A small crack in perfection
By eternalshiva

I do not own Naruto or any of the characters portrayed by Masashi Kishimoto, nor do I make any monies off this fanfiction.

Thank you Jolly Green for the Beta ~ Poor sucker has to put up with my crazy Canadianism. =P

AN- I'm stuck in development for Twice Shy so this little bunny has procreated in my head into this monster. I'm not sure how long this fic will be or when I intend to update it on a regular basis. It's my "Holy fuck, I can't get Twice Shy to funk. To the AU bat cave!" story. Chapter 13 is at 50% completion but I'm bored of looking at it.

Chapter 1
Past and present

The sound of keys jingled sharply in the cool November night as Sakura twirled them around her index finger, something she did when she had a lot on her mind. She'd developed that habit after earning her driver's licence ten years prior. The cool crisp air of the city night bit her skin unmercifully, forcing her cheeks to redden against her will. She scanned the lot of her workplace for her pink Volkswagen Beetle and quickened her pace towards it as she spotted it in the distance. She contemplated how high she would crank the heat up to clear the numbing feeling in her hands.

"What a bitch," she muttered to herself, recalling the meeting between her boss and her new boss. She had been pleasantly surprised to see Hinata Hyuuga as the new head of the Hyuuga Corporation. It had been a shock to the entire company when Hiashi Hyuuga had recently stepped down due to medical reasons. Sakura had known one of his children was taking over, but she hadn't realized that Hiashi was Hinata's father.

'The more you know...' she thought half-heartedly. That meeting had been a total and complete disappointment on a personal level. She had failed to become friends again with an old acquaintance. That was a first for Sakura; she'd always been quick to please and befriend anyone. Maybe not in her youth, but she had definitely improved over the years. Her job required it!

She had expressed her joy at seeing her old friend quite adamantly, but had been met with a cold and silent stare from the Hyuuga heiress in return. She did not show any signs of recognition. Something which had perplexed Sakura deeply considering how close they had been as children, before the girl had moved away. Though it was to be expected, she guessed, since they had lost touch entirely over the years. The meeting had continued to degrade after that. She couldn't tell if she had pleased Hinata or if she was going to get a dreaded pink slip in the morning, announcing she was useless.

She reached out for the handle of her car door and quickly unlocked it, slipping her long legs inside. She slammed the door shut and took a moment to lean against the leather seat. Her head bobbed a moment before slipping to the left, forcing her to look at the asphalt outside her window. She could hear the traffic outside, the city lights twinkled on the horizon and she determined that she was feeling discombobulated. Hinata had shaken her somehow. Sakura was reminded of Hinata's cousin, Neji, from back in elementary school. Cold, uncaring and emotionally retarded; much like Sasuke had been during the last year before he had left.

She sighed and pushed the key inside the ignition, the radio played softly in the background. She felt the tight pang of loneliness squeeze her heart as she thought of Sasuke. He had abandoned them several years ago, and his memory still haunted her. She hadn't heard from him since she was sixteen, but his presence had left such a huge impact on both Naruto and her in that short amount of time he had been there. She hadn't been able to let go. Sasuke had caused her a lot of unhappiness, but she was willing to wait; he was worth it in the end. Well, at least that's what she told herself. Naruto had an entirely different opinion on the subject.

Now here she was, ten years later, still bitter and miserable, wishing he'd come back. Naruto had blamed himself for her state of mind and she hadn't really tried to convince him otherwise. She wasn't entirely certain as to why she'd left so many things unsaid between them in regards to Sasuke, but she didn't regret what it had led to back then. He must've been a sucker for punishment, because regardless of all the shit she put him through, Naruto would always look at her with an affectionate and understanding smile. He was always telling her he'd catch everything she threw at him and take it in stride, anything to make her forget that night she had been thrown aside, used, and left broken by Sasuke's love.

Naruto had chased him down that time through the city; she'd never seen him so angry, so full of rage. Their fight had made the paper the next morning since they'd nearly destroyed a small part of the city with their brawl. Sasuke had barely walked away, but Naruto had been hospitalised. His spirit had been broken just as much as hers. They had cried together that day and he had promised her he would bring him back, no matter what.

