A/N: (IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT) Um, hi. Firstly, huge huge huge apologies for the long wait (it's been what, four years already?) but I've decided to finish (or die attempting) this particular story after reading through so many heartfelt reviews which gave me the energy and courage to revisit this lil' baby of mine. I must say, my writing's style has changed (for the better or for worse I'm not quite sure) so I've decided to revise and edit all the chapters. I wanted to also do more character development of other characters as well as make Sasuke and Sai nicer (heheheh). So, for all those who have read this story beforehand, basically chapter 1 consists of ch1-3 of the old story plus some extra scenes. I hope you enjoy and continue to read and review. xoxo
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
There was silence all around the table.
In a way, Uzumaki Naruto had never liked silence. Sure, silence was golden after all, but sometimes - sometimes it was worse than screaming or yelling. It felt as though he was suffocating from some invisible mute force, unable to voice out anything.
Uzumaki Naruto stared at his pink-haired female friend, unable to keep the appalled expression from his usual grin. Haruno Sakura, vice-president of Student Council, smiled mischievously back, a light twinkling in those apple-green eyes of hers despite the obvious waves of tension and anxiety emitted by her blonde friend.
"...You can't be serious." Naruto had finally managed to choke out, after a pregnant pause. The partner-in-crime next to Sakura laughed, flicking her platinum blonde hair over her shoulder, she exclaimed, "I admit, this has got to be one of your more brilliant ideas, fore-head girl."
Sakura rolled her eyes, choosing to delicately spear an unfortunate broccoli with her fork. "My ideas are always brilliant, Ino-pig. 'Sides, Naruto, you need to get a social life for once. Working every day at the ramen shop isn't good for your health - both physical and emotional. When was the last time you actually went out with someone? And don't mention Hinata-chan, that only lasted for a month."
Naruto scowled, feeling annoyance building up in his chest. "So what? What does it matter if I haven't been exactly social? It's been a rather busy and tiring year." To emphasize his agitation, he grabbed his packet of strawberry milk, sucking through the straw as violently as he could without choking.
Ino, the traitorous friend as always (wait, were they even friends? As far as Naruto was concerned, they only hung out together because of Sakura. Oh well. Naruto couldn't bring himself to care about such trivialities.) retorted, "Oh yeah. Busy being a loser and working at some dingy shop – nice going Naruto!"
Did Naruto mention that Ino was a rather annoying bitch when she wanted to be?
"Whatever," Naruto sighed, moodily picking at his leftover food (which was about 90 percent of his lunch; Konoha High cafeteria wasn't exactly known for the edibility of its school lunches.)
Haruno Sakura, legendary everyday superhero of helping old folks across the streets, saving cats from trees, helping lost children find their parents and vehement on getting everyone around her a social life was not about to let this go easily. Naruto could just feel her boiling with agitation or determination.
"Naruto, please." His best friend's voice had taken on a pleading tone, coupled with the kicked-puppy-eyes stare. Naruto tried to avoid looking at her and unluckily allowed his gaze to land on Ino instead.
The Queen Bee of Konoha High fixed the unfortunate blonde in front of her with a deadly stare. "Do it, Uzumaki," She hissed. "I don't want to put up with Sakura's complaints about you for the rest of the day." The two blondes faced off in a fierce glaring competition. Unfortunately, Naruto had less training in perfecting the lethality and duration of his glare and, unable to fight against the stinging of his watering eyes, conceded defeat.
The blonde sophomore exhaled a deep sigh. He was so going to regret this, this he was certain of. (As certain as how he could be of the undefeated quality of Ichiraku Ramen.)
"Alright," He mumbled as both girls begun to sport identical-looking Cheshire grins.
Fishing something out of her bag with a dramatic motion, Sakura then pushed a cardboard box filled with strips of paper to Naruto. "Here," she said, "put your hand in. And don't you dare look. We filled the strips of paper with the names of students all the way from freshman to the seniors in our school; both male and female. Now, take your pick!"
Sakura's plan was rather simple, or too annoyingly simple and straightforward and threatened to make Naruto look like a desperate bastard. Naruto was to pick a person from Konoha High to go out with. Or rather, attempt to go out with, because Naruto was fairly certain that he would just get rejected on the spot.
Gingerly, Naruto's fingers fumbled along with the countless pieces of paper in the box (how long did Sakura manage to do this?) and pulled out a random one. "Ah..." Naruto stared at the piece of paper in between his fingers, as though hoping that it would suddenly catch fire.
Was it too much to hope for that Sakura had conveniently left that piece of paper blank? Kami-sama, Naruto groaned internally, help me.
In an instant, before he could unfold it, the paper was whisked away and Yamanaka Ino got a hold of it, smoothing out the slight wrinkles. He gulped when Ino's baby-blue eyes grew wide, then passed it to Sakura, whose eyes grew even wider.
"So..do I get to know the unlucky person?" Asked Naruto tentatively, wishing to melt into the ground. He was getting uncomfortable with the hushed whispering between the two girls sitting opposite him.
As the bell sounded, signalling the end of the break, Naruto clambered to his feet with the grace of a baby gorilla, dumping his tray of uneaten (and unidentifiable) school lunch into the nearest bin. Feeling even more put out as the girls continued to ignore him, Naruto deftly snatched the offending piece of paper which was the cause of all this misery.
Scrawled in a messy handwriting, presumably Sakura's, was the name famous in and out of Konoha High.
Another confession? Not again, Sasuke sighed quietly to himself as he found himself confronted with yet another hopeful individual this afternoon whilst attempting to find a quiet spot in the library to snooze.
Konoha High students had a tradition of confessing to their crushes – or also known as The One in big, bold, capitalized 'T' and 'O' – at the rightmost corner of the school library.
Why the library, one may ask. Well, to put simply, the school library was luxuriously spacious, with its high shelves stocked with thick volumes that no normal high schooler would bother to browse through, and numerous quiet corners that, more often than not, was used as a place for confessions (and rejections) and (god forbid) as a hotspot for lovers with their uncontrollable teenage hormones.
