Playing Cupid's Fool
Summary: After Sasuke answers a dating ad in the local newspaper, he's inadvertently paired up with the oddest "Cupid" he's ever met. Despite being both male, they agree to go out on the one-date requirement in the hopes that Sasuke's own dating ways will improve. Little did they know, that being pushed together so suddenly would ignite sparks of their own. NaruSasuNaru, AU.
Comments: If anyone's been reading my profile in the past month or two, some of you may know that I am, in fact, leaving the Naruto fandom until further notice. I think Kishimoto may have lost his plot somewhere along the road and I really think I've milked the poor anime for all it's worth. That being said, I decided to close it all up with a oneshot that has taken me two long, grueling months of trying to find just exactly the right words. 25 pages on Word, I couldn't have made that up if I tried.
Hopefully, everyone enjoys this as much as I enjoyed writing it. And that no one becomes discouraged or even disappointed in me that I'm not longer writing for Naruto. Truth be told, I think this is really a extended vacation. I may jump back in far from now; the characters are just far too lovable to really leave.
Mood Song: Undecided by Dir en Grey
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, never have, never will.
A strong January wind rushes through the small coffee shop I am sitting in, rustling my newspaper around my hands and causing a cold chill to shoot parallel to my spine. My coffee isn't nearly strong enough to my liking and it's been more than once that the hostess has come over, asking me if I needed anything else with an all-too-eager grin set on her face.
Monday mornings are never fun.
It has to be about forty-eight degrees outside according to the bright smile of the forecaster and although the sun is shining from its high position in the early morning sky, it's still uncomfortably cold. To top it off, I'm lonely.
Loneliness isn't a feeling I express openly around my colleagues; I'm far too proud to do that. But that doesn't stop me from feeling it any less. It's been two years since my last steady relationship, a month since my last date. I'm almost starting to get a bit desperate for just a little fun.
Desperate enough to turn to the dating ads in the back of the newspaper, even. There's a few I skim over quickly, ignoring the bright and colorful ads with a lot of exclamation points. No need in getting someone more or as desperate than me. Shallow, I know. Shut up.
I'm about ready to give up and chunk the paper back down on the table and leave this god-forsaken coffee shop and its flirtatious hostesses when an ad in the far left corner catches my eye. The typing is simple and neat, a plus. But what catches me is the caption.
I'm not here to meet the love of my life. Only here to take you out on one amazing date and help those see around you how important a person you really are. No strings, no attachments. Just fun. Place a text at 786-4552 to set up a date.
It almost sounds way too good to be true. It could even be some creep luring off vulnerable women who have self-esteem issues to murder and rape them in some back alley.
So I can't really explain why my cell phone is out on the table in front of me and I'm punching in this number and a text asking where to meet up. The phone beeps in my hands, signaling that the message has been sent and I sit back heavily in the booth. Have I really fallen this far? Did I seriously just text a total stranger to take me out on a date? I'm going insane, I must be.
I down the rest of my bland coffee and stand, wrapping my coat tightly around myself. The biting chill hits me as soon as I step out of the shop and I huddle further into my jacket, head ducked low to avoid blasts of cold air to my face. My phone beeps impatiently at me in my front pocket and I dig it out, glancing quickly over the screen.
I got your message. Ueno park 9:30 sound good to you?
I glance up, backing into the wall of the store next to me to get out of the way of the pedestrians who are crowding the sidewalk. Ueno Park is just a couple blocks over and it's nine o'clock now. I have thirty minutes to back out of this deal if I want to but for some reason this nagging little voice in the back of my head is telling me to go for it! Take chances!
I text a quick reply and slip my phone back into my pocket, turning on the next street corner in the direction of the park. I know I'm going to be so late for work now that it doesn't really matter if I go in or not. Besides, I own half the place, they'd understand.
As I walk, it seems that everyone's eyes are trained on me, that they're all laughing at my secret, hidden weakness. I want to yell at them to "Shut up, you don't understand how I'm feeling right now!" but I know that that reaction would be met with even more opposition. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I realize that all these people aren't really focusing on me, too focused on their own busy, self-absorbed lives.
Maybe that's why I can't keep a date; I'm too cynical.
Ueno Park is relatively cleared of people, although a few brave souls have still ventured out to feed the chilled ducks in their frozen pond. I spot an overweight woman in a large down jacket chatting with a young man with strikingly blonde hair at a park bench just a few feet away and something in my gut tells me that this lady is where I need to be headed.
