Despite All My Rage
Despite All My Rage
She had known something was off about that hamster the moment she lay eyes on it. No healthy, normal rodent had rings like that around its eyes. She almost pulled back in horror as it was thrust in her face, cage and all, but Sakura had promised, and she tried never to go back on her words.
That didn't mean she had to suffer in silence, however.
"Naruto!" she yelled, trying not to flee from the horribly pissed-off looking hamster as it was practically shoved up her left nostril in the blond's enthusiasm, "Take it easy! I said I'd watch him for you so back off all ready! I don't need to get up close and personal with your little rat!"
The offending wire cage was removed by a now sheepish looking Naruto as he dropped it a little lower and scratched the back of his head while grinning his trade mark 'Disarming Grin! (Patent Pending).'
"Sorry, Sakura-chan!" he yelled, barely managing to stand still enough to keep the cage from jostling the now-squeaking and visibly angry mammal inside. Sakura did a quick little double take. Was that hamster surrounded by swirling clouds of bedding? Surely not, it had to be a product of her over active imagination, combined with the stress and exhaustion she felt after a long shift at the hospital. It was time to go inside and escape the heat.
"Come in the house already," she sighed, giving up on getting angry with her hyper friend. It never did any good (though a well-placed punch often made her feel better) and his puppy-dog eyes always made her feel like the mean one any time they squabbled.
In fact, those same eyes were the tools he ruthlessly wielded in order to get her to pet sit for him in the first place. He'd cornered her in the library where she'd been looking over a couple obscure blood replenishing jitsus. He'd pounced her, held her down before she could escape, and poured every ounce of 'cute and innocent' he could into one whammy of a 'help me, I'm adorable!' cocktail. Then he'd launched into a little speech about how she was the only one he could trust to help him nurture his new pet while he went on a dangerous A-ranked mission for the next week or so. She'd protested, of course, saying that his girlfriend Hinata could do it, or maybe Kakashi, before he'd turned the eyes up full blast and hit her with everything he had. She was still reeling from its effectiveness, hence her resignation as he set the small cage on her coffee table.
"I really appreciate this, Sakura-chan! You're the greatest! I wouldn't trust anyone else with this little guy, believe it! You're the coolest, the nicest, the strongest..." There was probably more to the speech but truthfully Sakura tuned him out. It would go on for a while no matter what she said or did, short of knocking him out. She skipped telling him to shut his mouth in favor of getting a closer look at her brand new roommate.
The little hamster was an odd one, that was for sure. Naruto claimed he'd bought him from a local pet store, but somehow that didn't sit right with the pink haired kunoichi. For one, most hamsters she'd seen would trundle around their cages happily munching on whatever little seeds or nuts they could get their hands on. Their cheeks were stuffed to adorable proportions with food pellets and their little bellies were round and begged to be poked.
This little guy was surly, sitting smack dab in the middle of the cage, glowering. Sakura was pretty sure it wasn't natural and shouldn't be possible for a rodent to project that much anger and dissatisfaction. There was not a chubby cheek in sight.
Second, this hamster looked like it might have come straight from hell, for all intents and purposes. It was a dark rust color with a red patch covering its head and extending part ways down its back. That was odd in itself, but its eyes...
Its eyes were ringed with the blackest rings she'd ever seen, giving the hamster the appearance of insomnia even though they were made of hair and not caused by sleep deprivation. The overall effect was creepy and very unsettling. Unsettling and strangely familiar, but she couldn't quite place what this rodent reminded her of...
It was just weird and she didn't like the way the hamster's eyes focused on her, staring her down as she was looking it over. It gave her the willies because he wasn't supposed to look so aware of his surroundings. He wasn't supposed to be looking at Naruto like he was an idiot (though she privately agreed) and shouldn't be looking like he'd rather chew his own leg off than be where he was at that moment.
She'd have to keep this little guy in her own home while Naruto was away, feeding it and changing its bedding and keeping it alive! This hellion would be sharing her private space, invading her inner sanctuary, and she felt like she'd invited a vampire passed the threshold!
What she wouldn't give for a little reassuring nibbling. Look! There was a perfectly good kernel of corn in its food bowl! Why, oh why wouldn't it nibble! Why was it staring at her like that!
Her internal freak-out session couldn't have lasted for more than fifteen seconds, but it was long enough for Naruto to notice that not only hadn't she hit him or told him to shut up already, she wasn't even listening. She seemed to be looking at his hamster a little too closely for his comfort.
"Um, Sakura..." he ventured, snapping her out of her trance. "What are you staring at?"
