Disclaimer: No.

AN: See, if I update Aftermath, it's almost LIKE I'm updating Beginnings, right? Right...


I swallowed hard, my hands shaking in nerves and my forehead smudged with sweat. The rice was sticking to my fingers, and the tuna was being mashed into fishy oblivion. Naruto chattered away obliviously, perched on his stool and grinning like a loon. Naruto was forever smiling, even when he was trapped in that tiny, rat-infested, hole-in-the-wall, disgusting—

I forced myself to loosen my hold, and set aside the ruined onigiri.

"Are you making onigiri for dinner?"

I blinked, and it took me a moment to realize Naruto actually expected his question to be answered.

"Tuna and fruit," I said. I found suddenly that I couldn't remember if he liked onigiri, and it made me unnaturally upset.

"Yay!" Naruto cheered, rocking back and forth on his stool. "I like that stuff!"

Relief nearly choked me, and I got out a: "Good." And then saved him from more brain damage by stopping his rocking.

"Hey, Didja hear what Kage-sama did?" Naruto asked, blue eyes sparkling.

To my surprise, I felt an old annoyance wriggle inside me. I thought I would welcome Naruto's chatter after so long an absence from it, but after only a few hours I found myself exhausted by it.

I can't believe he's already annoying me. I should be strong enough to—

"Well, didja?" Naruto asked.

"Which thing?" I asked tiredly.

"The underwear thing."

Naruto's grin was stretched from ear to ear, his eyes sparkling bright as the sun. Slowly, I felt a small smile tug at my own lips. I was exasperated, I was exhausted, but somehow Naruto managed to make me set that aside, if only for a moment.

"No," I said, and set aside a perfect onigri. "Tell me."


AN: Yes, this is part of that 'first meeting' bit. Please, tell me what you think!