Naruto © Kishimoto

A/N: never written Karui before (if I can keep her spelled right the whole fic through that would be a victory in it of itself ;p)... This is a collab with bk00. I'm writing in Sai's POV and he's writing in Karui's POV, should be interesting to see how they turn out.


NEW FRIENDS

His back hurt from carrying too many books.

Most of them were on time, though a few had been late, which had resulted in fees. It was fortunate, however, that among the books he had recently borrowed, was one that taught him the importance of being kind to lovely young ladies. The girl at the front desk hadn't been particularly lovely, but according to the book, all women believed themselves to be so, or at least hoped to be consider such, so it was wise, according to the book, to treat every girl, regardless of how unattractive she may be, as if she were the loveliest young lady he had ever seen. It was an important lesson, Sai realized, since the opposite behavior had often gotten him into a lot of trouble with a certain pink haired kunoichi, who apparently disliked being called a hag, though in his eyes (at least in the beginning) she had seemed rather hag-like.

The mousy brunette behind the counter had not been any more attractive than Sakura, but he had remembered the book's advice and had complimented her on the luster of her short brown hair, though in reality it looked little better than brown cotton balls tangled up in tumbleweed. The girl's tiny eyes, made large by the bottle cap thick glasses that kept sliding down the bridge of her nose, had creased into small slits as she smiled up at him, telling him to forget about the late fees, as she could easily erase them from the computer, which she readily did. Sai had thanked the girl, again paying her a few more ingenious compliments, causing her to blush, and then walked out of the old brick building, leaving the girl to swoon away, dreaming she was a princess in some enchanted tale, much like the ones the former ANBU had once read in the children's section of the library.

"Perhaps I should keep this in mind," he quietly mused to himself while walking towards the Hokage tower, now empty handed, after having delivered all his books.

Just passed the entrance to the tower Sai stopped in his tracks. There was a girl there. A familiar girl, though not one he saw very often in the village. She was dressed in a knee-high golden sun-dress, which perfectly matched her golden eyes. A white bandanna adorned her head, covering over the top half of her forehead and the rest of her head, pulling her ears back so that only the golden loop earrings could be seen from beneath the fabric,and her long red locks cascaded over her bare shoulders. Sai remembered this girl from months earlier, when she arrived in the devastated village, shortly after the battle with Akatsuki. She had created quite a scene back then. One which had not left Sai's memories, and often came back to him, making him curious as to the meaning behind her actions.

Never one to shy away from anything, or even know he was supposed to, Sai made an immediate sharp turn in her direction and walked up to the dark-skinned Kumo kunoichi.

Without introduction or any small talk, Sai stopped in front of the girl and simply stated, "You're that woman from before, the one who beat Naruto."

The girl did not react at first, only responding "Naruto?" with a questioning look on her face. But after a moment, her golden eyes slowly widened, as if remembering the event of which Sai was speaking of. "Oh, you mean Killer Bee's friend," she spoke in a somber voice, but then quickly shook it off, smirking wide as her tone changed. "Whiskers!" she exclaimed. Her expression was cheerful at first, but upon realizing what he had just asked, she stiffened slightly and her voice dropped, low and threatening. "Yeah, what of it?"

He was taken aback by her reaction. Not the angry tone at the end, as all too often Sai seemed to unwillingly bring that out of people, much to his misfortune. What surprised him was the lack of reaction. This girl, who he had only met once before – though he had seen her a few times during the Fourth Great War – had seemed a lot like Naruto, very passionate and unable to control her emotions like him. It seemed odd to Sai that after what had occurred she would appear to make light of the damage she had inflicted upon the would-be hokage. It was that lack of reaction, however, that made the former Root member all the more curious.

This was, afterall, a woman who was a student of the very same man that had become Naruto's latest teacher. From the many books Sai had learned about camaraderie, there was supposed to be a sense of familial affection towards those who shared the same Master. Sai, himself, had even experienced that during his days in the Root organization, under his former Master Danzo. Towards the man himself, Sai had conflicting feelings, but for his brothers and sisters in arms, he often times felt as if his connection towards them was perhaps similar to what Naruto had previously described as the bonds of friendship.

"Are you not remorseful of what occurred?" Sai questioned, after a moment of contemplating her reaction, or lack there of.

The girl's face went through a variety of changes, none of which made very much sense to the stoic boy. "Pfft, of course not." she scoffed. "I did what I had to for my sensei."

Sai was still inexperienced with emotions, so it was difficult for him to recognize what it was her face was saying, but he suspected this girl was the type whose face said everything, and were he more learned in the topic he would undoubtedly have been able to decipher everything she left unsaid in the micro expressions of her face. But as he was not, Sai instead took her words at face value.

"Do you still harbor animosity toward Naruto?" he asked, curious to know more and hopefully piece together the answers to the questions he had had since first meeting her.

"I never hated him to begin with!" the girl protested, her face turning almost as bright red as her crimson hair. "I was just... annoyed at the moment... and he let me vent!"

Let... it seemed like a rather interesting choice of words to Sai, but the more he thought about it, the more it actually did make sense. Though most people would never 'let' someone beat up on them, Naruto wasn't really 'most people.' It made sense, in a way that what Naruto had been doing was to let her vent. She had obviously been hurting, and no one knew the pain of losing one they cared for better than Naruto. Of course he would have understood her, and of course he would have let her let it out. Even someone like Sai could understand that much.

