NOTICE: Hey guys, I've been really busy with preparing for college finals this week, and will be for a while, but I was digging through some of my older files and stumbled upon this half-finished idea for one of the earlier chapters of the story. Apparently, I forgot about it, or got too impatient and scrapped it for something else. But I read over it and decided it's not too bad, so consider this a bonus chapter ok. It is NOT the official next chapter in the story. That will probably be up sometime after I can finish exams. But please enjoy this fluff-filled chapter in compensation.
This chapter mainly features NaruxSaku with slight mentions of NejixSaku. Don't worry, Neji will get his own chapter focused on him and Sakura, as will all the other boys that haven't gotten a turn yet.
Bonus: Finding Friends
Naruto grinned widely to himself. It was finally snack time, one of his favorite times of the day, and he was going to eat with Sakura-chan.
After all she was new, so she would need a snack buddy to eat with, right?
And he was the perfect choice. He would make sure she stayed close, and keep her away from that icky old Sasuke-jerk.
He had even gotten Iruka-sensei to give him extra just so he could share it with her. He blushed slightly, thinking back to their earlier conversation.
Iruka was passing out snacks, smiling as each child eagerly came up to receive their portion before rushing off to devour it with the others.
He grabbed another box from the counter, turning around to see a familiar little blond standing in front of him.
A fond smile tugged at his lips as he reached down to hand the small boy the bento box. "Here you go, Naruto. Be careful not to drop it this time, okay?"
"Hey, Iruka-sensei!" he whined, pouting. "That's not fair! I told you Sai tripped me that time!"
Iruka only sighed, shaking his head. "Try not to pick so many fights with Sai…" he saw Naruto preparing to answer back but quickly shook his head to stop him, "I know it's hard but…" he bent down so he could be on eye level with the five-year old. "If you're good, maybe I can see about taking you out for ramen sometime later on,"
The blond's ocean blue eyes instantly widened, "Ramen! Really?! That would be so cool, Iruka-sensei! I love ramen!"
Iruka couldn't help but smile at the blond's cute antics. "I know, so be good okay?" he ruffled the boy's already messy hair before standing up again.
"Yeah!" Naruto nodded vigorously, an ear-splitting grin across his face. Then his eyes widened as he suddenly seemed to remember something, and his gaze shifted to the ground.
"Demo…" he frowned, his normally lively eyes suddenly looking oddly serious, "I actually needed to ask you for a favor, Iruka-sensei…" he shuffled his feet nervously, and Iruka's brow creased, slightly worried.
It was strange to see Naruto looking and acting so…serious. It made him wonder what could be wrong with the cheerful blond.
"What is it Naruto? What's wrong?"
The blond gulped quietly, biting his lip as he took a quick glance in the direction of a small pink-haired girl, who was currently sitting next to Gaara as they both waited for their snack, who only glanced at her nervously, clutching his favorite bear.
This was his chance to impress her—it was now or never.
"Uh…I…I was wondering…if I could…um…maybe have an extra snack?" he asked quietly, peering up at Iruka with big hopeful eyes.
The man felt his eyebrow twitch, fixing the blond with one of his stern looks. "Naruto, we've talked about this. You can only have extra after everyone else eats if ai have any leftover, otherwise there might not be enough and—"
"Ne, ne…it's not for me!" he interrupted, shaking his head from side to side.
Confusion settled onto the tanned-skinned teacher's facial features in place of annoyance. "Eh? Then…who's it for?" he asked gently.
At this point Naruto's whiskered face was a bright scarlet as he focused intently on staring at a spot between his feet. "Um...i-it's..." he glanced back, gazing at a certain pink-haired little girl who seemed to be attempting to engage the quiet redhead in a conversation.
The teacher blinked, looking first in the direction the little blond was staring, then back up at the boy himself. An understanding smile pulling at his lips, "Ah, I see." he laughed, "Here, let me see your box for a minute."
The blonde cocked his head in confusion, but handed his teacher the box nonetheless. Iruka turned around, sliding the lid up and placing something else into the container along with the other snack foods. "There, now there's enough to share for two people. And, I added a special treat to it too." he smiled, winking.