Great, she's a big person. Don't take that the wrong way, I'm not that shallow that I wouldn't date a person larger than myself. Maybe I got my hopes up too high that I was going to be met with a total knockout of a woman and think that Christmas was coming early this year. Oh well.
The blonde-haired man glances up when I began trekking towards them and he smiles and, I swear to god, this giant beam of sunlight just shoots straight out of his ass. Infectious, much? You bet. Instantly, it's like all of my woes and bitching from before just kinda vanish, you know? Maybe this lady has got some tricks up her sleeve after all.
To my surprise, when she sees me, she frowns disappointed to herself for a moment before standing and placing a quick kiss on the top of the man's head and walks briskly away. Utterly confused now, I approach the man, my eyes chasing after the direction the woman hustled off to.
"Good morning, I'm Naruto Uzumaki."
I immediately pivot my head in the direction of the deep, scratchy voice and was hit once more by one of those blinding, Care-Bear smiles. Except this guy's wasn't fake.
"Were you the one who just texted me about twenty minutes ago?"
Wait! Hold up one minute! The person from the ad is a guy?! Jesus, they really need to specify gender in those things. And here I thought I was going to be going on an amazing date with a woman, the gender I much rather prefer.
"You're not a broad?!" I exclaim, probably a bit too loudly for the early-morning park-goers but who cares, they already think I'm insane anyways.
Naruto's eyes widen and his mouth drops open. "You're not a chick?!"
I stand there for a moment, my eyes dropping to the ground and riveted on the man's dark-tan Versace Dockers, thinking about how I'm such a shameless fool to even think about partaking in this wild idea.
"Uh...well, this is new for me too as it obviously is for you. I've never had a man answer my ad. We could still go through with it if you want but I understand if you want to escape now with as much grace and dignity as possible," Naruto murmurs, averting his whole body so it looked like he was in flight-mode.
I glance up from the ground, swallowing down the lump of shame in my throat. The man's steel-blue eyes sweep over my face for an answer, which I know has to be shining like a beacon amidst the cooling sweat on the back of my neck, despite the frigid temperatures. It was obvious.
I wasn't leaving. Nor was I about to back out now, even if the idea of going on a date with another man unsettled me to no end.
"Um...er," I clear my throat carefully so I could speak, "if it's no trouble and you're cool with it, I mean I'm not gay or anything, but I've come this far and I would really like to--," I trail off, imagining myself to look even more a dolt than normal. Why couldn't I do anything right these days? I couldn't even speak to another human being!
Luckily, some deity high above graced Naruto with impeccable manners under pressure because he turns his body back to face me and pats the space next to him. "Okay then, well sit down so I can lay down my ground rules."
I take a deep breath to still myself and cautiously move to sit next to him on the bench, allowing a nice amount of space between our bodies. After making sure that we didn't look suspiciously like a couple if someone happened to walk by, I let my mind focus on what Naruto had said.
"Rules? You have rules?"
"Well, they're not really rules. I guess more like guidelines, requirements almost." He must have caught the apprehensive look on my face because he chuckles softly and turns to face me, one leg resting between us on the bench and an arm thrown over the back. "Don't worry, they're not hard rules and they're mostly for me anyways."
I raise an eyebrow, shifting in my jacket to get more comfortable. It was incredibly cold out but Naruto didn't look like it was affecting him. Either way, he needed to hurry before my little toes froze off in my shiny shoes.
"Okay, rule number one: I'm not allowed to ask about any past relationships involving you. That's your business and it should stay your business."
I nod to show that I was following along as he continued.
"Rule number two: No physical relationships during or beyond this one date. We're both here to just have fun, in like a friendship sort of way, absolutely no pressure."
Thankfully, we are both blessed with enough tact to look away simultaneously with a blush upon the mentioned contact. I blink away the images brought to mind and idly wonder if I should be worried that they were there in the first place.
"And the last rule is pretty simple. Can't fall in love. I'm here to make women and in your case...you...to feel better about yourself and rely less on someone else in a relationship. My theory is that you cannot be truly happy in a committed relationship without having felt complete on your own beforehand."
A crooked smile spreads across his face and a warm feeling surges through my torso, even though my fingertips are shivering in my pockets. I can't name the emotion but I think it is the closest to happiness I've felt in quite a long time. And all that from a simple smile from a common stranger.
"Is there a fee?" I ask before I could be completely swallowed up in what could be a scam for all I know.