"Nothing!" she denied a little to quickly, turning too look at him with a sheepish smile before her face got an inquisitive look. Naruto gulped a little, wondering how with one look she'd turned the tables back on him. It was uncanny. He braced himself, knowing what was coming.
"Hey, by the way, where did you say you got this little guy?" she asked a little too casually, taking in the way his smile got a little more forced and his eyes darted around a little more than usual. He was up to something.
"Who, him?" Naruto asked, clearly stalling for time. "I told you! I got him from the pet store!"
"Which pet store?" Sakura pressed, inwardly adding, 'Satan's pet shop?'
"Tamaki's?" Naruto asked, before realizing it wasn't supposed to come out as a question. "I mean, yeah! Yes, it was Tamaki's Pet Shop. I went in there... yesterday! Because they had... a sale! On hamsters. And cages! And I've always wanted one?" He was sweating.
"Tamaki's doesn't sell hamsters," Sakura said in triumph. She'd known he was lying! That thing didn't look like any creature sold to the public. "They only sell fish and reptiles."
"Eh heh heh..." Naruto said, looking wildly around the room. His eyes landed on the hamster itself, and if she didn't know better she'd swear it was shaking its head in disgust at his antics.
He perked up a second later, however, and raised a fist to the sky triumphantly.
"Of course they don't!" he yelled, jumping up and striking a pose, "That's why it was on sale! They tried it for one day only and didn't like it! I had to take him off their hands!"
Sakura groaned and sat back in resignation. What did it matter anyway? He'd asked her to pet sit, she'd agreed, and now she was stuck with a hamster that might suck her soul from her body as she slept. Great.
"Oh! Look at the time!" Naruto said with false cheer, heading to the door sideways, "I can't be late for the briefing! I'm off!"
"Yeah, yeah," Sakura waved him away, consigning herself to her fate. "Be safe, you big jerk."
Suddenly Naruto popped back up in front of her, a more serious expression on her face than usual.
"Hey, Sakura," he said, looking her straight in the eyes, "just take care of this little guy, okay? I really didn't want to leave him behind right now, but I have no choice. I have to go and it's important he's protected, okay?"
"Yeah, sure, Naruto," she said, a little baffled at the direction the conversation took, "I'll take care of the little fur ball, okay?"
"It's not just that..." he began, but didn't seem to know what to say, but she could tell he was nervous and felt it to be important. He finally shook his head and continued, "Just make sure he gets some exercise, and maybe leave the tv on where he can see it if you leave? Maybe put on the radio where he can hear it? And could you get one of those hamster balls for him to use so he could go around the apartment? And talk to him about current affairs so he can keep up with world events?" He looked so earnest that Sakura was baffled.
"Sure, I could do that," she said, willing to humor him. It was his first pet, after all. Yes it was a creepy, likely possessed rodent, but Naruto hadn't had parents to buy him goldfish or puppies when he was growing up. He'd just barely gotten his first pet at the old age of 23 and it was understandable if he got a little more attached to it than was normal.
"Great!" he yelled, swooping down on her to lift her into a bone-crushing hug that knocked the air from her lungs with a 'whoosh!'
"Go already!" she shouted, laughing a little as she thumped him on the back and effectively pushing him towards her front door. "You'll be late!"
He just grinned as he bounded away as usual, all energy and excitement, shouting back how awesome she was over his shoulder as he took off to save the day on another daring mission. When he was finally gone Sakura turned to face the demon hamster, talking to it and herself in an attempt to lighten the suddenly oppressive mood.
"Well, little buddy, it's just you and me!" she said with forced cheerfulness, picking up the cage and lifting it to eye level, hands on either side of the wire walls.
The thing inside, all four inches of less-than-fluffy and decidedly not chubby or cute hamster, was glowering at her. She just knew it.
"You and me both, buddy," she said waspishly under her breath, catching sight of its expression. "If it were up to me I wouldn't be spending my weekend off with a hideous, vile, demonic rodent like you for a house guest!"
She'd said it quietly without expecting any answer from said rodent, but it quickly let its feelings be known.
With speed she'd never have anticipated it darted to where her thumb rested on the wires, slightly inside the cage, and bit down, hard.
With a shriek Sakura dropped the cage on the table, barely restraining herself from sending a chakra infused punch straight through the middle of it in retaliation, and raised the wounded digit to her eyes for inspection.
'Great!' she thought, glaring at the demon spawn that looked smug and satisfied as it sat back on its haunches, staring at her, 'The little bastard drew first blood!'
It was going to be a long week.
AN: Tee-hee! This is going to be purely for fun.