Title: Innocence – Chapter Two – Friends
A/N: Sorry for the long hiatus, life has been rather interesting and I haven't had time or motivation to finish any of my stories. Again, this is just a two-shot, so enjoy!

He hurried down the apartment stairs, feet patting lightly on stone, with a huge smile upon his face. By the time he had reached the road leading toward the field, a rosy tint had made home upon his whiskered cheeks. Never had Naruto ran that fast in his life, yet it was all for a great cause. Today was the day he would finally make some new friends. Today, as had been promised the night before, he would be accepted into a group of other kids. The excitement had been building in him since then and he was not sure he actually slept that well at all. It did not matter – he was about to make bonds.

Upon reaching the field, his eyes only found one boy. It was Shikamaru, standing with hands in pockets and starring uneasily at the late morning sky. Naruto slowly approached. He kept his face neutral in an effort to not show how disheartened he had become. The Nara brought his attention to Naruto, smiling slightly, and placed his hand rather hesitantly on the blond's shoulder. Naruto flinched. This had not been what he had expected.

"Naruto," Shikamaru started, "…their parents wouldn't let them come."

The young Uzumaki shook his shoulder free. His head drifted toward the ground, refusing to allow his friend to see his pain.

"Honestly, my parents don't even want me here," the brunet continued.

Tears began to form in his sapphire eyes. Soon, he feared, they would become visible.


Naruto's attention snapped back to Shikamaru. Their eyes met for a brief moment before they both looked away in embarrassment.

With a deep breath, Shikamaru finished, "I told them to screw off 'cause I know you're a good guy."

"You really did that?" Naruto blurted out in response, "Weren't they pissed?"

"Yeah. It was troublesome, but I didn't want to abandon you here. That would've been even more annoying…" he answered, a smirk forming on his lips.

This boy was still such a mystery to Naruto. He sounded so casual, almost sarcastic, yet there was such a genuine air surrounding him. How even one person could care so deeply about him was completely new to Naruto. That warm feeling began to engulf him once again and he reached out to grasp Shikamaru's hand. The Nara quirked a brow, studying the shorter boy.

"You know, it's not that big of a deal," he simply stated.

Naruto blushed, releasing the Nara's hand, "I'm sorry! I…just…I…"

Shikamaru rolled his eyes, eliciting a deeper blush from the whiskered boy.

"…I really appreciate it, that's all…"

The older boy's gaze softened considerably. Though he knew of how the others treated the blond, he sometimes forgot that Naruto never really had anyone show him kindness before. In an attempt to comfort the boy, Shikamaru gave a friendly punch to Naruto's shoulder. Those bright orbs looked up at him with such admiration in return. The Nara sighed and focused upon the village. There was something he could do to set the day right – it was not as though Kiba and Chouji had not wanted to meet Naruto themselves, their parents just would not allow it. With a confident smile, he brought his gaze back to the blond. Naruto cocked his head, confused.

"Ne, how about we go get those two ourselves?" he suggested.

Naruto's eyes widened.

"But…they're not allowed, right?"

"You're right," Shikamaru's grin grew, "but that doesn't mean they can't sneak out."

Naruto smiled wide, eyes closed and white teeth showing. It took but a moment for him to start rushing back toward Konoha, laughing, and leaving the Nara there for a stunned second. Soon, they dashed side by side down the stone pathways, weaving through the shocked crowds. The looks they received were none too nice, but the two boys could not care less. After a few minutes, Naruto let Shikamaru lead once realizing he had no idea where either of the others lived. They passed by the main stretch of shops, reaching the more residential area of the village. Further they went, almost to the outreaches, until Shikamaru stopped in front of a lonely house nestled in the woods. The brunet took in the surroundings before making his way over to a window near the back.

He picked up a small pebble, throwing it rather harshly at the glass. Naruto gasped. It seemed as though Shikamaru had no issue if he destroyed said pane. While waiting for someone to answer, Naruto observed the rest of the house and realized why the Nara did not seem to mind – many of the windows were already patched up with planks or cloth. Who ever lived there must have had a lot of energy themselves. Shortly after the disruption, a shaggy haired boy popped his head out. He looked annoyed until seeing the cocky smile of the other brunet.

"Oh, hey, Shikamaru!" the boy began, barring his almost canine teeth, "What're you doing here?"

Shikamaru did not speak but jerked thumb in the direction of the Uzumaki. The other boy followed the gesture, landing his dark eyes on Naruto. Almost immediately he beamed, making the blond flush. Naruto averted his gaze. He was unsure of how to react. Though, it did not matter as the boy jumped out of his window and held his hand out.

"I'm Inuzuka Kiba!"

Naruto accepted the offer, giving a firm shake.

"Uzumaki Naruto."

"So, Shika. Naruto…what brings you guys here?" Kiba asked, bringing a finger to his lips as he thought over their visit.

Luckily for Naruto, who was still a little hesitant of this new boy, Shikamaru interjected, "Since your mom wouldn't let you come play with us, we figured we'd just have you sneak out."

His canine-like smile only grew.

"Sounds badass! I sneak out of here all the time! Ma doesn't seem to really notice."

