T__T Baaaww, so this was written mainly as to help my writer's block to disappear, but also to write something for Thanksgiving. I was wanting to do a fanfic based on the holiday last year, but....writer's block caught me there, too.
But anyway, if I wanted to put this on a timeline, I'd put it after Volume 35. (Asuma's not quite dead yet, and Naruto's still trying to learn his powerful jutsu.) I felt that this wasn't my best work, particularly because of the lack of humor, which I blame on Sai, because he's hard to write. (^^ Although I still love the near-emotionless S.O.B. XD) Maybe it's a bit OOC, buut....at least Axy finished it. =w=
Uzumaki Naruto groaned.
The number one knuckleheaded ninja of Konoha still didn't have any idea why all of the teams in his age group had to celebrate such a dull holiday. Thanksgiving was an American holiday, and although Naruto loved the prospect of sitting at a table with an abundance of food, he didn't like the learning part of this annual celebration. Who cared if a bunch of pilgrim people with muskets and bonnets sailed a ship and fought guys in feathers ? Only someone who had a brain, and unfortunately for Naruto, the light bulb in his cranium didn't click. So much for the "easiest mission in three years".
Still, the food portion of the mission appealed to the blonde-haired teenager. Pilgrims apparently didn't have a liking for Ichiraku's ramen, but there were other things - other strange things - that were described as nothing but delicious. Yamato talked about a plump turkey by the name of Tom. Sai mumbled something about potatoes being mashed and sweetened. Whoever heard of a potato being sweetened ? (At this question Naruto thought that Sai may be a compulsive liar under that neutral facade of his.) And Sakura's mouth almost watered in streams as she mentioned the pumpkin pie. Oh, dear Buddha, the pie. Each team was supposed to make one or two dishes, and Team Gai was in charge of the pie. Hopefully, Rock Lee wouldn't ruin the dessert with his bushy browed, bug-eyed stare of his.
Meanwhile, Team Kakashi was assigned the duty of homemade cranberry sauce. There may have been five in the group, but the first attempt at berry picking had gone horribly awry, and it was partially Naruto's fault. What moron decided that cranberries and mulberries should both grow on bushes ? Of course, logical responses didn't mix very well with the boy, and it prompted Sakura to pummel him into Nothing Land for two days. The only reason why he wasn't dead yet was that Kakashi had been reading Icha Icha Tactics during the entire ordeal. What a relief.
That was three days ago, and now everyone on the team was ready for a second attempt. They were supposed to meet at the entrance of the forest at nine a.m. sharp. The clock that Naruto had passed ten minutes ago read almost noon. He would have to make up a pretty bizarre excuse, or face the prospect of broken bones.
Eventually, he reached the log that marked the entrance. Sakura met his gaze with a cold glare, her arms crossed in an angered fashion. The boy placed a hand behind his head and chuckled. " Sorry I'm late, everyone. I was kinda busy, ya see, and I didn't look at the clock until...until..."
" Shut it. " The pink-haired kunoichi's gaze grew sterner.
Sitting on another log, Sai gave Naruto a blank stare before he smiled for no apparent reason. Next to him, Kakashi and Yamato were poring over a recent issue of Icha Icha Tactics. Sakura grabbed Naruto by the collar of the shirt and roughly sat him down on the log. She thrusted a bucket into his hands. " You idiot, don't you realize we could've been done by now ?! " she hissed, punching Naruto in the arm. " You were supposed to be on time like the rest of us ! Even Kakashi-sensei was here on time, and that's saying a lot, Naruto. You know that. "
" Okay, okay, Sakura. I get it. Now, shushie. I have a headache. "
Sakura walked in the opposite direction while Naruto shakily stood up from the ground. Mumbling a few obscenities under his breath, he rubbed his cheek where the blow had landed. A bruise was already starting to form near the whisker marks on his face. He would have to carry an icepack with him the next day.
Sai continued to sit on the log with his impenetrable smile. He turned his head slightly to look at Naruto, his smile still in place. " Naruto, I do believe that Sakura may be a little upset with you. Maybe it would be best for all of us if you don't talk to her for a while. "
" Ah, gee, Sai, thanks for stating the obvious. "
" No problem. "
Naruto furrowed his eyebrows in annoyance. Kakashi slowly placed the book in his pants pocket and stood up from the log. Yamato followed suit, exchanging a glance with the silver-haired Jonin, who chuckled softly. " Well, then. There's no reason for us to just sit around a bunch of firewood, roast marshmallows, and live the life of a greasy con artist. "
" Yes, there is, Kakashi-sensei. "
" Er...thank you, Sakura. "
Sakura's lips formed a triumphant grin as she stuck her tongue out at Naruto, who decided that everything would turn out better if he'd just shut the hell up and stare at the clouds. That's how Shikamaru usually avoided conflict in his long-distance relationship. Kakashi would've done the same, but having an erotic book in his pocket with a female on his team made that solution difficult. Instead, he decided to go with the easy route and turn things over to Yamato. The captain didn't seem to mind, giving his superior a glance of assurance, a look of, 'If I screw things up, I'm blaming it on Iruka, NYAH !', as he patted Naruto and Sai on their backs. " Okay. We're going to split up in pairs so no one gets distracted. Kakashi and I will be one pair. Sakura, since you're level-headed enough, you can go by yourself. Or stalk Sasuke via MySpace, whichever's more suitable to your tastes. "
" Mmm-kay. "
" And Naruto and Sai, you'll be paired up together. Maybe you'll get to know each other better. "
" What ?! " Naruto abruptly sat up from the ground and pointed at Sai. " This guy is a total jerk ! " he exclaimed, furrowing his eyebrows again. " You can't expect me to work with him ! It's insane ! "
" Well, I suppose you could work alone - " At this, Yamato's face darkened and his eyes widened in a ghostly, frightening fashion, causing Naruto to sweatdrop as he voice lowered in a hushed tone, " -but this is supposed to be an exercise of *teamwork*. Think of yourself as an abandoned pilgrim - alone, starving, dehydrated, one-legged....muahahaha...."
