Is there any way I can express how very sorry I am for the years I have neglected this story? Yeah, I didn't think so. So please don't kill me. I won't be able to write the story then D:
Thanks to dear Payce (curse yoouuu) I've reread my preexisting chapters of this story and found out that it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was before. Maybe there's some hope for finishing it after all. Thus, I've drafted a new direction for this story that may or may not mesh as well with the previous chapters. I've gone on to college, my writing style has changed a little bit (hopefully for the better), and I've decided to focus more on romance than drama until later.
Wish me luck that I can continue to update this story!
Disclaimer: All chars and the Naruto-verse belong to Kishimoto, but this plot belongs to me.
"Ooh… that Shikamaru makes me so mad!"
In all reality, Hinata didn't know if Ino was madder about her on-and-off boyfriend or the fact that her meatball sandwich was missing one meatball. Sakura evidently wasn't sure either.
"Again?" Sakura sighed. "What did he do this time?"
Ino shot her friend a deadly glare. "This is nothing like the level of the 'other times'," she hissed. "This time is unforgivable."
Hinata sweated a little. Ino was really passionate about whatever she talked about.
"This time…" Ino pounded a fist on the table, "… he's seeing some chick from Suna!"
Sakura shook her head. "That's it? That's why you're so ticked off?"
Ino glared again. "What's with you dismissing me like that? This is serious stuff! Shikamaru's not allowed to see anyone besides me! He's mine!"
"So, why did you break up with him in the first place?" Hinata was beginning to wonder the same thing.
"Because he was being a lazy ass! Because it was his fault in the first place that he broke my heart like that piece of cheap straw that likes to chew with his teeth!"
"… I think you're being a drama queen, Ino-pig."
Ino was not about to let up. "I am not! You are so much more like a drama queen than me, Forehead Girl!"
Sakura's face said that she knew she was probably going to regret where this conversation was going, but she was too stubborn to stop. "Oh? And what time was that?"
"As if I have to tell you. Don't you remember Sekihara-sempai in high school? You were crazy for him!"
Sakura blushed angrily. "T-that was just a schoolgirl crush. You have no business using that to blackmail me! I'm completely different from what I used to be like!"
"Sure… and what about that extremely hot guy that you said is living with Hina-chan?" Ino sneered. "You're even crazier for him than you were for Sempai!"
Hinata immediately snapped to attention as she heard her own name. "H-Huh?" Wait, were they talking about Sasuke-san?
Sakura stuck out her chin in a challenging way. "So what? He simply just happens to be extremely hot. I can't help how hot he is. Isn't that right, Hina-chan?"
"Any girl would fall for him! And it just so happens that I have my eye on him!"
Ino didn't answer immediately. Instead, she narrowed her eyes and looked hard at her friend before continuing. "Then… are you sure that Hina-chan doesn't object? She does live with the guy, you know. Are you sure that there's really nothing going on between them?"
Sakura's eyes flashed angrily. "Of course I'm sure! He's just your model, right, Hina-chan? You already told me that you're not in any sort of relationship with him."
Hinata wasn't so sure that she liked the tone of this argument or that Sakura-san was putting her on the spot. "H-he's a good friend…" she said mildly, trying to honestly define their relationship.
"See!" Sakura cried triumphantly. "He's a friend, not a boyfriend. That means that he's single, and that I have a fair shot at him."
"But if Naruto's whining was any clue, it seems that every girl in the art department now knows just how hot he is thanks to Hina-chan's painting … what are you going to do about that?"
Sakura had reached the end of her rope. "Stop trying to be so logical, Ino-pig! Your attachment to Shikamaru isn't any more realistic, you know! A girl's allowed to dream, but you've got to know when to let go!"
It seemed that both girls had run out of steam for their petty argument. Hinata felt mildly better now that the atmosphere wasn't so tense now, but unbeknownst to her, a woman's stamina for gossip was a force to be reckoned with.
"So…" Ino began, twirling a long strand of blond hair with her finger. "I heard about that blackout that you had last week…
"Oh, please!" Sakura began another rebuttal. "As if you weren't there!"
"Well, I wasn't. I was out with Daddy on a Special Day. We went to the beach and rented a few movies." Ino gave a righteous pout before remembering what it was that she had wanted to ask about. "Oh, but that's beside the point. Hina-chan, what was it like spending the entire night with the hottest guy on campus?"
"B-b-but nothing h-happened!" Hinata stuttered, trying valiantly to defend her and her dormmates' honor. "We just t-t-talked!"
"Oh, don't be so shy!" cut in Sakura impatiently. "I heard from Sai that there were really weird sounding noises coming from your rooms. I didn't think that he would be that sort of person. Did he come on to you or something?"
Hinata was too mortified to say anything. Her throat had just dried up, and all the heat in her body seemed to have migrated to her bright red face.
"Still, give us the steamy details! We're both dying for them!" Poised above her folded arms, Ino and her wide rows of straight white teeth looked like the feminine incarnation of the Cheshire Cat.
"… b-but, we really did just talk…"
"Oh, don't try to trick me, Hina-chan. You're really cute, but that stutter is completely not fooling my lie-dar."