Naruto shakes his head briefly. "I only ask for the minimum of fifty dollars at the end of the date, but only if the date went well. If I did a horrible job or was acting like a complete asshole who seemed like I would sell my mother up a river, the whole thing is free of charge."
I take a deep breath through my nose, feeling the cold air burn my lungs. This was it. My last chance to back out and leave with what dignity I still had going for me. Or...this could actually work. Naruto could find that hidden aspect of my personality that was lying dormant and I could start feeling a lot more confident about myself and hopefully, keep a stable relationship. Hardening my will, I nod once, holding out my hand to be shaken.
Naruto's cool, tan palm embraced mine and we shook. "It's a deal," I hear myself saying.
I wince as we enter the warm diner of a nearby breakfast shop, the change in temperature causing my cheeks to become fevered and itchy and the feeling that my nose was disembodied from my face. I always hated that feeling yet I resist the urge to reach my gloved hands up and scratch, following the steady, confident stride of Naruto in front of me to a booth set back near the corner of the large paneled-glass windows.
A middle-aged woman wearing a deep blue smock approaches our table, a writing pad held between long-tipped, manicured fingers. "What can I get you two gentleman?" she quips, smacking her gum between her teeth.
Naruto looks very briefly at the menu before handing it over. "Iced milk and a blueberry bagel, cream cheese on the side." He turns his eyes towards me and I order toast and a glass of orange juice to not be rude.
The waitress jots down our orders quickly before moving away, leaving us to sit across from each other with me tearing a napkin into tiny shreds on the tabletop. Naruto doesn't seem to notice my nervousness or if he does, doesn't say anything but instead fishes around in his coat pocket and produces a pen.
"So, anything in mind to what you want to do today?" he asks me, scribbling down something on a napkin in what has to be the messiest chicken-scratch I've ever laid eyes on. I follow the other people coming into the diner with my eyes, hoping that the strange feeling of butterflies would dissipate soon.
"I don't know, is there anything you have in mind?" I mutter back, at unease with this awkward step-around of what we're going to be doing with our time. Together. I suddenly feel like banging my head upon the sticky linoleum of our table but don't really feel like dealing with the crowd that would be staring at me.
Naruto taps his pen against his chin thoughtfully before going back to scribbling something else down. Finally, he finishes and stuffs both the napkin and the pen back into his coat pocket.
"What have you not done in this city? Something you've passed by or thought of doing everyday but never have the time to? Money is not a limit...well, that's a lie. Money is a limit but only to renting out your own island or something to that degree," he explains, grinning eagerly as the waitress comes back carrying our food on a large metal tray.
The ice in his milk clinks against glass and I avert my attention back to what he asked. There was a fair being held not far from here that I saw flyers for on the subway but I never really gave much thought on going, thinking I was going to be way too busy. Besides, what grown man can go to a fair alone in the first place without looking like a pedophile?
"Um...there's a fair...," I pause, imagining how ridiculous and childish it must sound coming out of my mouth. Correction: What grown man goes to a fair in the first place? Despite my inner embarrassment, Naruto nods thoughtfully.
"That sounds fun...oh, we can ride the Gravitron! It spins you so fast that you don't have to have a harness and it gets really hard to move your arms..." Naruto stops suddenly and his whole body seems to shake with laughter.
I'm slightly relieved that he was showing as much interest in my idea as I was. And sad to say, the Gravitron did sound kinda fun... I quickly eat my toast and down my orange juice as he stands, licking cream cheese off his fingers.
"It's still really early in the morning; the fair isn't going to be open at least until dark. What are we going to do in the meantime?" I question as we step out of the diner, both of us huddling back down in our coats.
Naruto looks both ways down the street before grabbing the crook of my elbow suddenly and steering me through the crowd. My hands are shoved into my pockets so the angle that he is pulling me is a bit awkward for my feet and I'm hoping and praying that I don't go stumbling for the whole world to see.
I see him glance at his watch and he turns back to search my face for something I don't recognize.
"You don't have asthma or medical problems like that, do you?" he comes out of nowhere, a soft halo of cold white puffing out of his mouth before him.
I shake my head no, briefly confused before I notice he's tugging my hand out of my pocket and interlocking my fingers with his own. Before I can question what exactly in the hell he is doing, he bolts away from me, taking us at a dead sprint.