Naruto grinned from ear to ear, thanking his teacher many times before running off excitedly.
He closed his eyes, his excited grin turning into a triumphant smirk as he thought of Sasuke pouting and fuming from the corner while he ate snack with Sakura-chan and pushed her on the swings during recess.
'Heh heh…Sasuke-teme doesn't stand a chance,' he thought evilly.
'Once I become bestest friends with Sakura-chan, he'll be all alone and…hey! What's that guy doing sitting next to her!? That's supposed to be my spot!' Naruto fumed silently, opening his eyes to see none other than his second most-hated person ever—that evil conniving art prodigy.
It wasn't enough that he always had to steal the spotlight during art time and torment Naruto the rest of the time; but nooo, now he had to go and try to take Sakura-chan away from him too!
The brunette was sitting beside a very nervous-looking Sakura, trying to offer the little pinkette a dango by holding it to her mouth, the same creepy fake smile he usually wore already in place.
She was blushing warmly, shaking her head weakly and staring down at her shoes. The riceball she'd been quietly chewing clutched firmly yet forgotten in her small trembling hands.
Naruto didn't know why, but just the sight of Sai so close to her made his insides burn. He was suddenly swept with the overwhelming sensation to throttle Sai.
Well, not that that was really so unusual. But …the reason was different.
He felt like he wanted to kill Sai because he was too close, because he was making Sakura-chan uncomfortable, and because… he wanted to be the one to feed Sakura-chan.
'Sai…' The blond glared with as much malice as a five-year old could possibly muster as he stomped over to the pair, squeezing the bento box he'd been holding a little tighter.
"Come on," he could hear the little artist saying as he approached. "Just open up and say 'aah'. It'll be good, I promise. That's what grown-ups always do on tv anyway…so I wanna try it."
His scary smile grew even bigger, if possible, and Sakura only seemed more convinced not to comply, her mouth now firmly sealed shut and clamped together in a thin line.
"Oi, what do you think you're doing Sai-teme?" Naruto called, hurrying over and wedging himself in between Sai and Sakura like a human barrier, forcing the brown-haired boy to step back a bit, "Leave Sakura-chan alone!"
"Oh, what do you want now, dickless?" he replied, tilting his head innocently with his trademark fake grin plastered in place.
"I told you to stop calling me that! And you're not supposed to use those words in front of Sakura-chan!" the blond glared accusingly.
"What's wrong, weenie-free wonder? Don't want Sakura here to find out the truth?"
"Grr…just stay away from Sakura-chan!" he clenched the bento box even tighter now, and Sakura gasped quietly as she watched it bend in his grip.
"Why should I? It's not fair that you get to keep her all to yourself." Sai replied calmly, fixing Naruto with an even, apathetic look.
"B-Because, I..." Naruto began, his face flushing a bright red, "...I just, just stay away, okay?!"
"Humph...your penislessness is showing..." Sai smirked irritatingly before getting up and walking off.
"The hell does that even mean?!" Naruto stomped angrily, so angrily that he used one of the words Iruka specifically told him not to use.
Naruto stared at his retreating form, boring holes straight through the artistic boy's back with his deep ocean blue eyes. "Grr... that guy makes me so mad..." he mumbled to himself. Then, turning to Sakura, he gave the pink-haired girl a warm grin, "Are you okay, Sakura-chan?"
She slowly nodded her head hesitantly. "Um...A-arigatou," she whispered, flushing cutely as she stared at her feet nervously.
"Uh, mind if I sit with you?" the little blond asked, scratching his head sheepishly.
"Sure!" she chirped brightly, seeing this as her chance to make a new friend.
He eagerly hopped into the spot beside her at the table, glancing down to notice the bento box from earlier still in hand. Smiling goofily, he placed it on the table, pushing it forward slightly. "Um, you wanna share a snack with me?" he asked nervously.
Sakura tilted her head to the side, studying his warm cheeks and nervous expression. She had no idea, but Naruto was being nothing like his normal loud, confident self. "Okay, thanks Naru-chan!" she grinned happily.