She picked up her cell phone and passed her thumb over the numbers, still thinking of the past. The music changed on the radio and the stars had come out, but she hadn't noticed either. A movement caught her attention and she focused on the small figure coming out from the building, following Sakura's invisible trail to the other parked cars. She narrowed her eyes as she recognized Hinata's petite form; laptop bag in one hand, her other held the flaps of her coat together, attempting to keep the cold wind from exposing her.

Sakura leaned forward against the steering wheel, her lips pursed in thought as she wondered what could have changed this woman. Her hair was piled high into a tight and restrictive bun, she still held the aristocratic features the Hyuuga were blessed with, and her skin was still pale as the moon. But her eyes... Yeah, they were definitely different. Sakura had been fascinated with them when they were children. She had often asked the shy girl why they were pale lilac; what it was that made them almost look like pearls? She'd never seen anything quite like it and Hinata had gracefully avoided answering her for years.

The more she thought on it, she realised it wasn't really the colour that had mesmerised her. What had caught her attention was the depth of feelings expressed in them. Hinata had been a girl who had always struggled with her shyness and her lack of confidence. From what Sakura could remember, her father had always been an oppressing force and it resulted with a personal struggle everyone could easily see in the small, fragile child.

The balance of her own identity: Hinata, the warm, kind and beautiful person she had shone with, and the Hyuuga Heiress, a cold-hearted and emotionally disconnected bitch. To Sakura's most observant conclusion, it would seem that the latter had won out in the end.

Sakura couldn't help but shiver slightly at the memory of the new Hinata. Not only had her personality disappeared, but her eyes were terribly frightening now. Gone was the warmth, the depth of unspoken emotion, the kindness she exuded towards everyone. She doubted this Hinata blushed at the thought of Naruto whenever she'd watch him at gym class. In fact, her pale lilac eyes held a blank void of emotion Sakura couldn't read. She couldn't decipher where her old friend had gone.

Before Hinata disappeared into a limo waiting for her at the other side of the lot, she paused a moment and looked towards Sakura's general direction. The pink-haired girl ducked quickly, her eyes big as saucers when she realized that she'd been watching the heiress too intently. Hinata narrowed her eyes and shrugged. Slipping inside the limo she tapped the glass, advising the driver she was ready to leave. Straightening herself, Sakura looked away from the departing limo and glanced at her cell phone again before pressing the old familiar numbers imprinted on her memory. She hummed to the tune created by the dial tone of the numbers before pressing the phone to her ear and listened to the familiar ring.

"Yeah?" the deeper male voice answered sleepily. The usual "hello" had been shed several years ago after they had begun to date, and she had realised long ago that he wasn't one to be courteous anyways. He was, after all, Naruto Uzumaki.

"You busy?" she asked, wasting no time. She needed someone to fill the void forming inside her chest. The familiar feeling was starting to choke her.

"I was sleeping, but I doubt you care," she heard him chuckle; she smiled.

"I had a bitch of a day. Can I come over?" There was a pause at the other end as he considered her tone of voice. It was leaning on desperation or misery; he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

"Yeah," she heard him stretch "let me clean up first, I'm still covered in manure from my last job." He muffled a yawn as the bed creaked under his weight. She rolled her eyes and shook her head slightly. The man was filthy rich and he couldn't let go of his old ratty mattress from his old life.

"Ok, I'll be there in thirty. I'll grab some food."

"Get me some miso ramen," he said as he perked up. She could have sworn she heard his stomach through the phone.

"Yeah, yeah. Get out the cooler beer; I need a drink something awful." She chuckled before flipping her phone off, cutting off his objection. He didn't like drinking in the middle of the week and he objected when she insisted on doing so. He was a stickler for being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at work. 'Oh how things changed over the years Naruto,' she thought, amused at the difference in both of them from their old selves. She backed out of her reserved spot and pressed her foot on the pedal, leaving behind her troubles and headed towards the bright warmth of her friend, her ex-lover and her reason to still be alive.