My feet rush to catch up with his, confused as to why we're racing down a crowded sidewalk in freezing temperatures. His palm is starting to grow warm in mine and I glance down at our clasped hands, idly wondering how this is looking to everyone else around us. But it's not something I'm worrying about enough to let go.
The pole in front of us does though.
I quickly slip my hand out of his and we both veer around the street sign, joining back up on the other side. I'm suddenly aware that I'm laughing, the corners of my mouth aching from smiling so wide. All I can see in front of me and around me is bright blue and blonde, weaving in and out of my peripheral as our adrenaline kicks in and he sprints down a set of subway stairs, taking them two at a time.
We barely make it inside the car before the metal doors close with a drowsy ding and we're both left gasping and panting from our exertion. My lungs feel like they're bleeding ice but none of that matters because that was the first time in a long time that I've done something so spontaneous, so crazy that nothing makes sense.
"See...we would have...never made it in...time," Naruto pants, holding onto a seat. I chuckle breathlessly, flopping down onto the hard bench, suddenly sweltering underneath my heavy coat where I freezing before.
"Where are we going?" My hands are a tingly numb as I grip onto the plastic underside of my seat. Naruto sprawls into the chair next to me and rests his head up against the cold metal behind him, where he could still see me.
"The opera house."
"Opera?" I had never been mainly because I just found opera plain weird. What kind of person would pay money to see someone vibrating their tonsils without ever actually making some sort of song? Quirking an eyebrow, I gaze dumbly at the other man, not surprised when he bursts out laughing.
"It's okay to be a little skeptical at first. It'll be fun, you'll see," he explains, running his fingers through his hair, spiking it up some.
The subway is crowded with the early birds and it's hard to breathe with it so congested so I'm glad when our ride is only an hour long and we get off then. The brief walk to the theater is quiet and I jam my hands into my pockets, following Naruto into the large, heavy doors of the entrance.
Inside is drafty and smells of centuries' worth of sheet music and rosin. I inhale subconsciously, my mind running in circles trying to grasp that a person with such a vibrant, loud personality as Naruto actually finds enjoyment in such a calm, stationary place.
He leads us up a short flight of polished stone steps and into this long red-carpeted hallway. Soft rays of cold sunlight stream their aquiline fingers through the stained-glass windows to our left, illuminating our skin with an array of deep colors and hues.
"I never sit out in the audience. If I'm out there, I'm not paying attention and just critiquing the way the musician looks," Naruto laughs, sinking down onto the chilly floor, back pressed up against a stain-glassed scene in green and gold.
I smile with him out of awkwardness's' sake and sink down next to him on the floor.
"We got here just in time," I hear him mutter and then I start to hear it. It's like a steady-building rumble that I have to strain my ears to make out. And then like waves crashing upon a shore, the pitch of the orchestra rises and the violins take over, sweeping through the theater like surround sound.
I've been to orchestras before and generally know what to expect when it comes to the music but this time it sounds different. Maybe it's the hallway we're in and just the way the sounds seem to echo and trip over another. I look over at Naruto, who has his eyes tightly shut, fingers gently grazing the floor in front of him. He's lost in the music.
Exhaling quietly, I lean back against the glass at my back and close my eyes as well, intent on focusing on one sound and sticking with it. Almost immediately, I start to feel the vibrations in my chest which ricochet back down to my feet. And it's like something has come alive inside of me, moving and twisting around my insides in the most delightful, peaceful way.
It's a rush and I can't stop the gasp that leaves my lips. I hear Naruto chuckle next to me and feel the tips of his fingers graze along my pants leg, although I didn't think he was aware of what he was doing, so caught up in the music himself. My eyes open to narrow slits and I watch his finger travel up my calf and back down, skimming to the floor every once in a while.
A devil of a burn makes itself known in my gut and I squash it down, telling myself I can't get nostalgic and melancholy in a place like this. The music builds to a high crescendo before it suddenly stops in one loud beat and just like that, I feel this huge weight escape my body in a strong whoosh. I hum a soft noise in my throat and Naruto blinks open his eyes, catching mine.
"Did you feel it?"
I'm too shell-shocked to really answer but I nod in agreement. Everything suddenly felt...whole, like I was complete for the first time in ages. Now I know why Naruto finds this place such a enigma. I stand, uncurling my legs which I successfully hide the shaking in and walk to the end of the hallway, where the sunlight disappears into the shadows.
"Are you okay?" Naruto questions gently, standing also. He slowly makes his way to my side, gesturing to the dimly-lit stairwell that I've stumbled upon. "There's nothing up there but costumes and set props. Wanna go up?"