Naruto's eyes widened and his cheeks grew even brighter at the nickname.
He shook it off quickly however, pulling out the still whole snacks from the box and placing them down on the table.
There were several rice balls, two sticks of dango and a bean paste bun, along with pickled plums, oden, and tamago.
Naruto felt his mouth water at all the delicious looking food, but managed to control himself long enough to allow Sakura the chance to eat first.
"Here, Sakura-chan. You pick," he offered, and she nodded slightly, reaching forward and taking a riceball in her small hands. After seeing her choose a pickled plum, Naruto quickly grabbed another riceball and began chomping into it eagerly.
Sakura giggled at her new friend and classmate as she too began eating her riceball. "Mm..." Naruto smiled, "yummy!"
He gave her a thumbs up, flashing her a wide grin, the paste from the inside of the riceball smeared all over his face.
Sakura took one look at him and broke out in a giggling fit, not realizing she had rice crumbs all over her face too.
When she realized she'd been laughing out loud she paused immediately, clamping a hand to her mouth and staring at the blond fearfully, afraid she had offended her new friend.
But he only continued to give her the same lackadaisical grin, only it stretched even further once he noticed her reaction.
He studied her face for a minute, beaming. "Wow, you're cute!" he blurted happily, oblivious to the way his statement caused the girl sitting beside him to turn as red as a ripe tomato at the compliment.
They continued to enjoy the rest of their snack together, laughing and talking as if they had known each other all their lives. Iruka smiled softly at the sight, glad that Naruto had made a new friend, and was actually behaving himself. It was a miracle!
Now the kids were outside on the playground, and so far it seemed like everyone was playing peacefully, which was highly unusual.
They had gathered around in the flower fields, where Sakura was making a bouquet. All of them seemed interested in interacting with their new female classmate, but most hesitated, unsure of how to approach her.
Naruto however easily skipped right up to her, and began talking quite casually. The other boys seemed jealous of this and soon joined the conversation.
"So, you like flowers Sakura-chan?" Neji asked coolly, eyeing the delicate pink blossoms she had collected, still clutched in her hand.
"Uh-huh!" she nodded. "My bestest friend Ino-chan and me used to pick flowers all the time at my old school. Her family has a flower shop with lots and lots of different kinds of stuff, and sometimes I get to go there and see all the pretty flowers!" she exclaimed, waving her hands around excitedly.
Ino was the only one that would talk to her in school.
She complimented her, and stood up to the bullies that bothered her, even though she was cool and popular, too.
When Ino had changed schools, Sakura was heartbroken, even though she could still go see her at her family's flowershop, it just wasn't the same.
And with Ino gone, all her bullies ganged up on her everyday. It was a nightmare, and she was alone through it all.
She never told anyone because she was afraid of what the bullies would do if she got the grown-ups involved.
Neji smiled lightly. Usually, girls his age annoyed him; mostly because they were loud, clingy, and always trying to touch his hair or make him play some silly girl game. But this girl was different, and he decided he didn't really mind talking to her.
"Of course it makes sense! You are a beautiful blossom, surrounded by more blossoms!" Lee exclaimed loudly, nodding his head as tears poured from his round, dark eyes.
Neji rolled his eyes in annoyance but Sakura only smiled, bending down to pick a bright yellow flower before turning back to the Hyuga boy, "Do you wanna help me pick flowers too, Neji-kun?" she asked sweetly. Neji felt his cheeks become slightly warm as he stared into her large, innocent green eyes.
He had never felt any sort of attraction toward females before, but now...how could he put this? Sakura was...cute, and her innocence was impossible to resist.
"Okay," he managed to smirk lightly as he followed her into the fields, watching as she picked up bright- colored flowers and trying to imitate her actions as best as he could.
Lee bounced around them, giving Sakura his famous 'nice guy pose' and pledging to pick her a bouquet of fifty flowers by the end of recess or do sixty-five pushups as punishment.
Neji watched as he took off, inwardly sighing in relief that the "noble blue beast" was gone for now.