"U-Uchicha-san," The girl stuttered nervously, her fingers trembling as she clutched tightly to the slightly crumpled pink envelop, "please…go out with me." She bit her glossed lip, no doubt having attempted to use up the entire stick of lip gloss before readying herself to throw at Sasuke.
Sasuke glanced at her from head to toe. Sure, she was cute and all but Sasuke wasn't interested in her. Plus, he wasn't even sure if he had ever seen her before in his entire life. Sasuke resisted the attempt to sigh loudly and deeply. The sunlight streamed cheerfully through the large glass windows and onto the girl, as though putting her on a spotlight.
"You," he said suddenly, startling the girl after a rather prolonged period of tense silence. The girl instantly jerked her head up to meet his eyes, cheeks flushing harder than Sasuke thought was humanly possible. "…what do you like about me?"
"H-Huh? Oh, erm…you're very handsome," The girl mumbled, casting her eyes downcast to the polished wood floor. "a-and you're very prince-like and you're good at sports and academics and you're r-really…really cool." It was as though Sasuke had heard a repetition of all the confessions he had received over the years condensed into one.
All of a sudden, Sasuke felt tired. Tired of going through the same process almost every day, every week, every year. The girls would approach him, chant the same itinerary of all the 'good' qualities he possessed and he would turn them away, one by one. It was a nice day, he idly thought as silence fell over the pair again, choosing to glance out of the nearest window. The sky was practically cloudless, a vivid shade of blue.
Sasuke felt old and tired and wanted to escape from this dreary lifestyle.
Girls fawned over him, and no doubt he had often wondered why on earth had they not given up on their pathetic crushes and countless confessions and along with their numerous pink envelopes dipped in perfume addressed to 'Dear Sasuke-sama' in glittery pen ink.
They just seemed to love him all the more, with every word he hurled at them, with every rejection, colder than the last.
"I'm sorry," He sighed. He was really getting too old for this sort of shit. Could people just take a hint already? "I'm not interested. I don't even know you." The girl opposite him stared at him with tear-filled eyes, heartbreak taking effect almost instantaneously after registering his words. Which was quite peculiar, if one thought about it – considering they had never met before.
The girl bit her lip harder, as if to stop the tears which were threatening to flow out. "I love you," She gasped, her voice cracking as she blinked, hot liquid gentling cascading down her pale cheek. "I've – I've always loved you. Watched you during your basketball training, and how you always b-buy tomatoes with your sandwich during lunch-"So apparently this was another stalker, "-and I've loved you since the first time I've seen you. Please, please don't turn me away. I can change, if you want me to."
Sasuke turned away, unable to look at the desperate, heartbroken mess in front of him. "I'm sorry," he repeated, slowly walking away from that particular section of the library. "I can't go out with you." He heard a final whimper and gasp of pain from the girl before he effectively created as much distance as possible from the scene of crime.
Previous good mood having evaporated along with the girl's hopes, Sasuke wandered randomly to another section of the enormous library. Sai pointed out that part of the reason why Konoha High had a tradition of confessing in dubious corners of the library was because of Sasuke's tendency to lurk around the place. Well, Sai could go screw himself. It was the last year of their schooling here anyway so Sasuke was less inclined to care too much about the harassment.
Furthermore, Sasuke enjoyed the way the sunlight poured through the expensive glass, gently submerging the dark wood of the shelves and tables. The chairs were comfortable, with red and gold cushions adorning each seat and the atmosphere was of mostly stillness and relaxation.
The stillness and silence which was broken by a blonde student attempting to scale one of the enormous shelves nearby in order to reach his desired book. Sasuke watched the student flail agitatedly with amusement, as each time the student almost grabbed the book, his entire body would wobble with the effort of maintaining his precarious position, and he would miss it again. The sunlight shone upon the boy's blonde hair, which reminded Sasuke strongly of corn.
Sasuke found himself blurting out before he could clamp his mouth shut, "Need help?" to which the blonde paused in his administrations to turn to look at him, awkward posture resembling a monkey. Sasuke wanted to snort at the absurdity of the blonde's situation, before it died halfway before it was even formed.
The blonde student – no doubt a junior, considering that Sasuke had not remembered seeing anyone in his year looking like that – had the bluest eyes Sasuke had ever seen. Overhead, from one of the windows, the vivid hue of the cloudless sky matched his eyes perfectly. Sky-eyes, the unbidden thought came to Sasuke's mind before his more logical (and still functioning) part of his brain told it to shut up.
Illuminated by the sunlight, the corn colored spikes seemed to create an ethereal halo and the tan skin covering the student appeared to gleam as well (which may have helped by the perspiration from exerting various stunts like scaling library shelves), and causing Sasuke's mouth to go a little dry. The blonde grinned at him (blinding Sasuke), "Ah, sure. It's the book right over there," gesturing rather helplessly in the general direction of Sasuke's right.
Sasuke reached over and pulled the said volume out with ease, feeling a half-smile forming before he could stop it. "Here," He handed the book to the blonde, who sighed with relief and happiness as he got down as gracefully (which was not very graceful at all) from the shelf.
"Thanks," He said as he took the book from Sasuke, eyes blindingly blue. Sasuke felt as though he was drowning, with a sudden tight constricting feeling in his chest as they both stared at each other for a long silent moment. The bell rang just then, startling the blonde student as he yelped, running a hand distractedly through his messy hair. "Shit, I'm gonna be late. Thanks again man, you really saved me!" And with that, he sprinted out of the library, ratty old sneakers slapping loudly against the polished wooden floor and ignoring the school librarian's scolding as he exited.
Sasuke simply stood rooted to the spot, unable to completely process the entire event that had just occurred. Well, that was…that was weird, he inwardly grimaced, mind unconsciously filled with a vivid shade of blue that Sasuke was sure he would remember for days to come.
Naruto scratched his head, half-listening to Sarutobi-sensei rambling about World History as he glanced at the clock for the fifth time. It was about three-thirty in the afternoon, and the atmosphere in the classroom was dull and stuffy and sleepy and Naruto just wanted to die.