Normally, rifling through old, musty things didn't intrigue me but for some reason, I felt open to anything, like nothing was past me. I lead the way this time up the stairs, pushing open the heavy wooden door at the top, sensing Naruto's presence behind me. For a brief moment, I can feel the solidness of his chest and shoulders and hear the warm exhalation of his breath, even though I knew he wasn't standing near that close. Was what happened earlier making me that attuned to someone else?
Up hear in the drafty rafters of what looks like the theater's storage room, I hear the beginning of a high-pitched vocalizing out in the auditorium. And it's strangely comforting to me; for the first time in my life, opera doesn't seem so stupid.
"I came here a lot when I was a teenager, particularly when I was stressed out over school. It's a good place to lose yourself in," Naruto murmurs, brushing junk off a velvet, wing-backed chair and settling down in it.
"Are we allowed up here?" I question, glancing back over my shoulder to the door that was just barely standing open.
Naruto crosses his feet at the ankles and sinks down lower in the plush, sighing dramatically. "No, we're not but it's not the first time I've been up here and I haven't been caught yet."
The music below us drifts up through the floorboards and through a lean crack in the wood, I can see down on the singer onstage. He hand is pressed up tight against her ribcage and her upper body seems to rise with each note she makes. I turn my attention back to Naruto who is looking a bit more than comfortable with his surroundings.
I shrug off my heavy coat and maneuver around his chair, allowing myself to become nosy and sort through the miscellaneous garb around me. "Were you a good student?" I murmur, eyes scanning the set of costumes in front of me.
"Who? Me? Never. I hated school. I mean, I was good at it but I got so fidgety all the time when I had nothing to do," Naruto scoffs lowly.
I process this information slowly, computing it through my brain and still coming up with little to nothing. I hated admitting it, but it unnerved me that Naruto seemed to still know more about me than I did of him. Even though I, myself, had told him nothing of value yet.
A sharp prickle races up my spine suddenly and I turn back towards Naruto, holding in a sharp gasp as I catch his eyes on mine, burning into me like steel. "I know you felt something earlier. I don't know what it is about that hallway but the music's appreciation always seems to skyrocket when you're sitting out there."
"I did. I don't know what it was." I breathe quietly to myself, hoping he doesn't notice the flustered blush that's risen on my cheeks. This was exceedingly awkward to talk about. "But I do feel a bit better now."
A smile so bright, so fucking contagious steals over Naruto's face and it shocks me for a moment because of the seriousness of the conversation we're having. "So, I'm working, right? You're not feeling so down anymore?"
Against my better judgment that I knew Naruto was just trying to help me, his words infuriate me. I wasn't some science project he could analyze and find a solution to. I wasn't his concept, I wasn't anyone's concept! I wrinkle my brow in frustration and pluck my jacket from the back of his chair and make my way towards the door.
I'm down the steps and storming halfway down the hall when Naruto catches up with me, a strong but gentle hand grabbing me by the elbow. "Hey, I'm sorry if I said something that upset you. I probably should have worded that a little better. I didn't mean to make you feel inferior or ...whatever."
The hallway is cold and I shiver involuntarily, searching Naruto's face for any sort of dishonesty. I'm a little disappointed when I can't find any. It would be so much easier to dislike him if there was. Sighing heavily, I run a hand through my hair, glancing down at my watch at the same time.
It's just a few minutes before noon. We stand in silence for a moment and I don't even try to stop the awkwardness from washing back over us. Naruto clears his throat nervously and scratches at the soft spot below his ear.
"This is going to sound really silly," he begins and I start to wonder what's in store for me, "but there's a feminist rally starting at one downtown in front of city hall. I don't know if those sorts of things interest you but personally, I'm turned on...by angry females...," he trails off, looking sheepish at the expression of skepticism on my face.
The tension is broken however when I bust out laughing, nodding and pulling him along by the arm towards the theater's entrance.
"So, how do you create pick-up lines for equal rights in the workplace?" I ask jokingly when we're outside, weaving through the lunchtime rush.
"No, really! You wouldn't imagine the number of dates and phone numbers I've gotten from going to one of these. You're either for or against them. Of course you get a lot more numbers if you're for them and you're less likely to get booed out of town, but it really works!"
The look on Naruto's face is nothing short of excited and I nod, enjoying the aura of happiness that is pulsing off him.
