Chapter 5 – The Surprise Transfer Student

Naruto sighed wearily as he begrudgingly trudged downstairs for breakfast. He had returned to the Kurosaki household three days ago, much to the delight of Isshin and Yuzu. Although both had been curious to know where he'd been for the past seven days, Ichigo had explained on his behalf that he'd been visiting an old friend who had recently opened up a dojo. Isshin had laughed when Ichigo told them how Naruto had lost to his friend quite spectacularly in a sparring match, much to the blonde-haired shinobi's annoyance. However, he supposed it was just Ichigo's way of getting even with him. Not to mention the fact that it so easily covered up the real reason why his body was still bruised and sore.

"Good morning Naruto-kun," Yuzu greeted him warmly as he shuffled sleepily into the kitchen/dining room.

"Good morning Yuzu-chan," he yawned as he made his way over to the empty seat next to Ichigo.

"Late night?" Isshin asked curiously as Naruto sat down.

"Uhh … Ichigo kept me up half the night."

"I did what?!" The Substitute Shinigami exclaimed incredulously.

"You wouldn't stop snoring," Naruto replied unenthusiastically.

"Oh," and Ichigo blushed slightly.

"Don't you think it's a bit early for your head to be in the gutter?" Naruto asked as Isshin roared with laughter.

"Bastard," the Substitute Shinigami growled as Naruto picked up his chopsticks.

"Hey, it's not my fault you think about things like that," he teased.

"How about I give you a knuckle-sandwich?" Ichigo asked through clenched teeth as he glared daggers at the boy beside him.

"I'll pass. Yuzu-chan's grilled fish looks much more appetising."

"Tch."

Naruto smiled slightly. Despite everything that had happened recently, he was glad that the atmosphere between them hadn't changed. Even if they did only argue.

"Naruto-kun, you haven't touched your breakfast yet. Aren't you hungry?" Yuzu asked then.

"No, no!" The blonde-haired shinobi replied hastily. "I'm starving!"

"You're always starving," Ichigo muttered under his breath.

"Oh, and you're not?" Naruto countered.

"No," Ichigo replied simply.

"Really? So it wasn't you who helped themselves to last night's leftovers before going to bed, was it?"

Ichigo blushed. "I … I was …"

"Hungry?"

"Bastard," Ichigo said through gritted teeth.

Naruto grinned triumphantly. "Itadakimasu!"

xoxox

"Oh, Naruto-kun?" Isshin said after a while.

"Hmm?" Naruto mumbled through a mouthful of food.

"There's a parcel for you by the front door."

Frowning slightly, Naruto swallowed. "A parcel? For me?"

Isshin nodded.

"It looked quite heavy too," Yuzu added.

"Hmm," the blonde-haired shinobi mused. "That's strange."

Ichigo sighed, "didn't you ask Chad to get you something?"

"Ahh, I'd forgotten about that!"

"Why am I not surprised?"

"Says the person who forgot where he left his keys."

Ichigo blushed. "My mind had other things to think about at the time!"

"Oh? Are you sure it wasn't in the gutter again? After all, as I recall I was lying on a futon half naked at the time."

"Oh? When did this happen?" Isshin asked curiously as Ichigo turned an even brighter shade of red.

"At my friend's dojo," the blonde-haired shinobi replied simply.

"After he'd beaten you I'm guessing," Isshin chuckled.

Naruto sighed, "unfortunately."

"So, what's your friend's name by the way?"

Ichigo swallowed hard as all of the colour drained from his face. "Umm … What was his name again?" He faltered. He hadn't expected his old man to ask for a name.

However, Naruto merely smiled slightly. "Rock Lee, remember?" He replied confidently. "But I called him bushy brow."

"Bushy brow?" Isshin asked curiously.

Naruto nodded, "he has thick eyebrows."

Isshin laughed, "let's hope that nickname doesn't stick."

"I think it already has," the blonde-haired shinobi replied merrily.

Ichigo sighed with relief. He had no idea who this Rock Lee person was, or whether he actually existed or not. However, by a stroke of luck Naruto had managed to avert a potentially difficult situation.

"So, what did you ask Chad to get you?" Yuzu asked then.

"Hmm," Naruto mused for a moment. "It's a secret."

Sighing once more, Ichigo shook his head. "Another one to add to the growing list then."

"Another one?" Yuzu frowned.