The humid weather was not helping the blonde focus, and he sighed softly as he was probably going to fail this class yet again and get held back during the summer holidays or something. Just thinking about Sakura's reaction to his bad grades made Naruto want to open the window (it was half-open anyway) next to him and fly out as a quick and contrived way of ending all misery.
His suicide would be published on Konoha News, and the story would spread all over Japan and students from all schools would begin protests over Naruto's gruesome and unnecessary death and researchers and social experts would come together and realize that in today's society school (especially World History) was no longer necessary for the average teenager – given the spike in numbers of suicides and depression cases and thus abolish the education system all together and Naruto would be seen as a symbol of freedom! – Freedom of the oppressed students! It would be called the Uzumaki Syndrome and all countries around the world would emulate Japan and everyone would remember Naruto as The Boy Who Died For Freedom-
"-ruto-kun. Naruto-kun, are you there?" Sarutobi-sensei's increasingly annoyed voice aroused Naruto from his daydreams, jolting him back into the stuffy classroom of 1A-03.
The blonde grinned at his sensei sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck, "Of course, Sensei!" in which no one believed the unfortunate blonde for even a second. Sarutobi sighed loudly, turning back to the black board but not before smacking the student on his left awake. "Kiba-kun," Sarutobi glowered as Kiba sleepily blinked at him, "you're staying back with Naruo-kun today to file assignments."
This time Kiba shot up in his seat as Naruto scowled heavily. "But Sensei!" The brunette half-shouted in agitation, "My swim meets are coming up, I can't afford to waste so much tim-"
"Then you should've reminded yourself to pay full attention in my class." Saruobi's voice held a tone of finality and the case was closed. As Kiba slumped in his seat, displeasure and annoyance apparent on his face, Naruto decided to daydream even more just to spite his sensei.
The blonde's thoughts drifted towards what happened earlier as his gaze landed on the library book placed on the corner of Naruto's messy desk. Dark hair, almond-shaped eyes were the first thing that Naruto registered when he turned around those eyes that stared at him – their intensity almost causing Naruto to fall off his precarious position on the library shelf.
Naruto wanted to die right at that moment, and cursed all the stars and deities and all higher-powers up on giving him the ability to embarrass himself in front of attractive people. Those two words sounded so musical and deep and masculine and Naruto just wanted to die and let the ground swallow him up to save himself from being seen scaling library shelves.
Naruto must have done some terrible deeds in his past life to be condemned to such a terrible, unfortunate existence.
That boy that helped him – Naruto was pretty sure he was an upperclassman, he had never seen someone look so…so attractive before. His stomach felt slightly queasy and his hands jittery as the image of the handsome senior flashed through his mind again. God, what was wrong with him?
Naruto's fervent daydreaming was cut short by the bell ringing shrilly, and Sarutobi-sensei mercifully ending the class with a reminder to read up on the next chapter before next week's lesson.
"Naruto!" Shouted a familiar voice at the doorway of the class as students began to file out quickly, each eager for freedom from the tiring school day. Naruto glanced up and saw a pink head bobbing up and down the crowd of students, trying to find him. "Oi, Uzumaki," Kiba drawled lazily, cramming his schoolbooks into his brown messenger bag, "you'd better tell your girlfriend that we've got to accompany the old man till late today."
The blonde sighed as he remembered Sarutobi-sensei's annoyed face, and stuffing papers haphazardly into his own orange haversack, he mumbled half-heartedly, "She's not my girlfriend." Ignoring Naruto, Kiba simply shrugged and said nonchalantly, "Why don't you ask her to stay and help us? Shino's offered to stay and split the workload."
"Sure," Naruto was secretly grateful for an additional pair of hands. It appeared that Kiba was really desperate to get this over and done with. "Swim meets no joke huh." The brunette shook his head tiredly. "Training's killing me. Gai-sensei is making it compulsory to reach the school at six am every single fucking morning to swim laps. Stupid Rock Lee isn't helping either." Ah, so that explained the brunette's lack of energy in the afternoon.
Konoha High was well-known for their elite sports, and many students had the opportunity to participate in national-level competitions – but not without a hefty price (extra lessons during summer break). The swim team, in particular, led by the infamous Gai-sensei (also known as the Green Beast of Konoha due to the highly offending skin-tight green suit of spandex he often wore) was one of the best in Japan.
"Naruto-kun!" Sakura's voice reached the pair as the pink-haired girl finally managed to get into the mostly empty classroom. "Why're you stalling for? Let's go home already, Ino-chan ditched me to walk home with Sai-senpai!" The Vice president of Konoha High huffed, obviously put out by her friend's decision. Kiba spared the two of them a sideways glance, gesturing to Shino Aburame from the far end of the corner of the classroom to come.
"Sakura-chan," Naruto sighed, "I can't walk home with you today. Sarutobi-sensei's making Inuzuka and I file assignments today." He dared not suggest what Kiba had casually mentioned earlier – to do so would mean an early death. Naruto had not forgotten that the delicate-looking pink-head was a black-belt in karate. Sakura's expression turned from slight disappointment to horror – it would be detrimental to her position as vice-president of Konoha high to be walking home alone. "Naruto," She grimaced, "how about I help out and you accompany me to the mall later on?" What a waste of a perfectly good afternoon. But Sakura was beginning to form an idea in her head.
The blonde's expression instantly brightened as he heard those magical words, pumping the air with a fist and shouting, "Alright! Let's do this!" in which the four of them sat in an irregular circle formation, Kiba distributing the heavy files he had gotten in courtesy of Sarutobi-sensei.
The sounds of silence were only broken by the constant shuffling of papers and the metallic clicking and closing of files as the students diligently worked through the mess of papers, each resisting to look at the clock.
As the seconds ticked slowly away, Sakura then spoke up after nearly forty minutes of continuous filing. "Naruto, we're gonna carry out the plan on Saturday." The blonde jerked his head up inn surprise to stare at his friend. "What plan?" He blurted out, feeling a creeping sense of unease taking over him. Both Kiba and Shino paused in their work to stare at the both of them. "Yeah, Haruno, what plan?" Kiba asked curiously.