The hot water slipped down Naruto's flesh, licking his skin like an old familiar lover. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the heat seeping into his sore muscles. That last job had really taken a lot out of him. He popped open the shampoo bottle and poured a large amount into his hand and slapped it onto the mass of yellow tangles identified as his hair. His long, lean fingers massaged the scalp, washing away the sweat of the day and the offending smell of horse shit. He smirked, thinking how Sakura's practical joke had led him to this life.

Naruto had done quite well for himself over the last several years. He had established his own little empire in the business world of Landscape Architecture. Sakura had often teased him for years over his secret obsession with plants and had dared him once to enter a competition when they were twenty years old.

Offended that his lover of two years at the time was making fun of his secret love, he stubbornly entered it. To her dismay, he wiped the competition clean with something he half-assed designed, not taking the competition very seriously. He had won first place and bragging rights over Sakura, who'd had to buy him ramen for a year. This competition had tumbled into a contract with the city of Konoha and lead to his opening a very successful business.

Six years later, he was now famous in the world of landscaping. He was often featured in magazines for his ingenious designs and as a result, his business had flourished beyond comprehension. Although he was annoyed at the time, he was now glad that Sakura had pushed him into a corner that morning and caught him tending to his flowers when she had snuck past his godfather for a mid-breakfast quickie.

His thoughts dabbled on the darker side of things when his fingers hit the sensitive lines on his cheeks while washing his face. He slowly pressed a finger in the creases, wincing at the dull throb even though they were well over twenty years old. He had been offered the opportunity by his godfather's wife, Tsunade, to remove them with plastic surgery, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

Naruto's parents had died in a car accident when he was still a newborn. His only physical memory of the incident was the strange markings on his cheeks, best described as whisker-like scars. From what he understood, flying shards of glass had deeply cut his face and left the tormenting memento. He had spent a miserable childhood when all his friends made fun of him and his teen years were pretty angsty when none of the girls would look at him thanks to his deforming features.

He even managed to gain the nickname 'Kyuubi' one year when a Japanese transfer student had arrived in his school. That idiot Gaara had pointed at him, repeating the words "Kyuubi, Kyuubi!" after Naruto had pulled off a long string of carefully planned pranks. They had gone off flawlessly and nailed the intended target, his teacher Kakashi. Gaara had been so shocked at Naruto's savage behaviour that he had begun to shout that foreign word in fright. It wasn't exactly a moment in his life that had built his confidence.

He later found out that it meant 'Nine Tail Fox Demon'. Again, this was a blow to his confidence in more ways than one. He smiled at the memory of Gaara. The boy had gone through a hard time and, although they had started off on the wrong foot, they had become fast friends during that year when he was twelve. They still kept in touch and Naruto had promised to do his friend's garden for free if the red-head ever got married.

Naruto dunked his head under the rain of the shower and washed out the suds. His thoughts started drifting further along in memory lane, but they were cut short when he heard the muffled bang of his front door being slammed shut. He narrowed his eyes and grumbled, knowing full well Sakura would never change her habit of destroying his property. He wasn't sure if it was intentional or not, but he suspected she enjoyed torturing him considering the last thing she broke. Her eyes had gotten a gleam he didn't care to see again.

He took this as his cue to get out and shut the water off. He started to step out, but his foot barely made it to the matt before his bathroom door was pushed open and Sakura stood in front of him with a smirk. This should have startled him, but he had often been molested by Sakura in their dating days while he had tried to escape the shower. Their status in relationship had changed over the years, so he was left exposed and feeling a bit vulnerable in his birthday suit.

"Get out of here, Sakura." He frowned; annoyed she still barged in whenever she felt like it. He reached for a towel and wrapped it around his waist while she carefully eyed him up and down.

"Why did we break up again?" she asked, her eyes almost burned him. She licked her lips and he groaned, resisting the urge to shove her out the door. He hated this game.