Naruto smiled slightly as he tried to suppress a laugh as he watched Ichigo worm his way out of that one.

xoxox

"Do you even go to school?" Ichigo asked irritably as he walked with Naruto to Karakura High School.

"I will be," Naruto replied simply.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I'm transferring to a new school."

Ichigo's eyes narrowed. "Where?"

"You'll see," Naruto replied mysteriously.

However, the Substitute Shinigami suddenly had a sinking feeling that he wasn't going to like where Naruto was transferring to.

"Are you starting today then?" He asked.

Naruto nodded, "but I won't start my lessons until after lunch. Apparently I have some paperwork to fill in before then."

Ichigo frowned slightly, "but don't you need a parent or guardian to come in and sign that paperwork?"

"Yeah, Chad told me."

"Chad did?"

Naruto nodded once more, "when I asked him to get this for me." And he patted the parcel he was carrying.

"I'm guessing he knows where you're transferring to," Ichigo sighed.

"Yeah, but he promised he wouldn't say anything."

"Typical. So, is someone you know coming in to sign for you?"

"Hmm, sort of."

"What do you mean sort of?"

Naruto smiled slightly. "I would say you'll see, but you won't get the chance this time."

"Bas …"

"…tard?"

Ichigo gritted his teeth. "Very funny."

Grinning, Naruto shook his shoulders. "What can I say? It's a gift."

"And a very irritating one at that."

xoxox

Ichigo sighed as he stared out of his classroom window. He'd been under the impression that Naruto would transfer to this school. After all, why would he go to the trouble of asking Chad to get him a uniform? However, lunch time had already come and gone and there was still no sign of him. Of course, it was possible he'd been placed into another class. But knowing Ichigo's luck he was sure that the idiot would join his class. Perhaps the paperwork was taking longer than expected? Or maybe his application had been rejected. Ichigo smiled slightly. Now there was a glimmer of hope. It wasn't because Ichigo didn't like Naruto though. In fact, he had developed a new found respect for the idiot. Not that he'd ever admit it of course. However, that didn't matter here. School was the only sanctuary Ichigo had left, sort of. It was troublesome enough having Rukia around, especially since some of his friends had already fallen head over heels for her. However, he supposed it was necessary for her to be close by. But there was no reason for Naruto to be here. Nope, none. As far as Ichigo was concerned, Naruto could transfer to another nearby school.

"Ahh, principal. What a pleasant surprise."

Ichigo had been so lost in his thoughts, that he'd failed to hear the classroom door being opened. However, not that it mattered any.

"If I could have everyone's attention for a moment?" The principal said formally, as Ichigo stared wide-eyed at the blonde-haired idiot. "Thank you. Now, I'd like to introduce you to our newest transfer student. Everyone, this is Uzumaki Naruto. I hope you'll all give him a warm welcome."

"Yes, sir!" The class intoned.

The principal smiled warmly. "Very well. Ochi-sensei I'll leave you to it." And with that said the principal turned and left the classroom, quietly sliding the door shut behind him.

Ichigo's teacher, Ochi Misato sighed. "Now then," she said as she scanned the classroom. Ichigo was painfully aware of the empty seat behind him, however he hoped that Naruto would be placed somewhere else.

No such luck.

"Uzumaki-kun, take the seat behind Kurosaki-kun. He'll help you with anything you need."

"Thank you Ochi-sensei," Naruto replied respectfully before making his way towards his desk.

"You could've warned me," Ichigo hissed as the blonde-haired idiot passed him. Their teacher currently had her back turned to them as she scribbled something down on the blackboard. However, he had unfortunately gained the attention of his fellow classmates.

"And spoil the surprise?" Naruto whispered. "I don't think so."

As Ochi-sensei continued to write on the board, the entire class watched with bated breath as Ichigo and Naruto stared each other down.

"We'll settle this later," Ichigo growled after a moment.

"I can't wait," Naruto replied sarcastically before sitting down behind Ichigo.

xoxox

Unfortunately for Naruto, class passed by very slowly. The lessons were confusing and utterly boring, and to make matters worse the atmosphere was incredibly tense. Of course, he'd known all along that Ichigo wouldn't be happy about him starting school here. However, here he could observe Ichigo and assist him if necessary. He could also learn more about him. School here was completely different from what he was used to back home. There were similarities of course, however nothing significant. A group of students, a teacher and a classroom. That was where the similarities ended. The lessons he would be required to sit through on a daily basis were mindboggling. Maths, English and Science were all foreign to him. They could have been types of food for all he knew. If survival training had been on the curriculum however, he might have stood a chance. But what use did these people have for that? No, the only outdoor activities he would do from now on was a variety of sports. However, because of his age he would be required to know these things already, at least to some degree. Fortunately his teacher hadn't called upon him for any answers yet, but the time would come when she would. And when that time came … well it would be a disaster. He had a hell of a lot of studying to do.