He glanced over to see Sakura, crouched on the ground, holding a handful of fresh blue flowers.
Her short pink hair blew softly in the wind and her bright green eyes twinkled happily.
Suddenly, Neji felt his own cheeks heating up without warning as he stared at the young pinkette.
He placed a hand to his chest and looked out at the field in thought. What was wrong with him? Was he sick or something?
If he was he would beat Naruto to a pulp. He was the one who sneezed on him the other day. Gross!
He could still feel the Naruto-slime on his cheek no matter how many times he'd scrubbed it raw.
"Hey, Sakura-chan!" Neji felt his eye twitch. Speak of the devil...
The energetic blond pounced up to them, running towards Sakura with a bright smile on his oddly whiskered face. "Hey, wanna play tag with me and Sasuke-baka?" he asked gleefully, motioning toward a dark-haired boy walking up to them.
Neji couldn't help but glare at the raven-haired Uchiha boy. The Uchiha and the Hyuga were old business rivals who'd been competing for almost a century.
But that wasn't what got Neji slightly riled up every time he was around. Maybe it was because he was a stuck-up brat who thought he was the best thing since naptime just because he was from the Uchiha clan, one of the richest, most powerful families in the world.
He watched heatedly as the Uchiha stepped up from behind Naruto, eying the new girl as if watching for a reaction. "Well okay, but can Neji-kun play too?" she asked, and the Hyuga was surprised to hear his name escape the delicate blossom's lips.
Naruto pouted slightly, giving Neji a somewhat envious look, "Uh... sure, but you'll be on my team, okay Sakura-chan?" he grabbed her wrist and dragged her towards him.
Neji glared at this, the flowers clenched tightly in his hand. "I refuse to be partnered with the Uchiha." he stated.
"Same here, Hyuga," he retorted, and soon they were engaged in an all out glaring match. Naruto and Sakura turned to watch them as sparks of electricity seemed to crackle between them.
Naruto tilted his head, still holding on to his Sakura's wrists in case she needed protection. Sakura frowned at the scene, worrying that something bad might happen.
"Um, we don't have to play a team game. We could play something else," she suggested quickly, looking down at her feet.
Both glaring males stopped to look at her, blinking curiously before turning back towards each other stiffly. "Fine, just as long as I don't have to be near him." they both said in unison.
"Hey! Then how 'bout we play hide and seek?" Naruto piped up, grinning broadly. "Everybody can play since its more fun that way," he explained, cupping his hands to his mouth and inhaling a deep breath.
Seeing this, Sasuke and Neji both dropped their little squabble to look at Naruto with round, horrified eyes.
Sasuke took several steps back, placing both hands over his ears, while Neji winced. Sakura, as innocent as ever, only tilted her head curiously, not knowing what was going on.
"HEY YOU GUYS WE'RE GONNA PLAY HIDE N' SEEK, C'MON!" Everyone on the playground looked up from their assorted activities.
Gaara stopped digging through the sandbox, Shikamaru sat up and stretched tiredly where he lay, watching clouds in the grass.
Choji froze just as he was about to steal candy from an unsuspecting Kiba's pocket.
The Inuzuka boy stood up, since he'd been hunched over with his hands on his knees, trying to get Akamaru to pee on a tree before they got back inside.
Shino paused to look in Naruto's direction, a dragonfly perched on his finger.
Sai quit drawing mean illustrations of his classmates in chalk on the pavement, and Lee stopped looking for flowers, just as he was about to pick a daisy with a large bumblebee sitting in the middle.
All the males blinked, and just as Sakura was recovering, her head still spinning and her eyes crossed from Naruto's loud call, she heard what sounded like a stampede of raging elephants.
Luckily, no such packaderms were headed in her direction.
Instead, was a group of eager boys…Sakura gulped as everyone began to crowd around her and the three boys already assembled. She unconsciously took a step closer to Naruto for protection as her shyness took over, and the blond grinned cheekily to himself.