"The rally is supposed to last well into the afternoon so we can go, pick up some ladies, grab a bite to eat and then go on to the fair around dusk," Naruto plans out in his head.
"Well...it's just as well that I like angry females, too."
Naruto laughs for which I'm grateful; obviously neither of us has a problem with taking our two-man "date" and expanding it into a double, that is if we manage to pick up two fiery feminists.
The throng of people is thick once we reach the rally however and it shames me to admit, but some of these women are really scaring me. The edge of a poster board jabs me in the side of the head and I weave through the group, sticking close to Naruto. My shoulder suddenly slams into someone in front of me and I shoot my hands out instinctively to protect the young woman as she lets out an indignant squawk.
"Hey, watch where you're going, jerk!" she exclaims, retrieving her picket sign that had fallen from her hands. "You should really pay attention to tho--," she trails off, finally looking up. Her cinnamon-colored eyes widen in shock before she glances around, flustered, yelling for someone named Sakura.
A lithe, petite girl bobs through the crowd before skidding to a stop next to her friend. "What, what, did you find one?" she asks breathlessly.
Naruto nudges me in the ribs from behind, obviously amused by the attention I was receiving. "That one's a killuh," he whispers in a drawl, nodding his head towards Sakura.
"Oh, well hello," Sakura beams, holding out her hand to be shaken. Naruto elbows me out of the way and grasps it quickly, shooting her one of his trademark grins.
The young woman that I had bumped into adjusts her glasses on her nose and smiles awkwardly at me. "Sorry for calling you a jerk; my name's Karin."
I smile back reflexively, muttering something that sounded a lot like "it's okay" before Naruto sweeps into charm-mode and pretty soon, the two young women are agreeing to go to dinner with us and to the fair.
"On one condition though," Karin states. "Sakura and I have to stay and finish our rally."
Naruto and I glance between each other, already knowing we were heading straight into a large pile of sh--
"AMAZON IN TRAINING! AMAZON IN TRAINING! SEXISM IS A SOCIAL DISEASE! I WAS BORN A WOMAN- I WON'T BE TOLD HOW TO BECOME ONE!!"
I lost track of what exactly I was saying. All I know is that Naruto and I are right in the thick of it, screaming out whatever slogans we see painted on boards around us like we didn't have a Y chromosome in our bodies.
A stout lady with butch-hair eyes me curiously when I shout out the being born a woman part and I can't stop myself from busting out in laughter. Before long, I'm hanging onto Naruto's arm, trying to catch my breath while simultaneously trying not to piss my pants while he hops up and down, gaining height on nearly all the women around us, yelling out whatever feminism shit he can come up with.
"So, we picked up some chicks," he yells in my ear, nodding his head towards Karin and Sakura, "and we're making total fools of ourselves. Do you think this day could get any better?"
His cheeks are flushed with the cold, eyes bright with happiness and I feel it; just a stirring, far down deep within my body. In a place where I told myself to never let things get in too deep that I couldn't back out of at the last moment.
It's by sheer dogged willpower that I'm able to nod my head yes. Naruto stops jumping for a moment, waiting on my response.
"It would have been better if you were born a woman." I don't say it loud enough for him to necessarily hear me and I'm not quite sure how good he is at reading lips but he smiles the same smile I'm used to and clasps a hand on my shoulder.
"Let's round up our vixens and go grab a bite to eat, how about it?"
My shorter frame rocks a bit from his weight, swallowing down the frown that was trying to force it's way onto my face. It's no use mulling over him changing the subject. It's not like I really care and I didn't even want him to hear me in the first place. I just felt like it needed saying.
La Isla de Costa Rico. Because we all don't feel the traditional Japanese cuisine tonight. And what better way to wrap up a feminism rally with spicy, Mexican food. We're quickly seated and brought drinks while we glance over the menu.
I settle for a tall margarita and tamales while everyone else orders for themselves. Karin's weight at my side is almost comforting; something I hope starts becoming a familiar feeling. I forget how fun dates can be sometimes. She's a talker, I can tell already, but that's okay with me for tonight.
Sakura, Naruto's date, seems very intuitive, hanging onto every word with such a precise, yet carefree manner, it made me wonder what her profession in life was. For sure something to do with people, maybe a doctor.
"So, there's this man, and he is flipping out because there's this crate of fully automatics sitting dead center in his warehouse with some obscure orphanage in Bolivia stamped on the side. Kinda gives new definition to kids with guns; especially if these children are slaving away in a sweatshop day and night to provide artillery to various drug-runners 'round the country."