Ignoring Kiba, Sakura continued mercilessly, "Don't you remember? It's about the deal we made this morning. And don't you dare try to worm your way out of this, Uzumaki." The blonde in question had a sudden flashback to the terrible events that occurred in the morning – namely the promise he made and how he sold his soul over to two high school girls.
Remembering the name scrawled on the crumpled piece of paper made Naruto feel nauseous. "You're serious, aren't you," he muttered weakly. This was turning out to be such a terrible day. He knew that he should've just stayed at home when his alarm clock failed to go off in the morning, making him a good thirty minutes late for school and missing homeroom.
"Of course," Sakura snorted. "Haruno Sakura always keeps her promises no matter what." Naruto glanced at Kiba and Shino, the latter giving him a deeply sympathetic look through his darkened lenses of his spectacles (for medical purposes – Shino's eyes were sensitive to light) and Kiba giving a low whistle, "She's got you whipped, Uzumaki." All in all, the pair didn't know what was going on but they had a faint inkling that Uzumaki Naruto was about to undergo some torturous experience.
Silence reigned over the four of them again as they resumed work, quickening their pace as the pile of papers gradually lessened. Throughout this period of peaceful silence, Naruto could only think of the accursed name upon the unlucky slip of paper he had taken this morning – Uchiha Sasuke. Who the hell was he, anyway? Naruto had never seen him before.
Naruto's heart skipped a beat as the fleeting memory of that encounter with that dark-haired senior flashed through his mind yet again. Somehow, Naruto couldn't help but wish that that handsome dark-haired senior was Uchiha Sasuke. If only, if only.
Perspiration trickled down Naruto's temple as he trudged along Sakura under the boiling sun, unbearably hot despite it being late afternoon. "Naruto," Sakura murmured after a few minutes of walking in silence, "how 'bout a drink when we get to the mall?"
Naruto hoisted his bag higher on his shoulders and nodded, too tired and sweaty to say anything else. Why couldn't Sakura just go to the mall another day, the blonde had simply no idea. Walking several steps behind the pink-haired girl, Naruto glanced at her small form, from her immaculately done hair to the pristine uniform, with the Konoha High plaited skirt rolled up an inch or two above the appropriate hemline. Sakura was beautiful, Naruto inwardly thought to himself whilst shielding his eyes from the glaring sun above. He wondered why she didn't have a boyfriend.
"Ne, Sakura," He called, tucking his hands into his pants pockets. "Who's Uchiha Sasuke? I know he's popular and all but are you sure this weird plan of yours won't backfire badly? He could end up beating me up."
Sakura turned around to face the blonde, apple-green eyes slightly squinted because of the sun. "He won't," She replied rather shortly, causing Naruto to wonder if she was put off because of his obvious reluctance to participate in her schemes (which often ended badly)or was it because of Ino's disappearing act with the elusive Sai earlier.
"How do you know?" He blurted out, tone almost accusatory. Sakura ignored his question.
They were reaching the mall soon, Naruto could tell from the way the road diverged into a fork, and the houses giving way to small shophouses which lined the pavement. Naruto could hear the faint hustle and bustle of the shopkeepers – "Takoyaki, a box for five hundred yen!" or "Boy, pay up for your candy before you leave!" –and the mixed smells of grilled squid and detergent from the local Laundromat and bread from the bakeries.
Small children ran about, giggling and shouting at each other whilst holding onto dripping popsicle sticks, colourful blurs in red and yellow and green. Middle-school students dressed in their uniforms – presumably hanging out long after class had ended scoffed at the unrestrained childishness of elementary students and toddlers, choosing to pretend to act slightly more dignified while crowding around the comics bookstore or the takoyaki man ("Hey Ojii-san, give us a discount, ne?" "Why should I give you brats any discounts? Troublemakers, you lot!").
Konoha Leaf Village – or at least, that was what the mall was called – was an impressively large building, with enormous statue heads of the founders of Konoha etched upon the walls as decoration. Naruto felt it looked gaudy and overrated.
With a relieved sigh as the glass doors automatically slid open at their arrival, cool air rushed out to greet their sun-baked faces. Sakura closed her eyes in silent enjoyment, wanting to bask in air-conditioned bliss forever. Naruto could only grimace at his sweaty uniform, now becoming cold.
"Sakura," He whined, scratching his cheek absently. "Can we not stand here in the middle of the entrance?" indeed, there were a good number of people who were trying to avoid the pair of highschoolers obstructing their path, shooting them dirty looks as they went.
The pink-haired girl sighed, reaching out to grab Naruto's wrist and pulling him into the nearest cafe. "Hi, how may I help you?" The overtly cheerful and exuberant waitress greeted them. "Table for two? Please come this way." Naruto flung his bag onto the allocated seats and slumped into the soft cushion sofas. It had been such a tiring day. Sakura slid effortlessly into the seat opposite him, busily arranging her hair and checking her makeup in her trusty pink Hello Kitty compact mirror.
"I'm beat," Sakura finally said as she closed her compact with a snap, satisfied with how she, unlike Naruto, was still in pristine state. The blonde murmured an affirmative. "The Student Council is full of idiots," The pink haired girl complained. "We've got so many events coming up, and no one's even the slightest bit anxious! Gaara-san is the president but nope, he doesn't give a shit about anything and that stupid Hyuuga Neji keeps intruding upon our meetings to talk to him about god knows what."
Ah, Sakura was in one of her ranting moods again. Naruto smiled slightly at the waitress and ordered two iced coffees. "Hyuuga Neji?" Naruto mused. "Isn't he from the swim team…what does the swim team want with the Student Council?" Naruto couldn't remember any instance that Kiba complained of low budget or a change of facilities.
"Urgh, as if I know!" The pinkette flung her hands into the air in an exasperated huff. "The worst part is that he comes back – and I mean Gaara-san – he comes back all red-faced and he can't concentrate and the whole meeting goes down the drain."
The waitress intervened in the pause of Sakura's ranting to quickly serve the both of them their drinks, her face half helpless and half terrified at witnessing Sakura's wrath. Naruto felt a little sorry for her. She was kind of cute – what was her name again…Hanabi?
