anticipation.

"Two bowls of miso ramen and two bowls of shrimp ramen, please!" Naruto said, pushing his way through the white curtains adorning the front of the stand to plant himself on a stool.

Behind the counter, Teuchi and his daughter Ayame turned at the sound of his voice, staring at him.

"What?" Naruto checked his armpits again, but all was dry and deodorized.

"Are you sure you want to be here, Naruto-kun? In… public like this?" Ayame said, her brown eyes wide.

Naruto blinked. "Of course! This is the best ramen stand in town; where else would I rather—" He paused mid-sentence, mouth agape. He had completely forgotten about Sakura—he still had to ask her out! "Hold that ramen for me! I'll be right back!"

He ducked out of the ramen stand and trotted down the street, wondering where he should check first; Sakura's house or the hospital?

"Hey, Naruto! Nice job. Can't believe you're still alive."

Naruto turned as Kotetsu and Izumo came up, slapping him on the back.

"Yeah, kid. You sure got guts." Izumo smirked. "Perhaps more guts than brains."

"Ano…" Naruto rubbed the back of his head, wondering what was going on. An idea occurred to him. "Heh, yeah. Ero-Sennin is a good teacher. I learned a lot, ne?"

Kotetsu and Izumo glanced at each other and laughed. "Good one, Naruto!" sniggered Kotetsu, his bandaged nose crinkling. "Well, hey, I don't want to be around when Tsunade-sama finally catches you, so forget you ever saw us, okay?"

"Eh?"

The two chuunin, still laughing, left him standing in the middle of the street.

"That was weird," he muttered but shrugged and continued on his way. He'd try the hospital first, it was closer.

But the weirdness didn't stop as he continued down the road. People along the street were staring at him, mouths agape, whispering behind their hands. A familiar uneasiness stirred in his gut—what now? He wasn't sweaty or stinky. What were they staring at?

"Naruto," drawled a mild voice above him. Naruto looked up and saw a familiar tuft of silver hair.

"Kakashi-sensei?"

The lanky jounin dropped down from the rooftop he'd been sitting on, his new copy of Make-out Tactics in hand. Kakashi patted Naruto on the shoulder. "It was nice knowing you, kid. Think you can coax an autograph out of Jiraiya-sama for me before your imminent demise?"

Naruto stared at his sensei, uncomprehending. "Ano…"

Kakashi lifted his head like a hound scenting the wind and looked down the street. "I think Iruka and Shizune-san are hot on your trail, Naruto. If you want a few more minutes of life, I suggest you get moving."

"But—!" Naruto didn't have time for any more as Kakashi leapt away. He was about to follow, to try to get some answers, but a shout behind him made him pause.

"Naruto!"

The blond teenager turned, eyes bugging out, and saw Iruka standing just down the street. The chuunin's face was red and scrunched up in a familiar expression of rage.

"Just wait till I get my hands on—hey! Stop!"

Naruto didn't know what he'd done or didn't do this time, but he wasn't going to wait to get pummeled. Leaving a cloud of dust in his wake, Naruto sprinted down the street, Iruka still shouting behind him. Dodging civilians was taking too much time, so he leapt to the rooftops and didn't stop until he felt he'd gained some safe distance. He hid in the rooftop garden of one of the taller apartment complexes to catch his breath and run through his scattered memories what he might have done do deserve whatever it was Iruka-sensei and Tsunade-baachan had in mind.

He peered through the foliage cautiously but didn't see any pursuers.

"What the—?" His jaw dropped as his eyes scanned the landscape, his glance falling across the stone faces of the Hokages on the side of the mountain.

"No wonder Tsunade-baachan is angry," he muttered weakly. Tsuande's stone face was one of the higher ones on the side of the mountain, leaving ample space beneath… enough for someone to paint the grey shirt she usually wore onto the mountainside, compete with huge cleavage.

"Oh man, I am in deep sh—"

"Naruto!"

The blond teenager looked down and saw a familiar pink-haired kunoichi glaring up at him.

"S-Sakura-chan!"

"Just you wait until I get my hands on you!" she shouted. Naruto gulped, but before he could scramble around to get out, a shuddering of the floor announced Sakura's arrival.

She stalked over to where he was scrabbling around some bamboo, looking for an escape, and grabbed him by the front of his jacket.

"H-hey, Sakura-chan!" Naruto said with a weak attempt at his usual nonchalant grin. "What's up?"

"You," she said, green eyes narrowed, "are in so much trouble. I'd knock you into next week except Tsuande-sama told me she wanted a piece of you first!"

"S-S-Sakura-chan, I swear, I didn't do it!" Naruto protested. "I've been training all morning!"