Both of them caught the almost sad tone in the Inuzuka's voice as he finished but did not say anything. It was not meant for them to hear, it was more to himself. That slight shift was all Naruto needed to finally feel comfortable around this boy. Kiba may have had a mother, unlike himself, but he had issues all the same. They really were not so different after all.

"Who was the other person we were supposed to get?" Naruto inquired, changing the subject for all of them.

"Other person?" Kiba retorted, sincerely interested.

Shikamaru gave another soft smile.

"Akimichi Chouji. Their place is just a little further from here."

Kiba gave a sharp snort, "Really? That kid?"

For the first time, Naruto saw a scowl mar Shikamaru's features. Kiba seemed to melt beneath the heated stare. He quickly apologized, remarking that Chouji was, in fact, one of the nicest people he had met. After that moment, it would become very evident to Naruto just how these two boys were: Shikamaru was fiercely loyal and Kiba was quite brash but dependable all the same. His lips slightly tugged – he could definitely get used to both of them.

It did not take long for Naruto to discover Kiba's competitive side as well. While the three started for Chouji's, Naruto and Kiba were in a constant battle of who was the fastest. Shikamaru only sighed. They were far too troublesome. He almost regretted bringing the two similar boys together, yet could not refrain from smirking at their ridiculous contest. Due to the energetic boys' little race, they arrived much more quickly to the Akimichi's than normal.

As they were busy catching their breaths, Shikamaru once again found himself a back window. He did not throw a rock this time, instead he opted to carefully knock. Shortly after, a reasonably chubby boy appeared in the window. His eyes were in a constant squint, large swirls branded his cheeks, and his hair was a pleasant reddish-brown. At first, Naruto wanted to giggle at this boy's appearance, but upon seeing just how happy both he and Shikamaru were, he deduced it was better to just let things be. The two laughed, leaving both Naruto and Kiba to watch awkwardly – they must have been best friends, Naruto concluded.

"Anyways," they heard Shikamaru say, "This is Naruto. He's the one I was telling you about before. Wanna come play with us?"

Chouji nodded his head enthusiastically, grabbing Naruto's hand quite abruptly.

"It's very nice to meet you, Naruto! I'm Akimichi Chouji!"

Naruto gave a friendly chuckle.

"Nice to meet you, too!"

Chouji looked over at Kiba, giving a friendly wave.

"And how are you, Kiba?"

"Pretty good, Chouji!" he answered, returning the motion, "Wanna get going, everyone?"

They all nodded, rushing off back to the field. If the looks Naruto and Shikamaru received before were annoyed, the looks they got now were just hostile. It was as though the villagers did not believe that Naruto should be hanging around so many of the other kids, like he would start up some kind of trouble and involve them. As badly as Naruto wanted cry or hide, he kept his chin high knowing he had people with him right now who did not view him as a monster. His feelings only grew when he felt a hand grip his own. With a quick glance, he met the kind gaze of Shikamaru. It was almost as though the brunet were telling him not to bother with those people who frowned upon them all. That was all Naruto needed.

It was around noon when the quartet finally reached the Nara field. They ran through the high grass that tickled their shins, their laughter engulfing the open space. Naruto and Kiba kept on making new games in order to prove who the best was, whether it was Tag or Ninja or anything else they could think of. Shikamaru and Chouji lied in that itchy, yet somehow soft, grass and watched the fluffy, white clouds overhead. Not too long after, the energetic boys joined alongside, sharing snacks between the four of them. Every one of them had the same contented grin, hoping this peaceful afternoon would never end.

"Hey!" a firm voice shouted across the land, "What in the world are you doing, Kiba?"

The inu-boy gulped.

"I told you not to play with that monster!"

Her voice was so harsh upon Naruto's ears.

Kiba practically growled, "He's not a monster, Ma!"

"Think whatever, you're still coming home right now!"

She grabbed his arm, dragging him back with her and glowering at Naruto in the process. He wanted to cry, but refused to allow anyone to see that weakness from him.

It did not take too much longer for Chouji's parents to come along and take him home as well. Shikamaru huffed once the Akimichi was gone, lying his hand atop of Naruto's. He could tell just how upset his friend was over the reaction from their parents. He could not blame the blond. It must have been horrible hearing those words uttered over and over again.

"Listen," Shikamaru began, "Just because they don't understand, doesn't mean we won't see each other again. Kiba and Chouji like you, they're not gonna let their parents keep them away from you.

Naruto continued to fight back the tears threatening to spill over.

"I promise."

Their eyes met once more, both smiling sincerely at the other.

"Naruto, you're a good friend of mine now. And of Chouji and Kiba. Don't forget that…"

He nodded.

"But, I have to go now. My parents' are gonna come out here soon if I don't head back."

"…Okay," Naruto finally answered, disappointed.

Shikamaru easily caught the hurt in the blond's voice.

"Meet us here tomorrow, same time. Okay?"

Naruto nodded and watched as his friend disappeared into the distance. Perhaps he would not have to be alone after all, now that he had bonds with people such as themselves. The largest grin he could manage covered his face, he was looking forward to what the future held for them. Whether good or bad, it was amazing to know he had people to experience it with.