"Right, time for practice I think. Books away."

Naruto frowned slightly. Practice? What practice? He hadn't been told about any practice. "Excuse me Ochi-sensei, but what exactly are we going to practice?"

"Oh that's right! You won't have been told about our class performance."

"C-class p-performance?" Naruto stuttered.

Ochi-sensei nodded, "that's right. Each year a class is selected to put on a performance for the whole school. This year it's our turn and we've decided to put on an adaptation of The Beauty And The Beast."

"Sounds like fun," he replied with a slight smile.

"Would you like to take part in it?"

Naruto's eyes widened slightly. "Aren't all the parts taken though?"

Ochi-sensei sighed, "unfortunately the student who was playing the part of the Beast isn't very well at the moment. So we really do need someone to cover her part. But if you think it's going to be too much for you, you can say no."

Naruto sighed as he thought about it for a moment. This was a whole new experience for him. He'd never been in a performance before. After all, he'd never had the chance to. However, here he could.

"Don't do it."

Naruto frowned slightly, "Ichigo?"

"Shh! Listen don't take the part."

"Why not?" Naruto hissed.

"Trust me, don't take it."

"Ichi …"

"Uzumaki-kun?"

Naruto sighed. Why would Ichigo not want him to take the part? Perhaps the part of the Beast interacted with whatever part Ichigo had. He stared at the back of Ichigo's head for a moment longer before making his decision.

"Alright, I'll do it."

Ichigo sighed.

"Great!" Ochi-sensei exclaimed as she clapped her hands together. "I've got a copy of the script you'll need to learn on my desk somewhere. However, you'll have to share with Ichigo while we're practicing for the meantime."

Naruto nodded, "alright." And he moved to stand next to Ichigo.

"Why did you say yes?" Ichigo asked irritably as Ochi-sensei wrote something on the blackboard.

"It sounded interesting, that's why. Besides, why didn't you want me to take the part?"

Ichigo glared at Naruto, "because I play the part of Belle."

The blonde-haired shinobi frowned slightly, "huh?"

"Ok everyone," Ochi-sensei said then as she turned to address the class. "Please turn to chapter one."

xoxox

"Belle advances down a narrow hallway. Cogsworth and Lumiere sneak up behind her and open the door that leads to the tower where Maurice is being kept. The door creaks open and Belle hears a sound."

Ichigo sighed, "papa? Papa?"

"Cogsworth hides behind the door and Lumiere rushes off."

"Hello? Is someone there?"

Ochi-sensei sighed, "are you even reading the script Ichigo?"

"Of course I am, but it should be there instead of here."

"Well the script says here, so it's here. Again."

Sighing once more Ichigo started again. "Hello? Is someone here? Wait! I'm looking for my father!"

"Good! Now, let's see. Ah yes! She begins up the stairs, but doesn't realize that Lumiere is watching her."

"That's funny, I'm sure there was someone … I-I-Is there anyone here?"

"Belle?" Keigo said dramatically.

Ochi-sensei sighed, "Belle rushes up to the cell to find him."

"Oh, Papa!" Ichigo said as convincingly as possible.

"How did you find me?"

"Oh, your hands are like ice. We have to get you out of here."

"Belle, I want you to leave this place."

"Who's done this to you?"

"No time to explain. You must go … now!"

"I won't leave you!"

Naruto coughed in a desperate attempt to not laugh. Ichigo was already annoyed at him for transferring to his school, the last thing Naruto wanted was to make him angrier by laughing at him.

"Suddenly, Beast grabs Belle's shoulder and whips her around," Ochi-sensei read. "She drops the torch she was carrying into a puddle and the room is dark except for one beam of light from a skylight."

"What are you doing here?" Naruto asked commandingly.

"Run, Belle!" Keigo shouted.

"Who's there? Who are you?" Ichigo asked.

"The master of this castle."

"I've come for my father. Please let him out! Can't you see he's sick?"

"Then he shouldn't have trespassed here," Naruto growled.

"But he could die. Please, I'll do anything!"

"How sweet! Ichigo actually cares for me!" Keigo teased from across the classroom.