He still had more questions though. And the girl seemed rather receptive to answering his questions, or at least hadn't backed down from any of his inquiries. Perhaps, he wondered, she would be open to answering more. Sai remembered that in one of the books he had just returned it mentioned friendships could be made or strengthened over a cup of coffee. He'd never tried it out, never even tasted coffee, but Sai figured it would be as good a time as any.

"Would you care to join me for coffee?"

The dark skinned beauty raised a brow, staring at him in silence for a moment, before finally shrugging and saying "Why not?"

In complete silence, mostly because Sai had yet to figure out small talk, they walked to the nearest coffee shop and sad down at a table near a large bay window with a nice view of the busy streets. A cute little brunette waitress who, in Sai's mind, seemed to resemble a woodland creature from the color of her hair, down to the way in which she spoke in short cheerful bursts, walked over to their table. She gave them two menus and said, "I'll give you a moment," before walking, no skipping, away.

The menus he had been handed was utterly baffling. Never before had Sai thought there would be so many options to what he had assumed would be a simple enough beverage. He had read books on the subject before, detailing the different brews and history of the coffee bean, but the fancy names, strange ingredients involving different chocolates, spices, and other seemingly nonsensical extras, was a bit overwhelming. In the end, he decided to order the house speciality, figuring it had to be the establishment's best brew.

Across the table, the red-headed girl was busy examining her own menu, only occasionally looking up from her menu as if she wanted to ask something, or perhaps was just uncomfortable with the silence that had fallen between them; he did tend to have that effect on people.

"So, what do you think you'll be getting...um what was your name again?"

"Sai," he replied, looking up from his menu after having decided what he would order. "And you are Karui." he stated. He knew this was true, as Sai had always had a particularly good memory. Though the two had not had much interaction in the past, their encounter had left him with questions, and his curiosity had peaked his interest enough to try and learn more about the girl. He hadn't really found out much about her, mostly because there were other things that happened shortly after her first appearance in the village, but he had at the very least learned the girl's name. It was a lovely name, that meant 'non-serious', which, considering her earlier reaction, seemed rather fitting given how she had made light of their conversation concerning Naruto.

Once more, Karui's eyebrow rose, as she lowered her menu slightly to look him in the eye.

"You helped out Kiba during the war and befriended Hinata at that time as well. I've heard great things from you from both," he commented, remembering that he had seen her with the two a couple of times as well.

Karui gave a smile at the mention of her friends, her eyes brightening a bit! "I remember you too, Sai. Omoi mentioned you a couple times during his rants. And really, now? How's dog breath and the princess doing?"

"Dog breath? Princess?" Sai looked questioningly, then remembered the book he'd once read about nicknames. It looked to him like he and Karui were getting along, and he considered that perhaps now was an appropriate time to consider a nickname for his new friend, or at least he hoped she would be his new friend as she seemed a rather interesting girl. But almost as soon as he considered the idea, Sai quickly decided against it, having not had the best of experience with giving people nicknames in the past. "They are fine," he eventually replied.

Soon, the chipmunk-like waitress returned, asking both of them for their orders. Sai was hesitant at first, still unsure about all those different options, but in the end decided to follow Karui lead and stay firm to his decision.

Again they were silent, waiting on their drinks with no real small talk or other chit chat. She seemed a bit uncomfortable with it, and Sai considered attempting to make conversation, but he couldn't quite come up with anything so eventually he gave up and waited quietly until their beverages arrived.

"Here you go," the sassy waitress announced as she set their two drinks down in front of them.

The aroma was unlike anything Sai had ever smelled before. It was heavy and slightly bittersweet, with a very earthy undertone to it. He wondered what the beverage might taste like, as he had only ever really heard of the drink before and never actually consumed it. Whatever the taste might be, however, it looked far too hot at the moment for him to drink, so he decided to wait. Across from him, Karui was drinking her coffee slowly, and seemingly enjoying it.

Sai blew on the hot cup a few times, and after he was satisfied it was cool enough, he brought the cup up to his lips. No sugar, no cream, no nothing. It was his first time, and he didn't know to put those in, though he had seen Karui add them to her drink. However, he had thought, much like the chocolate, mocha, mint, cinnamon, and all those other different 'extras' in the menus, sugar and cream just weren't necessary. Of course, he soon learned otherwise, as the first sip of bitter, black coffee hit his tongue, exploding on his taste buds, filling his mouth with the most disgusting thing he had ever before tasted...

"AH!" the dark skinned screamed out as her golden sundress was drenched by the hot brown liquid shooting out of the former ANBUS' mouth.

A vein pulsed at her temple, right below the white bandanna covering her red hair. She clenched and unclenched her fists as she stood to her feet in front of him. For an instant, Sai thought she was going to pummel into him, much like his quick-to-anger kunoichi teammate - he certainly wouldn't have put passed Sakura if she had been in Karui's place at that moment- but she didn't. Instead, the coffee-drenched girl stared at him a moment, then suddenly, very loudly, she burst into hearty laughter.

"Wha-what?" she began, as her laughter filtered down to soft chuckles. "Is that your first coffee, Sai?"

A soft pink flush crept upon the usually unemotional shinobi as he blinked in surprised at her reaction. He wasn't completely sure if her smile was fake or not. Too many negative experiences with a certain medic nin had left the former ANBU feeling rather gun-shy when it came to women and smiles. He expected at any moment that Karui might suddenly stop laughing and plow her fist into his face, or worst, punch him even as she laughed. Whatever the result, Sai had at the very least learned one thing through this entire experience : women were strange.

Actually, no, two things...

The second being: Coffee is awful!


THE END