Paint Job: Gloss

"This is the worst mission in the history of… forever," Naruto groaned, throwing himself down on the grass to stare up at the sky. "Who in their right mind would want to watch paint dry?"

Sakura sighed, still standing stubbornly as if to remind Naruto of their duty. "Naruto, that isn't our official mission, and you know it. Whoever this vandal is has beaten rank genin already. That's why Iruka-sensei hired us. Besides, it's not all bad. We're getting paid for doing nothing, basically."

"What if the vandals don't come tonight?" Naruto said in a deadpan voice.

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Then we'll be back the next night."

"And if not then either?"

"Then the next."

"And if they don't show then?"

"And… the next night after that." Sakura sighed and slumped down to sit on the ground beside her teammate.

Naruto scowled up at the sky, hands cushioning his head on the grass. "This is stupid. I bet I get this punk within five minutes of his getting here."

Sakura grinned slyly. "Let's make this 'boring mission' more interesting then. Care to back that up?"

"Huh?"

"Want to bet on it?" Sakura plucked a blade of grass and began to shred it with her fingers. "I'll be generous. Within ten minutes, whoever captures the target first, wins."

Naruto glanced at her, a grin starting in the corner of his mouth. "I think Tsunade-baachan is a bad influence on you."

Sakura laughed and flicked the pieces of shredded grass at him. "Perhaps. So what do you say?"

"What are the stakes?"

"Hmm..." Sakura tapped her finger against her mouth in thought; then smiled. "If I win, for the next month when we go somewhere to eat, it can't be Ichiraku."

Naruto looked horrified. "B-but Sakura-chan, that's... that's..." he trailed off, his vocabulary apparently not large enough to accommodate such a heinous act.

"The stake has to be worth something," Sakura reminded him with chuckle. "And it's worth it to me to try the different restaurants in Konoha."

Naruto sat up and dug around in his pocket. "What about Gama-chan?" He pulled out the chubby little frog wallet, thrusting it under her nose.

Sakura snickered. "As cute as it is that you still carry that thing around, Naruto, I get paid pretty well at the hospital, so no luck."

"Fine," Naruto said with a pout. Stuffing Gama-chan back in his pocket, he laid back on the grass to consider her offer. What would he want if he won? He glanced back over at the pink-haired kunoichi, noticing the cute way her hair kept falling over her face.

"Sakura-chan… can I bet anything?"

Sakura shrugged. "Sure, why not? As long it's not illegal." She cast him a sidelong glance, suddenly suspicious. "Or perverted."

"Hehe," Naruto chuckled. He knew what he wanted. "Then, if I win, Sakura-chan, I get to give you a kiss."

"WHAT?!"

Naruto rolled out of reach, but she seemed too stunned for violence. A faint blush rose on her cheeks and one eyebrow twitched. "Naruto, you… you…"

"You said anything, Sakura-chan! And one little kiss isn't perverted," Naruto reminded her, grinning.

Sakura scowled, her face still red, then she turned away, chin high. "Fine. But I don't have anything to worry about, 'cause I'll catch him first!" With that she leapt into a nearby tree and soon hid herself on a branch. Naruto followed suit, though stayed a safe distance away.

They could see the main academy building perfectly from this angle and the smell of fresh paint wasn't too strong with the light breeze that rustled the leaves of the trees they perched in. The vandal for some reason, had taken a dislike to the new coat of paint maintenance workers had given to the Ninja Academy building. The head administrator of the building had charged Iruka with finding out the identity of the culprit, but so far no luck. The genin he'd sent to guard the building had fallen under some genjutsu. Unluckily Naruto and Sakura had been in the room when Iruka had requested better help from Tsunade and they'd been given the mission.

Naruto shifted on his branch, eye on the most likely path the vandal would take. Twilight was falling on Konoha; the target would be arriving soon. He glanced over at Sakura's branch and then frowned. Why was she holding a hand seal like that? Wasn't that to release genjutsu? Naruto looked back at the Academy but saw nothing.

Wait a minute. Naruto formed a seal. "Kai!" he hissed. The air wavered like a mirage and then he saw a dark shadow already in front of the Academy wall. The figure flashed through a few hand seals and reached out a hand to touch the freshly painted wall. Colors rippled over the surface of the wall, swirling into bizarre patterns until the building resembled a psychedelic circus tent.

Out of the corner of his eye, Naruto saw a flash of pink and then Sakura was leaping down to confront the target.

"Damn!" he muttered, standing up on his branch. He'd been so busy wondering at the vandal's jutsu he'd forgotten about the bet. But by the time he leapt down to the ground, Sakura already had the target—a boy of about thirteen with short red hair—in a tight grip, his feet lifting off the ground. She turned and saw Naruto approaching and smirked.

"Guess I win—"

There was a flash of smoke and the red-haired boy in Sakura's grip vanished, replaced by a can of paint.

Naruto laughed. "Substitution jutsu!"

Sakura scowled, set the paint can on the ground and looked around the area with sharp eyes. "Where'd he go?"

"Ninja art: Paint Bomb Jutsu!"

Naruto and Sakura had time to glance up at the top of the wall to see the red-haired boy silhouetted there, before the paint can at Sakura's feet exploded.

Lurid green paint went everywhere, making Naruto and Sakura look as if they were both covered in slime. Naruto, who'd been further away, just got splattered, but the front of Sakura's body was dripping with paint.

"Sakura-chan! Are you all right?"