"And Yakushi acts all high and mighty as if he knows everything – 'I'm afraid this isn't feasible, Sakura-san'," Sakura mimicked Yakushi Kabuto's condescending tone, rolling her eyes fiercely and stirring her iced coffee with her straw using as much strength as she could without spilling her drink.
Naruto repressed a sigh that was threatening to escape his lips. "Sakura, is this what you called me here for?" He grumbled, watching the droplets of condensation on his glass chase each other down. "It's been a long day."
Glancing at the window outside, Naruto spotted a girl with sandy-blonde hair walking alongside a figure that was obviously trying to lag behind, slouching with black spikey hair standing up against the laws of gravity. So that was the infamous Temari and Nara Shikamaru couple. No one in Konoha High had actually seen them hold hands before, or as a matter of fact, be caught doing any couple-ish things together.
Looking at the way Temari folded her arms in an exasperated way and how she appeared to be constantly shouting at Shikamaru – who by the way, appeared to not care as he slouched his way lazily past his girlfriend – Naruto would say that they looked more like an old married couple rather than a pair of teenagers dating.
"Naruto, are you paying attention?" Sakura groused, clearly still clinging on to the remnants of her bad mood as the blonde dragged his gaze from the window to her. "Anyway, like I was saying, us coming to the mall today…it has a purpose."
"A purpose," Naruto echoed, clearly not liking where this was going.
The pink-haired girl nodded, expression brightening. "We're going to find out your shoe sizes and the sizes of your clothes," She announced happily, traces of her dark mood finally dissipating. Naruto frowned in confusion. "Sakura," He said slowly, "I do know what my shoe sizes are and what clothing sizes suit me best. I haven't exactly been living on this planet for the past sixteen years stark naked all the time."
Sakura swirled the straw in her iced coffee, smile growing as her eyes took on a wicked gleam, striking fear into Uzumaki Naruto's fragile and delicate heart. "Well, you don't. At least not for women's clothes."
Naruto wiped the counter for the fifth time; he glared at the stubborn stains on the counter which refused to come out no matter what. The rag in his hand was not helping. At all. Just then, he heard a voice calling, "Table four, one miso ramen!"
"I got it, old man!" He yelled back, throwing the rag and the counter another dirty glance before he took the bowl of steaming noodles freshly prepared by Teuchi Ichiraku. It was a Friday evening and as usual, Ichiraku's was packed with its regulars and some tentative newcomers. Wiping the sweat off his brow, Naruto set off to serve the customers, squeezing through some narrow gaps here and there, as people chattered and laughed and shouted jovially.
"Here's your order," Naruto grinned at the customer as he set the bowl down before recognizing the familiar dark eyes and handsome face. It was him, the senior that Naruto had met and couldn't get the image of him out of his head afterwards. It appeared to be such a tragic (and cruel) twist of irony and fate that they would meet each other here out of all places. "Ah, it's you!" He exclaimed without thinking. The Handsome Dark-haired Prince-like senior smiled slightly, "It would seem so."
Naruto's heart pounded hard against his ribcage and he forgot to breathe for a moment. Quiet you stupid organ. "First time here?" Naruto asked as casually as he could, letting his eyes travel across the room, keeping an eye out for other customers.
"Yes. Is it always this crowded?" The raven fiddled with the wooden chopsticks, ignoring the bowl of ramen in front of him in favour of interacting with the blonde. He looked good dressed in a black turtle neck sweater and dark jeans, even though the weather itself was enough to bake anyone who was crazy enough to cover two thirds of their body even in the (slightly) cooler evening air.
Naruto looked at his own Ichiraku uniform – white shirt and pants (complete with a white cap!) and felt woefully inadequate. "Mostly on Friday nights. I started working here because I fell in love with the old man's cooking when I first came." Naruto realised that he was rambling, but the other did not seem to mind. "You should come back and try our Tonkotsu ramen. It's the best in Konohagakure."
The senior half-smiled once more, and Naruto's heart skipped a beat again. He was pretty sure he was going into cardiac arrest by the end of tonight. "Sure. When are your shifts?" He began to stir the cooled noodles gently with his chopsticks.
"M-My shifts?" Kami-sama, Naruto prayed that he did not just stutter like Hyuuga Hinata. And then – he wants to come when I'm working? To see me? The dark-haired boy nodded, glancing curiously at Naruto. Naruto was pretty sure he was wearing some weird expression; his face felt hot. Maybe it was the weather. Naruto wanted to blame the terrible droughts and humidity and global warming for his red face. "I usually work on Wednesdays and Fridays."
Just then, Ayame's voice filled in the air, "Naruto-kun, Table nine orders coming right up!" and both boys jerked in surprise, having forgotten about the hectic atmosphere of the evening peak hours in Ichiraku. "Got it Ayame-chan! Be right there!" Naruto shouted back, ignoring his inward reluctance to part with his acquaintance.
The dark-haired boy nodded in understanding when they made eye contact again, "Looks like I'll see you around on Wednesdays or Fridays then," he offered, onyx eyes scanning Naruto's nametag, "…Naruto-san."
Naruto felt himself flush again from the way his name was pronounced smoothly, hands unconsciously wringing his apron in half-embarrassment and some emotion Naruto could not identify. "You can call me Naruto," He mumbled, silently cursing himself as he felt his face turn hotter for deliberately dropping the honorific, "…and uh, I-I'll see you around!" he added distractedly as Ayame started calling his name again.
As the blonde busied himself with the seemingly never-ending orders and shouting and squeezing through tables and chairs ("'Cuse me, do the wet tissues cost extra yen?" "I'm paying for the fucking bill, Kakuzu you shit so calm your man-tits for Jashin's sake!") and attempting to balance as many bowls of ramen as he could at one go.
In the quieter hours of the night, when the last few ramen-lovers finally paid their bills and left half-drunk and laughing noisily, Naruto finally allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief. And for the first time since serving that dark-haired senior, Naruto allowed his thoughts to once again broach on the subject of the handsome upperclassman.
God almighty, Naruto was really going to die from a cardiac arrest. He shook his head rather violently in an attempt to clear his head from such…such girlish thoughts. Good heavens, one might even suspect that he had a crush on the older boy.