Karin's in human resources I deduce and her storytelling and laugh is so vibrant that I can't help but become quickly absorbed. Naruto, who is sitting across from her, toys with the salt and pepper shakers on the table, occasionally making a small remark here and there to make it seem like he was listening.
Pretty soon, the drinks goes straight to someone's bladder because Sakura stands and asks prettily if Karin would like to come with the restroom with her. Before she leaves, she whispers something in Naruto's ear, causing his eyes to widen in recognition and a smile to cross over his face.
As soon as they're out of sight, Naruto digs in his wallet for the tab and places it on the table, motioning for me to stand and take our leave.
"Are we ditching them?" I ask, confused, once we step back out into the chilled air outside.
"Yeah." He must catch on to the shocked expression that takes over my face because he laughs and shakes his head. "No, it's cool. Sakura said we can go and that it was nice of us to buy them dinner."
"Wait--, I don't understand--."
"Couldn't you tell?" he interrupts. "They were clearly lesbians. Sakura said the only way she was going to get Karin into bed later after all that rallying was to get her drunk."
He laughs at my jaw-dropped face and I start laughing brokenly myself. "Are you serious?! Did we just get played?!"
Naruto shrugs, smiling also. "Hey, if I can make someone else's night a little bit easier just by buying someone dinner, that's completely fine with me."
I stare at the harmless enigma before me, completely taken aback by his personality; he was practically leaking of generosity. I laugh quietly once more, feeling extremely lucky at that moment to have answered a dating ad in the morning paper.
The pungent smell of greasy hotdogs and Coca-Cola, flat without carbonation, damn near smacks me in the face as Naruto walks us up to the entrance of the fair. Hundreds of bright, neon lights cause my eyes to swim in their sockets and I don't try to contain the wild, giddy feeling in the root of my stomach.
I forget sometimes what it was like being a child, having that loose, carefree innocence that separated you from the horrors of the world you weren't yet made aware of. For the first time in a long while, I knew that I could be that little kid again tonight and not feel ashamed of myself in the morning.
It's no contest to guess where we head first. With tamales still swimming in my stomach, not to forget the fire-water blazing through my veins, Naruto and I jump in line to ride the Gravitron, only knowing that we were going to be regretting it soon after.
But at this stage in the game, with all that I've done today, I don't think throwing up on my shoes, or Naruto's shoes or even someone else's shoes is really going to make me think that today was a waste of time.
From inside the attendant is blaring Dir en Grey music, and combined with the colors spinning around, I can feel my stomach doing flip-flops with anxiety to get in. Luckily, my wish is granted because the ride slows to a gradual stop and people begin to come stumbling out, hair askew and faces bright with perspiration.
Bounding up the short platform, I can feel my heartbeat in my feet and briefly think that's the oddest feeling in the entire world before Naruto's hand encircles my wrist and he drags me completely to the other side of the top, where the light from the middle can't reach us.
"I like to flip my body upside down as it gets started; it's amazing that way," Naruto remarks, bracing his body against the railing opposite the padded side. People file in around us and I lean up against the pad, ready to flip my body upside down at a moment's notice.
Ryoujoku no ame begins to filter out of the PA system and the attendant steps behind his pexiglass window.
"Everyone should know the rules. Ride lasts for an entire song. If you start feeling sick and think you're about to hurl...well there isn't much that I can do for you. Just try not to throw up everywhere."
I smile to myself, quickly pulling myself upside down as soon as the ride started to gain momentum. Naruto laughs loudly next to me, singing along to the music. Not seconds later, my arms begin to cramp up and the blood rushes to my head because the ride isn't near fast enough to keep me in place without my help.
Naruto luckily sees me slipping and grabs onto my hand, pulling me upwards towards his feet, which causes my butt to slide farther up the matt. I bend my knees and hook my feet at the top, shaking my head to get my long bangs out of my face.
And seemingly like magic, the ride picks up speed and gravity starts pushing down on us. Only problem is that our hands are still meshed together and it's not exactly easy to lift your limbs into the air. Not impossible, just not easy.
Nevertheless, Naruto whoops next to me and lays his legs flat so that they dangle in the air above him. Maybe he doesn't realize that we're still holding hands or maybe he doesn't care.