"Then why were you hiding, baka?" she growled, shaking him so that his teeth rattled.

"Cause Iruka-sensei was mad at me, and I didn't know why!"

Sakura's eyes narrowed even further as she looked him over. "If you've been training all morning then why aren't you sweaty and gross?"

"I took a shower!" he said, voice cracking with his rising panic. Naruto could feel the strength in her arms and knew from their mission into Suna that she could crack boulders with a single punch. He was dead. Squeezing his eyes shut, he wondered if he dared ask for a last meal of ramen before his execution. His stomach was growling furiously now; angry that the promised four bowls of ramen had not been forthcoming.

But nothing happened. Cautiously, he opened one blue eye. Sakura was looking at him, her gaze still suspicious, but no longer that familiar expression of imminent beheading. With a sigh, she let go of his jacket, and he dropped to the ground.

"You're many things, Naruto, but a liar is not one of them." She tossed him a sidelong glance. "If you didn't do it, who did?"

Naruto's lower lip jutted out. "Why does everyone automatically assume that it was me?"

Sakura rolled her eyes and tousled his hair roughly. "Because, baka, you always do stuff like that. Didn't you get in trouble for painting the Hokage faces once?"

"Hmpf. That was a long time ago," he said, pouting. His eyes slid once more to the paint job on the side of the mountain. He could even see small specks clinging on its side as if someone trying to clean off the gigantic painted cleavage already. Biting back the urge to chuckle—it was a good prank, after all—Naruto rubbed the back of his neck, thinking.

"I don't know. The only person I can think of that has paint is Sai." His eyes widened, and he looked up at his teammate. "That has to be it! The bastard!"

Sakura shook her head, pink hair falling into her eyes. "Sai's a jerk, but he's not an idiot. Besides, you know how he is. He wouldn't do something like that—it would never occur to him to have a little fun." Sakura clamped her mouth shut as Naruto turned his face toward her, eyebrows raised so high they were hidden behind his hitai-ate.

"Fun? You think it's funny too, don't you, Sakura-chan?" His grin was unmistakable now, stretching wide across his whiskered face.

Sakura tried to scowl, but her eyebrow twitched. "Don't change the subject! I don't approve at all!"

Naruto shook his head in mock disapproval. "Tch. Liars never prosper, Sakura-chan! Oof!" Sakura cuffed him round the head, but it wasn't with her full strength. He saw immediately that she was just trying to distract him from seeing her mouth, which was trembling with the effort to not smile. Just a little more…

"Come on, it's a good prank? Almost as good as the first time we met Kakashi-sensei, ne? Remember the eraser that I stuck in the door so that it bounced off his head? What was really funny was that you couldn't even tell afterward, cause the chalk dust blended in with his hair!"

That did it. Sakura clapped her hands over her mouth, but the giggles came through anyway. Naruto chuckled as well, and for a moment, forgot the danger he was in.

"There you are!"

Naruto squawked in alarm and looked over the ledge of the apartment. Iruka, Shizune, one white-masked ANBU agent, and Tsunade stared up at him. Aside from the ANBU, whose mask was unreadable, they were all wearing matching glares. Tsunade especially looked as if she'd like nothing more than to crush Naruto's head between her hands.

"Oh damn!" Naruto gulped. "Sakura-chan! Help!"

"This way!" She grabbed his hand and together they leapt to another nearby roof and started running.

Konoha's streets passed by in a blur beneath, but it was no good. Naruto glanced behind and saw all four of their pursuers closing in. Tsunade looked over at the ANBU and yelled something. The ANBU, in turn, vanished. This is bad, he thought, panic turning his veins to ice. They were going to be trapped!

"Sakura-chan, the—"

"Hush, I know where I'm going."

"B-but Sakura--!"

"Be quiet! Concentrate on running, Naruto. You're slowing us down!"

Naruto took his hand back briefly and formed his hands into the familar seal. "Kage bunshin no jutsu!"

Eight clones popped into existence, four of them poofing into Sakura. The Sakura clones each grabbed one of the Naruto clones, and the various pairs shot off into different directions.

"Good idea!" the real Sakura yelled back at him.

The words had barely left her mouth when Naruto saw two kunai fly out—from the hidden ANBU agent probably—and felt two of the clones go down. His diversion wasn't going to last long.

Sakura dropped down between the buildings and started running. Zigzagging right and left through dark back streets, Naruto soon lost all sense of direction. Another four clones whooshed out of existence.

"Here!" She suddenly pulled him into a dark alley with no exit. A cat looked up from a trash can and hissed. They flattened themselves against the wall, breathing shallowly to try to hear any sign of their pursuit. The last two clones disappeared.