He was really good looking, with his bangs swept artfully to the sides of his face, and the features of his face so defined and skin that appeared to glow in the warm orange-yellowish light of the lanterns placed around Ichiraku Ramen.
Naruto-san, the boy's musical and deep voice echoed in Naruto's head, and Naruto felt himself flush again, thankfully having no one but the rag in his hand and the empty stall to witness this.
It was only then did Naruto realize with a jolt that he had forgotten to ask the boy his name.
It was a Saturday.
Just any plain old Saturday, with the same sweltering weather as always, strains of a pathetic breeze whispering in the trees, with the sky a bright blue hue and without a cloud anywhere in sight. Saturdays were nice. They were meant for sleeping in till afternoon, playing video games and ignoring the piles of awaiting undone homework.
Yes, Saturdays were supposedly the best day of the week. One day right after Friday, but not late enough to be Sunday.
Naruto never thought that he'd hate this particular day so much.
Dressed in a thin denim jacket over an airy dress whose end seemed to float whenever the wind blew, no matter how gently, the blonde glared at anyone who'd even dare so much as to stare at him. It wasn't his fault. And his scalp itched from wearing that stupid, impossibly long wig the very same color as his hair.
Plucking at the jacket a little, Naruto shuffled slowly towards his destination – Konohagakure Park. Konoha Park was a popular spot for lovers to meet up, with tall, trees, bushes of flowers trimmed to perfection and complete with a glorious fountain (built in nineteen eighty-nine!) and a small lake.
The blonde's feet hurt from wearing those heels that a certain pink head insisted upon wearing – he could already envision the painful red blisters and sores that his feet were going to be adorned with after this. He snapped open his cell phone and read the message that Sakura had sent him regarding the details of her absurd plan: Go to the centre of Konohagakure Park, wait at the giant fountain at two-thirty pm tomorrow. Be there or I'll cut your **** off. Oh, did I asterisk the word? I meant to say head.
Naruto had no doubts what Sakura had actually intended to say.
Upon finally reaching his destination, Naruto collapsed in exhaustion onto the white platform of the famous fountain, trying his best to ignore the couples around him sitting together and murmuring sweet nothings to each other. Sighing, it was all Naruto could do to not throw himself into the fountain and end his misery right there and then.
Naruto twisted around and stared at his reflection in the clear water filled with yen of varying values. A blonde girl, dressed in a cute dress that was rather popular nowadays with a denium jacket over it stared back.
The girl in the water had impossibly bright blue eyes, brighter than Naruto's. Well, that was to be expected. He was wearing blue contacts (on Sakura's insistence). Naruto blew frustratedly at his bangs. The girl in the water did the same. He glared at the girl, as hard as Uzumaki Naruto could. The girl glared right back, with the same ferocity.
The blonde fought the urge to scratch his head again. Wigs were unbearably itchy, how did anyone even wear them? His eyes felt dry and itchy as well and all he wanted to do was to go home and take a long shower and try to revitalize the remnants of his masculinity by playing video games all day and eating instant ramen. "Inuzuka was right," Naruto muttered to himself, "I am whipped."
"Okay so here's the plan Naruto," Sakura said excitedly, her cheeks flushed and eyes twinkling. Naruto couldn't remember when was the last time he saw Sakura this excited. "You change into this-" She thrust the varying sizes of bags filled with their purchases (to Naruto's increasing horror and dread) "-and don't you dare leave anything out or I will personally skewer you. I'll text you the location and timing."
"And how do you know I'll meet him there? What if Uchiha Sasuke has a cold or some life-threatening disease and he can't make it?" try as he might, Naruto couldn't keep the skepticism out of his voice at the increasing ridiculousness of the entire situation.
Sakura's eyes had a dangerous and cunning look to them; Naruto's inner self wailed for the Good Golden Days when Sakura was a pink-haired angel and was oh-so cute and adorable. Growing up did nasty things to a person. "Oh, you definitely will. My sources have been rather accurate so far. Uchiha Sasuke and Fujimoto Sai will be heading your way at the fountain."
"And then what am I supposed to say?" Naruto wailed, resisting the urge to fling all the bags into the nearest bin and run to the safety of his house. "I'm gonna be rejected in front of two people. Not just one, but two!"
"Stop being sucha ninny," Sakura replied remorselessly. Had she no mercy or sympathy for her friend of almost nine years? "Just ask to speak to the Uchiha. They're probably experts with this – girls confess to them almost every day."
And with that, the case was closed and Naruto ended up in front of the fountain at two-thirty.
Naruto's butt felt cold from sitting at the fountain and his feet hurt and his scalp itched and he was dying to just strip naked and run amok the park screaming obscenities. And the worst part, the worst part was that he didn't even know how Uchiha Sasuke or Fujimoto Sai even looked like. Sakura's reply to that vital question was vague – pale skin, dark hair and eyes and look somewhat alike.
Naruto strained his eyes for every dark haired person. For goodness sake, this was Japan – there were so many dark haired people! Damn that Sakura. Damn the whole world. Damn himself for not pretending to have a girlfriend in the first place (even though Sakura would've seen through that lie easily).
Forty-five minutes had passed and Naruto was quite pissed. Where were they? The only dark-haired people he saw were either middle aged businessmen taking a break from work or high school girls who clung onto the arms of their boyfriends or toddlers running about or entire families but Naruto was pretty sure neither Uchiha Sasuke nor Fujimoto Sai tagged along their families for a walk in the park. And he was pretty sure neither had a hobby of dressing up like middle-aged business men…
Alright Naruto, he thought to himself. Wait for ten more minutes then tell Sakura 'Oops, didn't get to meet them, guess your plan failed huh? What a pity.' And then Naruto would go on to live his merry little life and hopefully meet that dark-haired senior around in school more often. The end. What a brilliant, brilliant plan indeed.
With that, the blonde set the timer on his phone for ten minutes, counting down the seconds with silent joy. The timer ended with a beep and Naruto wanted to fly with happiness. He took a quick photo of his feet at the fountain – there was no way in hell he was going to take a picture of his face – as evidence for Sakura and walked as quickly as possible (which was not quick at all, considering all that wobbling) to his freedom. By this time, the fountain was deserted, as most couples and families had decided to relocate to other places for enjoyment.