But what confuses me the most is how I don't care. I don't care that his hand feels calloused, clearly giving away the fact that it's another man's hand I'm holding or that it's slightly sweaty at the skin between his fingers. His hand is warm and I grip a little bit tighter for a thousand reasons I don't know the why of.
The chorus breaks through in the song and Ryo screams and like a sudden bubbling feeling deep in my chest, or maybe it had been there all along, gaining throughout the day, a rush breaks forth and I scream as loud as I can, tapering off into the most sincere laugh I've probably ever experienced. Naruto laughs and whoops with me as we spin so fast that it seems that we're not even moving at all, just stuck like flies against the same wall we started on.
Shortly after, I can feel the ride start to slow down and no matter what kind of preparation I put myself through, I know I'm going to land on my head in an undignified heap on the floor below me. And sure enough, gravity starts to lessen and I go toppling down, landing in a crumbled ball, against the metal railing. Despite the thunk my head receives, I'm still laughing, even when Naruto loses his own hold and slips down and falls ontop of me.
His breathing is warm and tepid at my forehead and he mumbles out an apology between laughter, something I don't quite hear because he's so close, pressed up against me like this. Before I can properly identify the emotions rushing through me, he picks himself up off the floor and offers his hand, yanking me to my own feet.
We stumble around the circular prison, heading towards the exit, where a group of similar bumbling fools are pushing their way out. I try to ignore the loose grip around my wrist but it's really hard not to. Outside the cool air makes me feel a little nauseous and against all things that makes me male, I ask if we can go sit down next to the river and watch the light show they were announcing over the PA.
Naruto flops down in the grass while I make a more slower descent, not wanting to upset the delicate state of my stomach acid. It's when I just start to find a warm spot to hunch over in that I notice the tiny little flashes of light surrounding us.
"Haha, fireflies. You would think it's too cold for them to be out here," I exclaim, watching as their tiny beauty bursts in their own mini light show, put on just for us.
"Perhaps they're just doing what they can. Even if it's too cold for them to be out here, they're still out here doing it; the only thing they know how. They're onto something, anyhow."
Naruto's voice has dropped down into something quiet and calming and I shift in my spot, feeling suddenly languid and sleepy.
"Can I ask you something?" he says next, running a blade of grass between his fingers.
I shrug, watching him as he works up whatever nerve to say what he has to say. "Why did you answer this ad? You don't seem like a bad guy; I wouldn't be surprised if you told me women were tripping over themselves to be with you?"
His words cause a pang in my heart, knowing what he says could be true. If I wasn't such a bore. "I really don't know. Women like me well enough at first but then by the end of the date, they decide otherwise. I've tried changing my habits, how I do things. I even spoke with a fake accent once! And even during the times that I act myself, I don't change from the beginning to the end. It's like they see something I don't." I let out a terse sigh, feeling my face grow hot. "Maybe I was just destined to be alone for all my life."
"Don't say things like that!" Naruto suddenly yells before his eyes widen in shock and he drops them down to his lap.
A moment passes between us and the fireflies are oblivious, just go on to flitting away their merry lives. If only it was that easy for us humans; to just live day by day and not worry about bills and jobs and relationships.
Naruto breathes out a deep long sound that reminds me of a man losing his grip on something. Something important. "Y'know, I'm going to have to quit this job as being Cupid."
"Why?" I suddenly become frantic. He can't quit! There were hundreds of other people in this city who need his help and his caring after me! He can't quit now when the world needed him most.
"I'm breaking all the rules. I've asked about your past and I already told you that I would never do such a think and I'm sorry for that. Besides, I think I'm in love with someone anyways and that scenario really can't pan out in my career as matchmaker, right?"
I feel my heart stop for a second, a sharp pressure wells up inside me down in that deep, dark spot. He's in love with someone...she's a lucky, lucky woman to have such a great guy as Naruto.
"That's only two out of three," I chuckle, glancing up to meet his somber expression. "And if you don't mind me asking, who is it that you're in love with."
And then he leans over and pulls me to him, pressing his cold lips to mine in a kiss. I'm left in a slight daze as he leans back to where there's only a few centimeters between us.
"I told you the fireflies were onto something," he murmurs against my lips.
Smiling so hard that it makes my cheeks hurt, I thread my fingers through his short, blonde hair and bring him back to me.
Damn smart bugs.
Author's Note: Longest one-shot I've ever written. I'm telling you, when I go out, I go out with a bang.
I'm not done writing, don't confuse me there. Find me, catch up with me. I'm always full of ideas.