"Because I'm not Sasuke and I'm too hot for you." He managed to hide his hurt expertly under the old joke. He grinned at her and she reflected the same as he squeezed past her and headed towards the master bedroom at the end of the hall.

"How long has it been since we've slept together?" she asked, keeping her eyes on his back as her mind was going back to the days when she'd rake her nails down his back and he'd love every minute of it. She bit her lip at the memory, guilt eating at her, knowing full well he was out of her reach now and it was her own fault.

"Four years, and I'm not planning on breaking the record any time soon." His answer came muffled through the wooden planks. He heard her laugh and he sighed. It still hurt deep down that she was over him and still pined for that bastard Sasuke, even after that night. Naruto had been fooling himself when she had come to him a few years after and asked to be with him. He had let himself believe that every moan, sigh and touch she lavished on him that night had been for him, but he had willingly and selfishly believed a falsehood, wanting to be her fantasy for a little while.

He should have recognized the look in her eyes that night. He'd seen it too often in his own reflection; that deep and unrelenting loneliness. Complete misery. They had filled each other's hurt for nearly four years, but he soon came to understand that she was still seeking Sasuke; still fulfilling her fantasies of his rival with his body. It haunted both of them.

She had used him and he had used her to fill the void in their lives. His loneliness had disappeared and he was just glad someone had wanted him, seriously or not. He loved Sakura deeply, but when it dawned on him that she would always hold Sasuke closer to her heart, higher in her mind and love him deeper than she ever would love him, he knew it had to end. Once he stopped believing his own excuses, he broke up with her; refusing to live in the lie any longer.

He dressed quickly, before she decided to barge in to startle him, and stepped out of his room. She had already left and gone back downstairs to his kitchen. He could smell the ramen from here and his mouth watered as his stomach groaned. He quickly made his way downstairs, taking the steps two by two and had to repress the urge to run across the den to the kitchen like a child.

"So, what happened today to make you want to grace me with your holy presence?" he casually mentioned as he sat down on one of the stools around the kitchen island. She shot him a dirty look before continuing to dig for chop sticks. Naruto always kept a handful since Gaara had made him addicted to Ramen. The blond often complained that he could only eat ramen with the infuriating wooden sticks since it tasted better. She couldn't tell the difference, so she chalked it up to Naruto being difficult.

"I met my new boss today."

"Oh? Is he all old, wrinkly and mean?" he smirked, his tanned hand reaching out for a chopstick. She observed the new calluses on his fingers and wondered momentarily how they felt. He sniffed the air, relishing the aroma of ramen in his kitchen, and secretly recited a love poem to his bowl as the soup swirled around the noodles. Could anything be more perfect?

"She's mean alright," Sakura corrected him. He glanced at her quickly with interest before slurping up his first mouthful of noodles and let out a most alluring and gratifying moan. Sakura shook her head in disbelief.

"She's not old or wrinkly." She eyed Naruto with a disgusted expression as his eyes rolled in his head from the taste of his ramen. "In fact, you might be surprised to know its Hinata," she continued, feeling a small, twisted sense of satisfaction when he coughed suddenly.

"Hi-Hinata?" he hit his chest with a fist, trying to make the wad of noodles go down easier.

"Yes, the weird, shy, dark haired girl that had that crush on you in fifth grade." Her smirk had transformed into a grin and he coughed some more. She had repeated the exact words he had used way back then.

"R-r-really? I haven't seen her since elementary." 'Damn, those noodles are hard to get down once you swallow them wrong,' he thought, struggling to breathe a moment while his fist pounded away on his chest.

Sakura nodded and blew a little on her own noodles before putting them in her mouth.

"She's pretty different," she managed to get out while chewing. Naruto lifted an eyebrow curiously, finally getting himself under control.

"How so?"

"She's a lot colder, bitchier and she doesn't seem to remember me," she fumed, still annoyed that the woman had dismissed her so easily.