The only sounds around was the blonde's constant swearing, the shuffling/dragging of heels on the ground and the gentle splashing of water at the fountain. All of a sudden, Naruto tripped over a small pebble, causing him to lose his balance as he fell ungracefully to the floor with a soft 'thump', crying out in surprise and pain. Groaning, the blonde looked at his right ankle, and nervously jerked it, only to bite his lip as a jolt of pain ran up his leg. Shit.
His ankle was beginning to swell, the clumsy blonde unfortunately landing on his right leg as he lost balance, causing it to bear the brunt of the fall. Naruto looked around and swore loudly again, for the park that was rather crowded half an hour ago had not a single soul to witness his fall from grace.
Kami-sama, he prayed, please help me. Ugh, what a day. All thanks to Sakura.
Kami-sama's answer to the blonde's prayer came in the form of a dark-haired boy strolling by.
The Uchiha was late, as usual. Sai sighed as he strolled casually into Konoha Park, contemplating how to kill time while his best friend dolled himself up like the vain little bitch he was.
Upon reaching the large fountain – their "secret" meet-up place (but it wasn't so secret after many girls began to stalk them here until they stopped coming to the park so frequently) Sai raised his eyebrows slightly at the sight of a blonde girl standing barefooted on one leg (looking like a flamingo, in Sai's honest opinion). There was an ugly purplish bruise on her right ankle, which probably explained the awkward posture. Then his eyes travelled to the pair of heels in the girl's hands. No doubt she had fallen while walking in those shoes.
Sai was considering on turning his back and escaping before the girl could spot him but alas, he noticed how the blonde's eyes lit up when she saw him, and waved rather ungracefully for a girl, Sai might have liked to add. What a strange girl. He waved back at the girl, wishing that he could run away. Well technically he could but then rumors would spread that Fujimoto Sai was every bit of the bastard that he pretended otherwise.
"Need some help?" He asked the girl, offering a smile and a hand. Sai knew that from that small crease around her eyebrows, the girl probably knew his smile was fake. Well screw her, he wasn't the one in need of obvious help.
"Ain't it obvious?" The flat-chested blonde snapped back. Sai wondered if all girls were like that. They tended to be gentle and sweet to boys they liked though (god forbid that Yamanaka Ino's true nature was like this; Sai had to admit he was rather fond of her).
The raven shrugged, whilst inwardly thinking of whether the girl had boobs or not (she was awfully flat-chested for a high-schooler, even Haruno Sakura's tits were probably bigger than hers) and then turning his back towards her, Sai squatted down and glanced at the flamingo-girl. "I'll carry you," He offered (reluctantly).
As he had anticipated, the girl eagerly accepted his offer - what else could she do, anyway? –and clambered clumsily onto his back, grunting as she did so. Sai almost let a comment slide of how she sounded like a pig and then shut his mouth in surprise when the weight of the blonde settled upon his back; she was a hell lot heavier than expected.
"Who're you, anyway?" He muttered under his breath, but was sure that the blonde caught it anyway.
"...Uzumaki Narut-ko. You?"
Sai smiled to himself as he hoisted the girl higher up his back, the lie coming to his tongue easily. "Uchiha Sasuke." Hearing the intake of breath behind him, Sai knew that this girl must've been one of the stalkers that attempted to ambush Sai and his best friend on a weekly basis. Ugh, Sai hated stalkers. And there was something off about this girl too...
He had felt odd carrying the girl before (disregarding the fact that she was heavier than she looked); and the realisation hit him after a few metres. Girls don't have dicks. As simple as that. Sai wasn't stupid, he was definitely not going to ask the girl, 'Hey, how come you're actually a guy?!'…Well, that came across his mind a few times, he was tempted to ask her-him but he was also interested.
Why would anyone dress up as a girl to confess? It wasn't as though there were no boys who confessed their undying love for the Uchiha (or to Sai himself). Furthermore, the girl had actually bought his half-baked lie which meant that she didn't know how he looked like, and that she was probably from another school (Iwagakure Academy perhaps? Some high school girls have actually confessed to the Uchiha from that school). What is his intention? A transvestite...probably.
"Your house?" He asked, sounding bored. They were almost outside the park, the large trees giving way to the sights of traffic lights and the main roads. Sai wondered if the Uchiha knew where he was. Oh well, serves him right for being late all the time. "J-Just walk straight down the pavement and turn left," Came the mumbled reply and he nodded slightly.
Sai felt his phone vibrating in the pocket of his jeans – ah, so the Uchiha was finally out and about. "Hang on," He said, letting go of the girl/boy as gently as he could and helping her/him onto ledge to sit while he answered his phone. "Hello?"
"Where're you bastard? You're always complaining that I'm late but now who's talking?"
So the Uchiha was in his Prissy Bitch Mode 1. "Calm your man-tits," He drawled, sparing the curious blonde behind him a glance. Stop trying to eavesdrop on my conversation you transvestite-stalker. "I'm just helping an injured girl get home."
"Get her home or get in her pants? Fujimoto, just tell me where you are right now," The Uchiha sighed, irritation apparent in his tone. "This had better not be one of your booty-calls or I'll swear to Kami-sama I'll-"
Sai ignored the Uchiha's rambling of threats – such was to be expected as he was still in Prissy Bitch Mode 1. He turned around and jerked his chin towards the girl (guy). "You," he addressed carelessly, "what's the address of your house?"
As expected, the blonde instantly stiffened and replied rather obtusely, "W-Why should I tell you?" so, afraid of stalkers or perverts eh? Too bad you seem like both. Oh, the irony.
The Uchiha was still bitching in his left ear. Sai resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "Because. You can't possibly get home alone in this condition and I need to meet up with my best friend pronto or he'll have a fit."