"It's the truth!" Hinata insisted, nearly in tears. "I-I know it may not seem like it, but Sasuke-san is really nice and wouldn't ever do something like that to me. And we r-really are good friends, so-" here she took a deep breath to steady herself, "- I would like you to stop disrespecting him that way!"
Ino and Sakura stared. Sweet Hina-chan never raised her voice at them!
"Disrespecting him?" Ino wondered aloud. "Did I come off as doing that? Huh." She smiled apologetically at Hinata. "Sorry I came off like that, Hina-chan. I don't really know the guy so I was just throwing words around."
Ino paused. Was Hinata really that dense? "… you did know that I was teasing you, right?"
Ino and Sakura burst into laughter. Hinata blushed, confused and slightly insulted. "What's wrong?" she asked hotly. "Did I say something wrong?"
Sakura brushed a tear from her pale eyelashes. "Oh, you are so cute, Hinata! We were making fun of you, not Sasuke-kun! Haven't you ever done anything like that with your old girlfriends?"
Hinata blushed even more deeply, embarrassed that she'd let herself get so worked up over nothing. "Um… I didn't have that many friends in high school," she confessed. "I'm sorry if I jumped to assumptions and yelled at you guys."
Ino gave her a big hug and assured her that all was forgiven. Another thought nagged at her sharp mind. "It's adorable how much credit you give that Sasuke guy," she remarked, brain racing. "Are you sure you don't like him, Hina-chan?"
"N-no!" Sakura and Ino shared another giggle at Hinata's panicked denial. "Sasuke-san is kind of scary, but he's also really nice! I admire him so much; I would never think about him that way!"
"Man, what I wouldn't give for Sakura-chan to think about me that way…" Naruto rested his chin on the top of his tackle box and let out a long-suffering sigh.
"I would think that the '-chan' you add to the end of her name would give you some home advantage," remarked the slacker named Shikamaru dryly from the grass beside him.
"Alas, the classic curse of the unlucky childhood friend!" exclaimed Sai gleefully. Naruto glared at him but ultimately gave up. It was never worth it to get angry at Sai. The man took phallic insults to a whole new level.
Sasuke rolled his eyes at the motley group of guys beside him. Of course they had to be Naruto's friends; why else would they be such massive losers? "So pathetic," he muttered under his breath.
Somehow, the fat one took offense at that one. "Oi, are you implying that you're better than us? Who the hell are you to say that? And why are you here anyway?"
"Chill, Chouji," said Shikamaru quietly.
Sasuke reluctantly bit back a vicious retort about Chouji having sharp ears like a pig. Naruto just shrugged and gave Chouji a 'what can you do?' look. "Chill, dude," he echoed. "He's just won the lottery of life because he was born smart and good-looking. You should have seen the riot that the girls in my morning class made today when Hina-chan unveiled his picture…"
"Unbelievable," sighed Shika. "Maybe if that happened to me, it wouldn't be so freaking troublesome to get a girlfriend."
"Weren't you dating that blonde who's friends with Sakura-chan?" Naruto inquired curiously.
Shikamaru heaved a massive sigh. "I was, but she dumped me after I had some arranged marriage meeting with the principal's daughter from that Suna private school. Sheesh, it's not like we ever really hit it off or anything. Good riddance to her; she was so high-maintenance…"
"At least you got a hot girlfriend for a time!" Naruto exclaimed. "My crush won't even acknowledge my feelings! And you, stupid git!" He glared at Sasuke, who raised an eyebrow. "You're already living with a cute girl! And modeling for her! How the hell do you get so lucky?"
"He's living with a cute girl?" moaned Chouji.
"Unbelievable," repeated Shikamaru.
Sasuke rolled his eyes again and added a fearsome sneer to increase its effect. "Morons. She and I share rent and I model for her. End of story."
"But you spent a night together that time during the blackout!" cried Naruto, outraged. "Whatcha got to say about that, asshole?"
"In a very compromising position," Sai helpfully added.
"Fucking idiots, the lot of you," Sasuke growled. "How many times do I have to say this? We talked. We fell asleep. You mowed down the door. How hard is that for you morons to understand? She and I get along civilly and that is all!"
He picked up his bag and stomped away, furious pace accelerated by the sound of disappointed booing coming from Naruto and Sai.
'… now that's not entirely accurate,' he found himself thinking once he got out of range of those annoying losers.
Hinata wasn't just some random girl he happened to share an apartment with. She had a name, a face, a personality, a unique position in his world. She existed as a living, breathing entity in his world filled with cardboard cutouts, and that had to count for something, right?
… since when did this happen?
Sasuke found he was slightly amused rather than irritated. How did that mousy little girl who spent the largest part of the day apologizing worm her way into his world?
Ah, well. About time he started making real friends.
Once again, I cannot apologize enough for this story. But worry not! I will finish! … eventually.
For anyone who wants to see a bit of my inspiration for the rest of this story, please check out a manga called 'Venus wa Katamoi' by Nakaji Yuki. It's a great manga and its art is very cute.
Next chapter: 2nd project – the need for speed.