"Really? That seems unusual. She was such a nervous person back then." He pressed the chop sticks against his lips a moment, deep in thought, trying to recall what the girl looked like in his youth. "She certainly wasn't bitchy. Are you sure it was Hinata?"

She glared at him, annoyed he would question her on the identity of her boss.

"Yes, quite sure. Pale lilac eyes, white skin, hair so black it shimmers purple and her name tag said Hinata Hyuuga on it." Her eyes were closed and her lips were pressed in a thin line and Naruto felt the hair on the back of his neck raise, screaming danger.

"Ah ha ha, if you're sure then, I'm not one to question you." He tried to retreat from the forbidden region he had stepped into, full throttle. She opened one eye and carefully considered her options, deciding to let it slide and returned to eating her ramen. Naruto sighed in relief.

"Besides Hinata being a bitch, how's work at Hyuuga Corp?" He suppressed an oncoming yawn and he idly wondered when Sakura would leave; he could feel sleep threatening to invade his consciousness.

"It's fine, though still kinda eerie how they insist on having a 360 degree view of the world and 'need' all that information. I know it's handy for their business, but it's weird. 'The all seeing-eye on the world' is a good motto for them, I guess," she pondered out-loud.

"Anyways, I'm not at risk of losing my job. The reshuffling of the departments ordered by Neji just moved us around. Only a few lost their jobs; like the Sound Tech nerds," she continued. Naruto pretended to listen attentively, but focused solely on his ramen. His eyes were drooping, but he was determined to finish the damned bowl of free ramen, even if it killed him.

She rambled on for another twenty minutes before she realized that her ex-boyfriend hadn't uttered a word in response. She glanced up from her near empty bowl and noticed he had put his head down on the table, resting his forehead on the back of his hands. She also noticed that he had finished the ramen and snorted.

'He wouldn't be one to skip on the ramen,' she thought before finishing her own bowl. She frowned when she heard him snoring softly and huffed; annoyed he had fallen asleep on her. She was going to wake him up by kicking him off his chair, but a bright pink object in her purse caught her attention and postponed her violent retaliation for a moment.

She reached her hand into her purse and pulled out her lipstick, smirking.

Now, Kiba wasn't usually one to be taken by surprise. He had prided himself over several years on his keen ability to expect the unexpected with the company he kept, especially with Naruto, but he had been proven wrong on this fine Tuesday morning. His friend arrived at the office in a foul mood that morning and he could see pink shimmering lines around the tanned flesh. The highlights around his eyelids and eyebrows were amusing to say the least, but not as much as the round dark red stains on his cheeks and lips.

"That bitch! She used the non-fading crap too!" Naruto cussed out a blue streak as he tried to straighten out the orange tie, but he was so furious he only made it more crooked. Kiba reached over and slapped away Naruto's hands, fixing his tie for him.

"What did you do?" Kiba tried to keep his grin at bay, but he was failing hard and fast. Naruto gave him an icy glare that was accented by the deep blue of his eyes.

"I passed out in the middle of Sakura's rant last night and she drew all over my face with her lipsticks before she left," he fumed. Kiba couldn't hold it in anymore and roared with laughter.

"Oh fucking hilarious. We have a major presentation today and I look like a fucking clown." That didn't do anything to stop his partner from laughing; in fact it made it worse. Tears had the nerve to slide down his friend's face; Naruto glared at them, naming them Traitor and Infidel.

"I never tacked Sakura as a prankster," Kiba managed to huff out, calming himself long enough for Naruto to retort.

"She's worse than me! Fuck, she was usually the one who implanted the damned ideas in my head in the first place when we were kids. She lived vicariously through the damned suggestions," he growled out, but let out a frustrated cry soon after when Kiba doubled over again, laughing.

"There's no way in hell I'm doing this presentation! I'm going to be laughed out of the room." He was really upset and Kiba's laughter was really starting to grain the last bit of his patience.

"Come fucking find me when you're done pissing yourself laughing, ass-hat." He walked out of his office and headed towards the coffee room, hoping no one else would dare give him shit about his new make-up. He pulled out his cell phone from his pants pocket and dialed Sakura's office number.