The blonde reluctantly gave her (his) address and Sai repeated it into the receiver of his phone. "See you in five." And with that he hung up, sliding the phone back into the pocket of his jeans without actually registering what the Uchiha was trying to say on the line. The blonde got onto his back again and they continued their merry journey slowly (Sai contemplated on working out more; obviously he wasn't fit for this sort of strenuous activity).
At last, at long last, as the pair turned left and inched forward, the blonde hesitantly asked Sai to put him down in front of a tall building of apartments. Sai obeyed without complaint; his back was screaming in joy and relief as he did so. "So, you live here alone huh?" He commented offhandedly, eyes scanning the building. "Be careful on your way up." The boy/girl didn't respond immediately, staring at his feet for a long moment.
"Ne," The blonde girl(guy) spoke up, "you're Uchiha Sasuke, right? I...kinda need a favour."
"Favour?" Sai echoed. Oh, this was interesting. The blonde was doing the flamingo-pose again and Sai wondered if he should help her to the apartment. The pair of them looked awkward if anyone was spying on them from the apartments – standing opposite each other as if they were going to have some kung-fu showdown. Sai entertained the thought of doing the crane-pose so that the blonde wouldn't feel so alone in her/his fighting flamingo pose.
The boy nodded firmly. "I need you to go out with me." Well, that was a refreshing way of confessing, Sai mused to himself.
Sai looked at the other with interest; the Uchiha was going to have a fit if he'd heard what Sai was going to tell him. If Sai actually would tell him. If. The Uchiha's expression would be priceless, for sure. The artist smirked to himself. "Okay," He replied cheerfully. Oh, the Uchiha was definitely going to have a fit.
"Really?" The boy's blue eyes widened as his face lit up. Sai smiled and nodded, feeling as though it was the best thing that happened all week (besides walking Yamanaka Ino home). Ah, what a beautiful day indeed.
Just then, footsteps sounded their way and they both turned to face their newest arrival – Prissy Bitch No. 1 dressed in a white button-down and dark-blue slacks. Sai wanted to exclaim loudly, "Oh darling, you didn't tell me we were going to a party today!" just to irritate the Uchiha and poke fun at his immaculate dressing (they were just going to hang around town for Kami-sama's sake).
Before the Uchiha could open his big fat mouth and ruin everything, Sai turned to the confused cross-dressing blonde behind him and smiled, "This is my best friend, Fujimoto Sai." Sai could feel the Uchiha's stare boring holes into the back of his neck; the dark-haired boy suspected this was one of Sai's stupid little mind games again.
"Nice to meet you, Fujimoto-san," The blonde said quietly, her/his cheeks a flustered pink as she/he bowed politely (a far cry as opposed to how that idiot treated Sai). Well, this was no surprise. Any female who saw Uchiha Sasuke in his casual (and when Sai said casual he meant semi-formal clothing) clothes, the probability of her falling in love with him increased from a 85% to a 95%. The statistics were, of course, made up in Sai's head but this didn't mean it was any less true.
Uchiha Sasuke, though confused, bowed back and replied, "Nice to meet you…"
"-Uzumaki Naruko," Sai supplied helpfully.
"…Uzumaki-san." The blonde's face turned into a darker tinge of red upon hearing her/his name and Sai hoped that she/he wasn't going to faint or anything like that. His back strongly opposed lifting the unconscious body of a teenage boy.
The silence that followed the Uchiha's words were, needless to say, rather awkward as Naruko and Sasuke stared at each other for a long moment (what was with that dazed look on the Uchiha's face for?). Sai felt slightly neglected and inclined to break up this uncomfortable atmosphere. "Well, Sai," He chirruped, "Naruko-chan here is sucha pretty girl! We've decided to date each other."
Sai wanted to die laughing at the mixture of horror and confusion and undertones of embarrassment and anger on the Uchiha's face, and the increasingly confused blonde beside him. "So Naruko-chan," Sai continued with the same level of enthusiasm, "why don't we all exchange numbers so that we can meet up for a date soon?"
The blonde scratched her head and smiled shyly (mostly directed at the Uchiha), "Sure. What's your number…?"
"What the hell was that for?" Oh, here comes the inevitable bitching, Sai groaned to himself.
The Uchiha and he were sitting on the rooftop of Sai's studio apartment, eating frozen popsicles and takoyaki. Hmm, Sai loved takoyaki.
It was late afternoon, the sky streaked with orange and pink, and a faint dusting of purple hues here and there. The view of Konohagakure was the best from Sai's studio apartment as the building was on higher ground, allowing both boys to enjoy the glorious moment.
Unfortunately, being the prissy bitch that he was, Uchiha Sasuke could not keep his mouth shut for longer than a few minutes. Sai suspected this might've been his fault this time round. But nevertheless, it wasn't as though his prank was going to hurt anyone. "You lied to her about our names, what on earth was that all about?"
"She sounded like a stalker," Sai offered, licking the grape flavoured popsicle in his hand. It was the perfect setting to eat his favourite snack. Sai wished that the Uchiha would just appreciate this moment of contentment with him. "I was just trying to protect the both of us – look, if she was obsessed over Uchiha Sasuke, at least dating me will cure her of that."
"Sure, sure it would. Plus, how can someone who looks like that be an obsessive stalker-" Sasuke blurted out before he realized what he had just said and then clamped his mouth shut tightly. Sai, the ever-painfully observant friend, smirked and prompted, "Someone who looks like that?"
Sasuke looked as though he hoped that the sky would open up and swallow him whole along with his takoyaki into the infinite universe and galaxies. Floating among stars and dying from a lack of oxygen was preferable to Sai's leering and pressurizing questioning. "Nothing," He mumbled, directing his gaze sky-ward.
"Nothing? Really? So I'll go ahead and date her if there's absolutely nothing." Did Sai mention that he had neglected to tell his best friend on the questionable gender of the supposed 'girl' in question they were currently discussing about?
Sasuke frowned, stabbing one of the takoyaki balls violently with a toothpick. "Go ahead then," He muttered, unaware that he was beginning to scowl to himself. Sai smiled brightly, oh you brooding son of a bitch; how much delight your misery brings me.
"Well, since you said so…then okay!"
Sai wasn't a sadistic bastard who liked tormenting his best friend.