Ichigo gritted his teeth as a couple of his classmates laughed. This was ridiculous! How on earth had he of all people ended up playing the part of Belle?! And to make matters worse Naruto was now playing the part of the Beast. He shuddered. He'd already read the script and knew exactly what would happen later on. A feat he definitely wasn't looking forward to.

Ochi-sensei clapped her hands together. "This isn't the time for jokes, Asano-kun. Now, let's continue. Uzumaki-kun, you're next."

"Umm … let's see. Ahh, yeah! There's nothing you can do. He's my prisoner."

"Oh, there must be some way I can … wait! Take me instead!"

"You! You would take his place?"

"Belle!" Keigo cried dramatically. "No! You don't know what you're doing!"

"If I did, would you let him go?"

"Yes, but you must promise to stay here forever."

"Let's leave it there for now," Ochi-sensei said then as she clapped her hands together once more. "I'd like you all to split up into small groups now and practice your lines somewhere quiet for an hour."

"Where sensei?" Ogawa asked softly.

"Anywhere you like," Ochi-sensei replied. "As long as you don't disturb the other classes."

"Let's practice up on the roof Ichigo," Keigo said then as he stood.

"I'll meet you up there," Ichigo replied as he stood. "I just have to show Uzumaki-kun something quickly."

Naruto swallowed hard.

"Ok, we'll wait for you." Mizuiro said then.

Ichigo nodded before forcefully grabbing hold of Naruto's arm. The blonde-haired idiot wasn't getting out of this one. "This way Uzumaki-kun," Ichigo said through gritted teeth as he dragged Naruto out of the classroom and down the corridor.

"Well, they're certainly getting along nicely." Ochi-sensei smiled.

Keigo frowned slightly, "really? Didn't look that way to me."

"I feel sorry for Uzumaki-kun," Mizuiro sighed.

"Well, better him than me."

xoxox

"Where are we going?" Naruto asked as Ichigo dragged him unceremoniously down one corridor after another.

"As far away as possible," Ichigo snapped as his pace quickened.

"Well that's specific," Naruto sighed.

"That's rich coming from you!" Ichigo snorted as he turned a corner.

"You're annoyed, I get it. But do you have to drag me? What if someone sees us? After all, you're the one who's always going on about people getting the wrong impression."

"Does it look like I care right now?"

Suddenly the blonde-haired shinobi wasn't so sure of himself. Sure Ichigo was annoyed, of that he could be certain. However, Ichigo hadn't let go of his arm once. Could there really be something more important on Ichigo's mind that he'd risk being seen holding another boys arm?

Naruto remained silent. He was obviously in more trouble than he'd first thought.

Ichigo rounded yet another corner and continued on down the corridor for a while, before coming to a stop outside a classroom.

"Don't worry, it's empty." He said as he reached for the door handle.

"Are you sure?" Naruto asked uneasily as Ichigo grabbed hold of the handle.

"Of course I am!" Ichigo snapped as he quietly slid the door open.

Sure enough the classroom was empty, much to Naruto's relief.

"Get in!" Ichigo hissed as he lightly pushed Naruto inside.

The blonde-haired shinobi stumbled forwards a ways before finally regaining his balance. "What was that for?!" He demanded as he turned to glare at Ichigo.

"What was that for?" Ichigo asked irritably as he closed the door behind him. "For condemning me to the most humiliating situation possible!"

Naruto frowned slightly, "what situation? I haven't done anything yet."

"Oh really?" Ichigo snorted. "So you didn't purposefully join this school, huh?"

"What school was I supposed to join?"

"Anyone but this one!"

Naruto sighed, "aren't you over-reacting just a tad?"

"Over-reacting?! How did you think I was going to react?! Did you honestly think I was going to be pleased?!"

"No, I knew you'd be annoyed. I just wasn't expecting you to be this annoyed."

"I wasn't until you decided to go ahead and accept the part of the Beast!"

"Huh? What's so bad about that? It's only a play."

"Only a play, huh?" Ichigo snorted. "You haven't read the script yet, you don't know what's going to happen!"

"So?"

"So?" Ichigo shouted. "Think! What normally happens in these sorts of plays?"

'How should I know?' Naruto thought irritably. 'I'm not exactly familiar with any sort of play.'

"Well?" Ichigo pressed.

Sighing, Naruto shrugged his shoulders.

"You don't know?!" Ichigo asked incredulously.