By the message Naruto had left her, she was positive he had seen her handy work this morning and she was feeling pretty smug. It wasn't often one managed to pull a fast one on the great Uzumaki Naruto. She picked up her phone and dialed his cell, smirking.

"You!" was all she heard when he answered.

"Me what?" she said innocently.

"You do realise you used that shit that can't come off for twenty-four hours right?" He was unusually more angry than necessary at her prank, so she decided to take him a bit more seriously.

"I'm not sure. I just grabbed what I had in my purse. You got what you deserved for falling asleep on me." She felt quite justified.

"Jesus! I have a presentation with a major client today and you made me look like a fucking clown for twenty-four hours, Sakura!" he yelled this time, loud enough to draw her co-worker's attention her way. She blushed, turning herself around in her chair.

"Are you serious? Why didn't you tell me?" she whispered harshly into the phone. He blinked in surprise at the other end of the line.

"Don't turn this on me missy! It isn't my fucking problem you didn't know I had a meeting in the morning. You drew all over my face with a permanent lipstick because you got your knickers in a twist over my falling asleep in the middle of your rant!" he shouted again. She bit her lip when she realised she had moved the blame on him.

"I don't wear knickers for pete sake," she retorted, annoyed he made her sound like a granny. "I wear thongs; pretty ones at that," she huffed. Naruto rolled his eyes. As if he was supposed to give two shits what underwear she liked to wear.

"Are you even feeling a little sorry for me?" he whined. She did, sorta, but she wouldn't tell him that.

"Well I do feel bad you won't get your oodles of millions of dollars from that deal. Should of stayed awake, babe!" she flipped the phone off before he could get a chance to cut her apart with anything angry. She had really messed up and she promised herself to buy him ramen every day until he forgave her.


The pink-haired girl stiffened at the sound of her name. She turned slightly to look over her shoulder and gave Hinata a small, tight smile.

"What can I do for you?" She turned herself entirely around, back to her sitting position behind her desk, her green eyes met pearl lilac steadily.

"If you're done screaming at your lover, I would appreciate the paperwork on the landscape plans for this morning's meeting," she coldly replied. Sakura narrowed her eyes in annoyance.

"He's not my lover, Miss Hyuuga." She dismissed the look she received from her former friend and dug out the file she had requested. The project had been dumped on her late last night before her meeting, so she hadn't had the chance to even look at it.

"Here's the fi-," she paused. Her fingers brushed the name of the company that had been chosen and she let out a groan. Hinata pulled the object from her unwilling fingers, resulting in a tiny tug of war that momentarily cracked Hinata's strict demeanour. Sakura let go once she clued in her boss was tugging quite hard and smiled sheepishly, apologising as her boss walked back to her office.

Rasengan Landscapes.

Naruto was going to kill her. For real this time. No amount of ramen was ever going to bring forgiveness.

The phone met the wall with a loud crack and Naruto introduced the rest of his staff to his angry voice, startling them. That woman infuriated him beyond reason sometimes.

"Relax, Naruto. I'll call my sister and see if she knows a trick or two to get that shit off your face," Kiba muttered behind him. His hand fell on Naruto's shoulder as a sign of comfort, but the blond shrugged him off in irritation and rubbed his face, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"I must have been insane to date her for so many years. Seriously, who does this to a person at twenty-six?"

"You're just mad she thought of it first," Kiba laughed, Naruto grumbled.

"Well, maybe." His hand dropped away from his face and he did feel a small amount of pride for Sakura's prank, it was pretty good. "Still! That's beside the point!" He threw his hands up in the air in frustration and began to walk around in a circle. Kiba watched him, fairly amused as he continued to cuss and wish terrible things on Sakura.

The phone rang from its discarded position. Naruto picked it up and tried to answer it, but he had broken it in his demented rage. This roused more cussing out of him and he left the office to get himself a new phone, entirely forgetting that he looked like Bozo the Clown.

Kiba laughed, again.