"Okay, you guys know how this goes, but let's break it down for Sakura-chan." He instructed, suddenly sounding very serious and…un-Narutoish. "Somebody's gotta be 'it' and count while we hide, and no peeking!" he yelled, whirling around to point in Sasuke's face. The raven-haired boy growled and nipped his finger, making Naruto yank it back with a yelp.
"You're the one that peeks, dummy." he stated flatly. Naruto whimpered, nursing his slightly red finger. Frowning, Sakura gently lifted his hand up to inspect the hurting finger, "Anyway, whoever is 'it' has to come and find us when times up. So, who's gonna be it?" he finished, seeing Naruto was in no condition to annoy anyone for a while.
Inwardly, he smirked. Everyone glanced at each other, no one really wanting to volunteer.
It was always more fun to hide than it was to seek wasn't it?
Besides, everyone was secretly hoping that they'd be able to find a hiding spot with the cute new girl that Naruto had been keeping all to himself lately.
"It's gotta be somebody that knows how to count high enough for everyone to hide." Kiba pointed out.
Instantly all eyes went to Neji and Shikamaru, two of the most brilliant kids in the class.
Already, they could count well into their hundreds, and Neji even knew the whole alphabet backwards.
Shikamaru could solve complex algebraic equations with his eyes closed (and usually did, since he only ever seemed to show his true potential when Iruka could trick him into doing so while he was half-asleep).
Sasuke could probably count high enough too, but no one wanted him to be it, because he always found everyone too fast.
"It can't be Neji, he always knows exactly where everybody hides, like he's got eyes in the back of his head. It's just creepy." Naruto interjected, much to everyone's mild amusement.
Sasuke groaned, hoping he had put the blond out of commission longer. Maybe next time, he'd just bite his whole hand off to save time.
Neji crossed his arms over his chest with an indignant glare, and a small "hmph".
So he ate a lot of carrots and had close to twenty-twenty X-ray vision, so what?
"But Shikamaru always falls asleep before he finishes countin' down." Choji sighed. "It takes him forever to find anyone."
"I…I'll do it." A timid voice stated. Everyone looked at the blushing pink-haired girl with her trembling hand raised in the air.
She was obviously embarrassed to have drawn attention to herself, but she wasn't putting her hand back down, so she must've meant it.
"Are you sure, Sakura-chan. We usually have more fun hidin' you know." He gave her a curious stare, to which she simply shook her head.
"I…I don't mind. And um, I can count up to f-fifty so I'll be 'it'." She toed the ground with her lightly scuffed sneakers. Then, a painful look crossed her face as she spoke quietly, "I always had to be 'it' at my old school…c-'cause they said that that ugly monsters always chase people on the movies." Everyone was silent for a minute, not really knowing what to say.
Gaara clenched his shirt right where his heart was. The anguish in her words…reminded him of the anguish he felt all those times before moving to Konoha.
Could she…could someone finally understand him? So far, only Naruto seemed to really see him for who he was.
But maybe now there was a chance someone else could too.
Neji felt like his chest was going to explode with emotions. How dare they. How dare they say that about someone as pure as Sakura!
She was…she was Sakura! How could anyone not find her precious?
Even now…he could feel his heart rate pick up ever so slightly when he looked at her. He wondered why.
Naruto smiled at her, but it wasn't one of his usual warm smiles. It was filled with solemn understanding and sadness.
He gave her hand a comforting squeeze. "Ok Sakura-chan, you win. But…you don't have to if you don't want to. One of us can be 'it' for you if you want."
Sakura beamed, nodding. She didn't mind being it a dozen times in a row.
She was just glad that someone had finally given her the choice.
Someone cared about her feelings enough to ask her if she wanted to play the role, instead of making her.
Sakura walked over to the tallest tree she could find, covered and closed her eyes, and began to count. "1…2…3…4…"
Everyone scrambled to hide, and Sakura continued to count without looking.
But what she didn't fully realize yet was that she was the one that had been found that day.
And the Cherry Blossom Class was never going to let her out of their sights.
To be honest…I didn't really know where to go for the ending…but it turned out to be almost as long as an actual chapter, so I hope you guys will share some feedback… Next chapter is the conclusion of the field trip adventure. ;)