"No!" The blonde-haired shinobi snapped. "So why don't you go ahead and tell me?!"

"Unbelievable," Ichigo replied softly as he shook his head slightly. "Next you'll be telling me you crawled out from underneath a rock."

"More like I stepped through one," Naruto replied with a hint of a smile.

"More like you hit your head on one. Are you sure you're not crazy?"

The blonde-haired shinobi laughed, "quite possibly. But hey, nobody's perfect right?"

Ichigo hesitated a moment before sighing. "I give up," he groaned as he ruffled his hair.

Naruto smiled slightly. Conflict over.

"So why didn't you want me to take the part of the Beast?" He asked casually after a moment.

"Idiot, isn't that obvious?" When Naruto shook his head Ichigo sighed. "The characters we're playing don't like each other at first, in fact they start off hating each other. But slowly they start to get all lovey-dovey and in the end they'll end up kissing. Which means you and I will have to play our parts and kiss."

Naruto paled slightly, "oh."

"Now you see why I didn't want you to take the part."

Naruto sighed. He wasn't at all troubled by the thought of having to kiss another boy. After all, he'd kissed Sasuke twice before. However, the thought of having to kiss Ichigo in front of an audience troubled him. People would talk about their kiss for weeks, if not months afterwards and in that time Ichigo would be extremely difficult to live with.

"I'll drop out," the blonde-haired shinobi muttered under his breath.

"You don't sound too enthusiastic about the whole thing," Ichigo noted.

"I'm not."

"Why not? It's not a big deal, it's only a play after all."

"It may not be such a big deal to you, but I was really looking forward to taking part."

"You … were?" Ichigo asked hesitantly.

Naruto nodded solemnly. "It doesn't matter though," he sighed. "I'll just tell Ochi-sensei that I don't feel confident taking on such a big part after all. Perhaps she'll let me do something else."

Ichigo stared wide-eyed at Naruto as the blonde-haired boy stared at his feet. Ichigo couldn't believe that he was willing to give up his part so readily for his sake. Naruto was being incredibly selfless while all he could do was think of his own interests. Ichigo sighed. After what Naruto had done for Chad it was only right that he returned the favour.

"It's ok, we'll work something out. If you really want to take part in the play, then you should. It's not very often that Ochi-sensei gets a student who's enthusiastic about them."

Surprised, Naruto met Ichigo's gaze. "Are you sure?" He asked disbelievingly.

"Don't make me repeat myself, I might change my mind otherwise."

"Sorry!" The blonde-haired shinobi apologised hastily. "Thanks Ichigo."

"Don't mention it," Ichigo replied casually as he ruffled his hair once more. "After all I owe you one."

Naruto's brow furrowed slightly. "Owe me?" He asked, confused. "What do you owe me for?"

"For protecting Chad of course."

"I didn't exactly protect him, the Hollow was just more focused on me."

"Still, he didn't get hurt so for that I owe you."

"But … he did get hurt," Naruto replied hesitantly.

Ichigo's eye began to twitch. "I'm very close to changing my mind here, you know?"

Naruto swallowed hard, "sorry. So, uh … you were saying?"

"As I was saying, this'll be my way of paying you back. Not that I'm particularly thrilled about it of course."

"Surely we can just pretend to kiss though. I doubt Ochi-sensei will expect us to actually go through with it. We are after all both boys."

"She'll probably ask us to do it anyway, so that it looks authentic. And I'm sure a few people in the audience will enjoy watching us kiss too."

Naruto frowned slightly, "really?"

No-one had enjoyed watching him kiss Sasuke all those years ago. In fact, he'd received a barrage of punches for the accident that wasn't actually his fault. Sasuke of course had remained in one piece, much to Naruto's annoyance. He sighed softly. Life had been far less complicated back then.

"Unfortunately," Ichigo replied then. "They'll think it's cute."

"What about Rukia-chan?"

Ichigo shuddered, "I dread to think what she'll say. In fact, she'll probably think it's cute too."

"Does this mean we'll be practicing that scene then?" Naruto asked nervously.

"HELL NO!" Ichigo shouted. "There's no way I'm doing that until the actual play!"

"Thought not," Naruto smiled slightly. "But what if we get it wrong?"

"It's just a kiss, what could possibly go wrong?"

Naruto shrugged, "I don't know. Nothing I guess."

Ichigo sighed. "Now that we've got that straightened out, we should probably join the others. They're probably starting to wonder where we've got to."

"After you then."