" Okay, okay, I'll work with him ! " Naruto squeaked, quickly dragging Sai towards the forest.
Yamato's ghostly face returned to normal. " Okay, then ! "
Fifteen minutes later the two boys were deep in the forest and at a standstill. Both boys seemed to be in different states of minds - Naruto imagining that he was being inducted into the fictional League of Hokage, and Sai listening to a random strand of elevator music. It didn't make any matters better when there were no cranberries in sight. And the absolute silence surrounding the area made Naruto squirm like a bug.
He decided to focus all of his concentration on glaring at Sai. The victim responded with his usual thin-lipped smile. " Naruto, you don't look like your normal self, " he murmured. " I hate to be the one telling you this, but you look slightly constipated. It's not a very friendly sight to look at, you know. "
Naruto snorted. " Yeah, and how would *you* know what friendly means ? You barely know what the word 'comrade' means ! "
" But I learned it ! "
" Th-That's not the point ! " Naruto snapped, once again pointing at Sai in a rude fashion. " You can't expect any of us to like you just because you learned a new word ! "
There was immediate silence. Naruto's face flushed a pale red, his palms sweating from embarrassment. He thanked Buddha that it was Sai who he snapped at, and not Sakura, but felt a morbid pang of regret. Sai was only trying to fit in with the team, and the guy was probably knocked around in the Foundation like a mangy pup. Yet, Sai was still a jerk, no matter how hard he tried, and that made Naruto feel even worse, prompting the dim-witted boy to burst out an apology. " Sorry, I didn't mean it like that. "
" Of course, Naruto. " The tone in Sai's voice remained neutral.
More silence. After a few minutes, the boys spotted a few cranberry bushes and proceeded to get to work. Sai picked his share coolly and efficiently, delicately plucking each cranberry and placing them in his bucket. On the other hand, Naruto's hands were sweating and shaking from a mixture of excitement and annoyance. Half of his cranberries didn't even make the bucket. Maybe it was just the weather. November *did* have a pretty nasty reputation of gloomy days.
" You're extremely dense, you're reckless, and you have whisker marks on your face. "
Naruto slowly turned around to face Sai, who had that damned smile on his lips. He glowered at the dark-haired boy, dropping his cranberry bucket on the ground, as his hands balled up into fists. " How dare you ! Everyone knows that whisker marks are a way of life ! "
Sai chuckled. " Well, Naruto, it's merely an opinion. You think I don't belong here, and I think that whisker marks aren't normal. Don't get so upset. "
" Yeah, well, your face is an opinion ! "
" No, my face is indeed real and pasted on my skin. Sorry. "
A cloud of tension started to form above the boys' heads. Naruto decided to humor his teammate in order to get away as far as possible from him. " Look, I'm sorry, buddy, " he said in an apologetic, feigned tone of voice. " I guess it's rather wise to just make fun of ourselves. Sai, you were obviously right. I shouldn't have called you an unlikeable person. "
" And you're obviously lying, " Sai replied with his smile. " It's one thing to tell the truth, but don't patronize me, asshole. "
" THAT'S IT ! "
Naruto tackled Sai to the ground, sending cranberries flying in all directions. It seemed to the blonde-haired boy that his so-called teammate was one of those smart-mouthed boys who managed to get his ass kicked on a daily basis, but that was not the case. With great strength Sai quickly punched Naruto in the stomach, sending him flying into a tree. Naruto stumbled slightly, but rather furiously, he screamed in his near-empty mind that any thoughts of ever liking Sai were wrong.
Clutching his stomach slightly with one hand and holding a kunai with the other, he stepped forward in a stubborn manner. Sai chuckled softly as he also stepped forward, and with one quick second, he pressed his lips against Naruto's forehead. " Bad dobe. Bad. Hahahaha...."
And he rushed into another part of the forest, chuckling, leaving Naruto to wipe his forehead in pure agony. " Dammit, Sai, what the fuck ?! "
" ....And I found out Sasuke-kun's password and looked at all of his X-rated pictures ! " Sakura finished with demented glee. " But seriously, Orochimaru needs to keeps his pants on. "
Kakashi and Yamato both sweatdropped at the pink-haired female, hoping that she suffered from internal nosebleeds and slowly killing herself, when Naruto and Sai trudged out from the forest. Both of their buckets were empty, which prompted Sakura to form a sweatdrop of her own. " What happened ? "
The right way to settle this was to just stutter and say that some forest creature ate all of the cranberries, but being Naruto, he burst out angrily that he was a victim of a yaoi moment. This did not settle well with Sakura, and the situation ended with bruises and several trees destroyed with chakra usage. Later that week, on Thanksgiving Day, everyone would laugh at Team Kakashi, particulary at Naruto. Sai also had his share of physical marks, but not nearly as bad.
And as far as Naruto, the humilation was deep, and he learned nothing. Sai was still a jerk, Thanksgiving was indeed a disappointment (and so was the pie), and Sakura's blows still proved to be painful. The only difference after this mission was that Naruto hated Sai even more. Well, that was probably inevitable, but it could've been slowed down to two weeks. As Neji would've said, " Fate demands it. " A few weeks ago, Naruto would've laughed at that statement, but now....
Now it was time - or rather fate - to take revenge on his comrade....and maybe to pick some cranberries.