"Sakura-chan," he tugged on her sleeve, "they got all of my—" He fell stupidly silent as she put a finger to his lips.

"Shhh!" she hissed, green eyes wide in the dark. "Iruka-sensei," she mouthed. Sure enough, when Naruto poked his head around the corner, he spied his former Academy instructor glancing down an alley not far from where they were hiding.

"Hiding from someone?" The last voice that Naruto wanted to hear purred right next to his ear. He let out an unmanly yelp and tried to shrink into the building at his back as Tsunade, a vein throbbing in her head, glared at him.

"Tsunade-sama!" gasped Sakura. Within seconds, Iruka, Shizune, and the ANBU agent had them cornered in the little alley. Iruka smirked, looking satisfied. Shizune looked from Tsunade's glare back to Naruto cowering against the wall, her expression starting to fade to worried.

"T-Tsunade-baachan, you've got it all wrong!" Naruto protested weakly as the weight of all the glares started pressing down on him.

"Tsunade-shisou! I can explain!" Sakura stepped in front of Naruto, her arm actually going so far as to tuck him behind her. It didn't work too well, seeing as he was several inches taller, not to mention wider, but he supposed it was the thought that counted.

"Explain?" Iruka scowled. "There are gigantic breasts on Hokage Mountain!"

Shizune cringed. The ANBU agent took one careful step away. Tsunade, cheeks pink, turned to level her glare at Iruka, whose jaw worked soundlessly for a moment, as if he too couldn't believe what he said.

"Oh boy, you've done it now, Iruka-sensei," sniggered Naruto. Big mistake. Tsunade's attention swiveled back to him.

"Tsunade-shisou, p-please, you don't understand," Sakura stammered. "Naruto and I—"

Tsunade turned her wrathful gaze on the pink-haired kunoichi. "Oh? So you had a hand in that mess too? I should have known." She scowled as Sakura's face drained of color. "Tch. You think just because this kid's back you can go back to having good times? I'm going to have to speak to Kakashi about you as well. But first..."

Naruto nearly wept tears of Gai-sensei proportions when she closed one fist in the other and cracked her knuckles.


"This is not how I wanted to spend my day, Naruto!" growled Sakura, leaning against the painted rock, her scrubbing brush working hard. They were standing on a on a small suspended platform that was lowered from the top of Tsunade's stone head to reach the painted section.

Naruto glanced at his pink-haired teammate, pushed up his sleeves, and started digging in with his own brush.

"At least you have the flatter side," he grumbled. "Tsunade-baachan made sure I got this end. Look, there's all sorts of crevices and stuff here where it's the hardest to get the paint off. Say…" He reached back into the deepest niche, catching a glint of silver. "Hey, Sakura-chan! I found a paint bucket!"

Sakura came over to his end of the board. "Huh. Must be where the culprit rested the can to finish the job. What's wrong?"

Naruto was staring at back at the crevice. Mouth agape, he pulled a scrap of blue-green cloth from a jagged edge of stone. "This… this is the color of Konohamaru's scarf!"

Sakura's eyes glinted. "That little twerp! What do you say to paying him back later for all the fun we're having?"

Naruto grinned. "Hehe. Sounds like a good idea to me!" He turned to put paint can on the platform between them, but the lid wasn't on tight and gray paint sloshed out over his hand. He looked from his hand to Sakura, who had turned back to scrubbing at the rock, and a grin stretched across his face.

Using all the stealth he possessed, Naruto inched forward, finger dripping with paint extended. He meant just to tap her on the shoulder, but at that moment she turned and his finger left a wide streak of gray across her cheek. In a heartbeat's worth of panic, Naruto wondered if he should abandon hope and fling himself over the edge of the platform. Then Sakura dived toward the paint bucket and next thing he knew a glob of paint in the shape of Sakura's hand was on the black part of his jumpsuit.

He raised his shocked blue eyes to meet her jade green ones, swirling with mischief.

"Oh, it's on, now!"

A long time later, voices hoarse from shrieking with laughter, they realized they ran out of paint—because it was all over both of them. Sakura grinned through the streaks of paint on her face that made her look somewhat like a zebra and wriggled a completely paint-covered hand at Naruto.

"Truce?"

He grabbed her hand, squishing the last of the paint into it; laughing as her nose wrinkled. "Truce."

They turned back to their scrub brushes and water buckets. As he renewed his attack on the painted rock, Naruto glanced back over at Sakura. It wasn't his ideal kind of date, but it had worked out just fine.


Author's note: This is the first in a semi-chaptered short story featuring Naruto and Sakura. Hopefully the second will be out next week.