"Ino! Ino!" Sakura shouted as she ran through the office. The blonde looked up from the ads mock ups she had sprawled out in front of her and gave her friend a quizzical look.

"What? What's wrong?" She knew Sakura to be fairly calm, so her panicked voice had her a little bit worried.

"I majorly screwed things up for Naruto and I need your expertise!"

Ino sighed. Sakura was pretty good at pissing off her ex-boyfriend. "What did you do this time?" She shot Sakura a half-lidded glare, to which Sakura lifted her chin slightly, lips pressed in retaliation.

"He deserved it! It was just bad timing on my part to prank him with it," she offered as an excuse. Ino only raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms in disbelief.

"Ok, ok fine! He didn't really deserve it, it was my fault for showing up so late and I didn't know he was meeting with Hyuuga Corp. today for a major multi-million dollar deal! I need your help!" she was almost shouting frantically.

"What? A deal with the Hyuuga? What did you do to the poor man?" Ino was feeling a bit panicked as well. If Sakura was freaking out, she was in deep shit.

"I kinda messed up his face with long-lasting lipstick." She looked away from her friend's accusing glare and found a fascinating spot on the wall.

"Sakura, you idiot."

"Yes, yes, this has already been established! I need your tricks to get that shit off his skin!"

"You can't really take that shit off, it's a stain! We can maybe tone it down a bit." She mulled over every trick she knew, but she was coming up blank. Then it came to her.

"Oh! I know! Quick, we need to hit the pharmacy. When's his meeting?"

"I don't know! I tried to call but I think he broke his phone," she said quietly. That's what he usually did when she pissed him off and hung up on him. She had to break that habit or he was going to start sending the bill to her.


"Let's go!" She hurried ahead of her friend, trying to avoid another accusing stare and a flurry of questions she couldn't possibly deal with.

Naruto stood in line. His face held a flush that had steadily grown over the last hour while making his way to the phone kiosk. Everyone was staring at him. It wasn't every day you met a handsome young man in a black business suit with an orange silk tie, face painted like a clown. Children were laughing at him and their parents were doing their best not to join in.

He was going to kill Sakura. For real this time.

A young lady behind him kept peering over at him. Well, he assumed she was peering. He couldn't tell with her sunglasses on. She did a good job at keeping her face quite impassive; he had to give her that.

"What?" he finally blurted out after the tenth "peering" from her. He startled her and she softly apologised. He shrugged in response.

"Why is your face... like that?" she pointed. He frowned in annoyance.

"It's a reminder that I have to kill a certain woman later this afternoon."

"Oh? A lover's spat?"

"Dear god, no. She got annoyed I fell asleep in the middle of her anti-boss rant. So I woke up with this on my face."

"You can't wash it off with make-up cleaner?" Her voice tickled something in his memory, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was tickling about.

"That would require me knowing what that is." He sighed. Maybe soap and water wasn't the best solution when dealing with feminine products. He sure as hell wasn't going into the pharmacy to ask the girls there what to do; he'd get laughed out of the store.

The young woman reached into her purse and pulled out a piece of paper and pen, jotted down the name of a product and handed it to him. She still didn't smile, but he could have sworn he saw a faint smirk there. Great, she's laughing at him too.

"Here, I use this when my own smudges on my skin. It takes away most of it."

He took the piece of paper from her delicate fingers, brushing against them. They both felt a jolt as a spark of static electricity passed between them. Startled, Naruto stepped back and the girl blushed lightly. He grinned and opened his mouth to ask her what her name was but he was cut off by the vendor.

"Here's your phone, sir." Naruto looked away for barely a moment and picked up his new phone, checking to see if everything had been transferred over. When he was satisfied, he looked up to speak with the young woman again, but she was gone.

Naruto arrived at his office with a small bag and was met with Sakura and Ino. He gave off a glare so intense, even Ino gulped in conjunction with her friend.

"We know how to get that stuff off!" Sakura quickly added in before Naruto could rip into her.

"Get to it then." He threw the small bag at her and she opened it, her eyes wide.