Sakura raised a hand to wipe paint from her eyes. "Naruto, that kid should pray you reach him first, because if I do, I'm gonna kill him!"

"Hah! Losers!" sniggered the red-haired boy, still watching them from the top of the wall.

Naruto and Sakura looked at each other. What kind of enemy waited around like that? Obviously their vandal was a little inexperienced. Naruto formed a quick seal.

"Kage bunshin no jutsu!"

Within a few minutes, it was over. The paint can had been the kid's worst offensive jutsu and apparently had taken quite a bit of chakra. He put up a bit of a struggle with some taijutsu, but he was outnumbered. In no time the Naruto clones trussed him up in rope and shuriken wire—hands separated so he couldn't form any more seals.

One of the clones tossed him on the paint-covered ground between Sakura and Naruto and then disappeared a poof of smoke.

"All right, punk, what the heck do you think you were doing?" Sakura grabbed the kid by the ropes where he dangled with one hand, the other hand she closed into a fist, prepared to use it.

Naruto grinned at the dubious look on the kid's face. "I wouldn't be so smug if I were you, kid. Sakura-chan's the apprentice of the Hokage… and I'm sure you've heard what Tsunade-sama is capable of."

The kid gulped and began to wriggle in panic. "I was just mad! I-I wanted to enter the chuunin exams this year, but Iruka-sensei wouldn't let anyone in our class. He says we're too young, too inexperienced."

"Baka!" Sakura growled. "He's right! Do you know what kind of stuff you encounter in the chuunin exams? The Forest of Death is not a playground!"

The red-haired kid sniffed, obviously not impressed. "You've seen my moves. I have a unique jutsu—I can take on anyone."

"Except for us," Naruto laughed. The kid pouted.

Sakura's anger seemed to fade, and she lowered the kid to the ground, still frowning. "You're not going anywhere near the chuunin exams with chakra reserves that low. Two good jutsus—one, really, since I can't imagine what good your first would be in a combat situation—are not enough to survive the chuunin exams. Stay in the Academy—graduate, for crying out loud, and then, after your squad leader thinks you're ready, you'll enter the chuunin exams."

The kid maintained his pout for a moment, and then slumped forward. "Yeah, I guess I knew that. But I'm still mad."

"Well, I'm glad that's over," Sakura muttered, wiping more paint from her forehead. "Let's drag him to Hokage Tower and get this over with, Naruto… Naruto? Why are you smiling like that?"

Naruto chuckled, grinning wide. "I just remembered something. I won our bet."

Sakura's mouth dropped open. "You… you…"

"A bet's a bet, Sakura-chan," he said, stepping toward her with firm purpose.

"B-but…"

He stopped right in front of her and was surprised to not see anger, or exasperation in her eyes but something else, something utterly unfamiliar. And what was wrong with her hands? Was she trembling? Sakura closed her eyes and inhaled a breath, as if bracing herself.

"Okay, just do it then."

Naruto raised an eyebrow. No shouting? No protests? He grinned and leaned forward… and pressed a chaste kiss on her forehead.

Sakura's eyes popped open. "That's it?"

"Yep."

"What the hell kind of kiss was that?"

"Ooof! Sakura-chan! Why'd you hit me?"

"Baka!"

"Hey, are you guys going to stand there all night? Or are you actually going to kiss her?" the red-haired kid added, looking at Naruto. "That was pretty lame."

"Shut up!" Red-faced, Sakura picked up the kid, slung him over her shoulder and leapt to the walls, Naruto right behind.

Iruka and Tsunade were pleased with the fast capture of the target, though Iruka was a little less than pleased to realize that the kid had once again messed up the paint job on the Academy building.

"Go ahead and leave you two. Get that paint off yourselves before it dries," Tsunade ordered. "You can finish the paperwork tomorrow, Sakura."

"Hai!"

Naruto and Sakura left the Hokage Tower and paused on the sidewalk. It was now full night. The street lamps were on and the few people left on the streets were hurrying toward home.

"Well, guess I'll see you tomorrow, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, lifting his arms to the back of his head.

"Naruto?"

"Ne?"

"Why… why did you kiss me like that back there? I mean," she said, gathering steam, "you're always asking me out on a date… and there you get a free chance… and you don't take it?"

Naruto shrugged. "I thought about it," he grinned, "but I decided it would be way better if it wasn't, um, you know, something you felt like you had to do, but didn't really want to because you were weirded out or something. You know, like if a bet weren't involved." He laughed, rubbing the back of his neck, and shrugged again. "I know it sounds stupid, but—"

He didn't get a chance to finish his sentence because Sakura suddenly grabbed the front of his jumpsuit and pressed her paint-bedecked mouth to his.

Naruto used to wonder, if he ever got the chance to kiss Sakura, whether she tasted like cherry popsicles. Now he knew that she did taste like a cherry popsicle... a cherry popsicle covered in paint.

His mind had just registered that fact when she pulled away, flushed and looking surprised—at herself or at Naruto, he had no clue. He was finding it difficult to think of anything at the moment.

"Baka," she said finally, and she turned down the street toward her house.


The end!

Big thanks to singeivoire for putting up with my moaning about how inept I was at writing romance and for her expert beta advice. Be sure to keep an eye on her port for the sequel to "Promises", her Minato/Kushina story.

Also, if any Japanese scholar would care to translate the paint jutsu I made up, I would be infinately grateful!