"How did you know about that stuff?"

"Some woman felt sorry enough for me to give me a hint on how to take the shit off," he grumbled and started to walk towards the unisex bathroom. Ino trailed after the two as they continued to argue back and forth. More like Sakura apologized profusely and Naruto milked her guilt like a farmer.

The two women waited for Naruto to settle down on one of the chairs they'd brought in. Once he gave them the ok, they got to work on his face. They soon discovered Naruto's first allergy.

Naruto's skin was red and swollen. His scars were tingling painfully and he cussed. Sakura and Ino groaned as they washed off the products that were irritating his skin. He looked a little better but the clown mask was better than the current chubby, red, swollen face he sported.

"I'm so sorry, Naruto!" Sakura whined for the last umpteenth time in the last 30 minutes.

"It's fine, Sakura. It's just fucking fantastic," he grumbled out. Ino had gone back to the office, promising that she would let their supervisor know where she was. Sakura had stayed behind, trying to figure out how to make him look like his usual handsome self, but she was at a loss. Her prank had entirely backfired on her and she was going to be the cause of a major deal breakdown between her company and Naruto's.

They walked out of the bathroom and he straightened out his jacket.

"At least this is a medical reason; I can excuse this over the clown make-over." He sighed before glancing over to Sakura and gave her a soft smile. She felt instantly relieved. He had forgiven her somewhere along the line after careful consideration that there was no point being so mad about something out of his control. He put an arm around her shoulder and gave her a quick hug.

"Sakura? What are you doing here?" a familiar voice asked, making the girl stiffen in her ex's embrace as she focused her eyes on the petite woman in front of her. Naruto twisted his head around and noticed that it was the girl from earlier that morning at the phone kiosk.

"Oh, it's you!" He smiled at the girl, but she did not respond. He frowned when Sakura let go of him and she bowed down in respect.

"I'm sorry, Miss. I was helping my friend with a problem I caused." Hinata's pale eyes narrowed as she recalled the conversation with the young man behind her.

"Return to the office at once, I will speak with you then," she said, dismissing Sakura, who had to use every bit of self control to not run out of the office like a bat out of hell. Hinata looked up to her assistant's object of affection and tilted her head quizzically. Naruto had obviously misjudged this woman; she certainly wasn't as fragile as he imagined this morning if Sakura had reacted this way.

"I assume you had a negative reaction to the product I suggested this morning."

Naruto blinked and had to suppress the urge to scratch his face with the carpet on the ground.

"Yeah. I didn't know I was allergic to anything until this." He grinned sheepishly. Hinata nodded and extended her hand towards him.

"My name is Hyuuga Hinata." She watched as his eyebrows rose in surprise.

"Hinata? Well, well! Long time no see!" He came to life as he grabbed her hand and shook it like an old friend. She was confused and her brow knitted together as a result.

"Ah, seems you don't remember me. I'm Uzumaki Naruto. We went to school together a long time ago." He watched her to see if she had any recollection, her face remained impassive and for a moment he saw her pale eyes search her memory. Nothing seems to click so he shrugged.

"Well, never mind. I assume you're the Hyuuga Corp. representative on this project?" he had returned to business, his previous friendly behaviour forgotten.


"Please follow me. I hope my current medical situation with my face isn't going to differ your opinion of me." He put a hand on the small of her back to lead her to the meeting rooms. Another small spark shocked them and he removed his hand quickly, frowning.

"I might remove all the carpets if this keeps up," he muttered. He missed the small smile that played on Hinata's lips for a split second before she answered.

"No, since it's my fault for suggesting the product, I will ignore your sad condition." She moved ahead into the room, leaving behind a fairly perplexed Naruto. Kiba rose from his seat and bowed down in greeting to their guest; she did the same before sitting down. Naruto closed the door behind him and prayed this meeting would go in a different direction than it had started

Read and review! Yes I know Hinata's OOC. I'm making her that way for a reason. I had a reaction like that to a cleaning product too, it's valid!

- Beta'd June 30, 2009 by Jolly Green