"So," the girl beside his bench says, and he looks up and his heart gives a little happy thrill out of habit. Sakura Haruno is the cutest girl in school and if anyone disagrees they have no taste at all, is Naruto's humble opinion.
She's also kind of... err, how'd Shika say it... erratically temperamental (some might say moody -- he can never predict when she'll laugh with him and when she'll throw her pencil case at his head) but really it just adds spice. And danger. Danger's fun.
He still isn't sure what she wants. It's a free period and he tucked himself in a half-hidden corner of the schoolyard -- Sasuke and Shikamaru have that elective thinger you'd have to be a total nerd to get, Chouji's been grabbed by Ino to work in their joint presentation, and Kiba is off flirting with some chick or other, so he expected to be alone.
There's two benches face to face in this corner, so he gestures hurriedly to the one in front of him. "Wanna sit down?"
After a moment of consideration, lips pursed, she does. Knees pressed together, hands on her lap, not leaning back.
"So... Dating Sasuke?"
... Okay, yeah, he should have foreseen that one. The gossip tsunami over Naruto and Sasuke hooking up has one good point. Everyone is so busy boggling about it that they totally forget to gossip about the kidnapping thing. Naruto and Sasuke have only been bitter enemies since, oh, kindergarten -- okay, maybe not that far, Naruto doesn't really remember, but sixth grade at least. But, well, it's no secret that Sakura's been crushing on him almost that long. Naruto scratches the back of his neck and gives her a nervous smile. "Um. Yeah... Sorry."
The glowering look she sends him is strangely half-hearted. After a moment, she sighs, waves it off with a tired flick of her hand. "I'm not here to yell at you. Whether you date him or not, it won't make him any less gay. I moved on months ago."
"No you didn't," he replies before he can think, which is a habit that's going to get him killed some day. The glare she spears him with has him oozing lower in his seat and tucking his head between his shoulders turtle-like.
"... Okay, I might -- might -- still have a bit of a lingering crush. I mean -- he is extremely cool. Isn't he?"
Naruto starts nodding, once again before he thinks about it, and then splutters. "No he's not! He's. Uh." Not his rival anymore.
Well, still his rival but not his enemy. It's kinda weird to hate on your boyfriend, is it?
"He's. Not uncool. I guess."
She snorts at him. "Come on Naruto. You like him enough to kiss him in the middle of class. Is that the best you can do?"
Naruto is aware that he's pouting and yet he cannot make his lip return to its normal position. "Just don't want him to get a swelled head is all."
Sakura gives their surroundings a pointed look. No Sasuke here. "Uh-huh."
He scratches at his neck, embarrassed, and desperately tried to find another topic of conversation. He comes up blank. Meanwhile she's watching him straight on. A couple weeks ago he'd have been over the moon to be getting so much personalized attention. Right now he mostly feels hunted, and also a little guilty. If he enjoys it too much, isn't it being disloyal to Sasuke? Ah, man, him dating Sasuke, he's the one who said it first and yet that still feels strange.
(But the thought that Sasuke might feel jealous -- that somewhere behind all those defensive porcupine quills of disdain and sarcasm he might feel hurt, that bothers Naruto too much to really appreciate Sakura's attention all that much. His crush is no secret either, after all.)
Sakura's eyes go narrow and sharp, and he stiffens; and then she starts scrutinizing him square inch by square inch, from hair to shoes.
Sakura holds out a hand; unthinking, he takes it. She yanks, pulling him up to his feet between the two benches, and starts circling him. Naruto has sudden visions of sharks scenting blood. Keep still, keep still -- no, wait, that's for bears. Er. Okay.
"Sakura? Whatcha doinEEP!"
He jerks forward, knocks his knee on the bench; she generously allows his hoodie to flop back down and releases the waistband of his pants, twisted uncomfortably tight.
"Okay," she said, firm and decisive.
Naruto turns around, holding onto the bottom of his sweatshirt. He can still feel cold air up his spine. "O-okay what?"
"Okay, your ass is nice enough to date Sasuke." And then she grins, eyes sparkling. "Now tell me everything."
Naruto stares at her for a couple of seconds before he realizes his jaw is hanging open.
"... I'm not even gay! You can't become my fag-hag!"
Giggling, Sakura flops back down on her bench. Naruto sulks all of five seconds before he gives in and sits back down as well. Rubbing his banged knee, he glowers at her. "You're being so nice to me because you want the dirt on us, aren't you."
It doesn't come out half as annoyed as he meant it, but she flinches anyway. "No! ... Okay, I'd love details and stuff, but that's not why..." She rakes her hand through dyed locks; he's briefly distracted trying to figure out what color the roots are. She was blonde as a kid, but the kind of blonde that never lasts past childhood.
Watching her, he lets himself notice; she's never smiled at him like this before, wide open and holding nothing back. Now even embarrassed by his question there's something in the way she sits -- shoulders and neck looser, leaning toward him -- that makes her look more comfortable, less about to blow up.
"You perv," he says, kind of gentler than he meant to, and his lips quirk weird.
Sakura's teeth worry at her lips for a brief moment, and then she reaches out cautiously and bumps her fist lightly against his arm. "You know I like you, right?"
"I always... When you joked and you played around, I always wanted to laugh. I mean, it's often pretty stupid, but -- yeah, it's funny." Her voice went a bit dry. "But every time I laughed you'd start looking at my tits."
... Ouch, ego. Naruto winces and curls up. Turtle time again. "Man, usually you gotta date a chick before she gives you the let's just be friends speech."
He receives a friendly, remorseless punch to the shoulder. "Stop whining. After all..."
"If you could take one person to a desert island, who would it be? Me or Sasuke? Be honest now."
Naruto grumbles under his breath. "Well -- you might know more about building a raft! I'd do all the heavy lifting and... And if we were in a small space together for too long I'd fight with him so much we might just stay stranded forever."
Sakura smirks at him, eyes hooded, cheerfully cruel and totally unrepentant. "Tropical beach..."
"... White sand... Green sea... Sasuke emerging from the waves, dripping wet... naked..."
He jerks forward and tries to cover her mouth with his hand; she dodges, though she's giggling so much she slumps sideways on the bench. She stays there, laughing like crazy. "Okay, okay, enough! Man, you're mean."
She sneaks a look at his face and her laughter gets even louder. Naruto slumps with a whimper, head dropping against the backrest, and then he gives up and starts laughing as well.
"... Yeah, okay, I'd take him. I'd totally take him. Even if we ended up eating each other."
"Wha -- oi! You got such a dirty mind! I can't believe it. I'm shocked, Sakura."
"Get used to it," she counters cheerfully without even bothering to sit back up.
Well, heh. It's not like he thought she was an innocent -- she wouldn't try-not-to-laugh at some of his jokes if she didn't get them -- but wow.
Figures, he acknowledges with rueful amusement, he gets an in with her precisely the day he doesn't really want it anymore.
It's the price tag, though. He can only be close to her if he gives up on dating her, honestly and entirely and without hidden agenda.
Weird that it's cool with him. He keeps expecting it not to be -- she's cute and passionate and fun when she lets herself be and it'd be fun working on her to get that side out more and he's wanted to date her forever -- but.
Sakura is a two-seconds gust of wind, throwing papers on the ground and hair in disarray, and then calm again. Sasuke is a volcano.
Also he would rather die than bare himself before her -- not his bod, his bod is tight and trim and fine, thanks -- but there's all this shit in his head down where he doesn't like to think about it and if she knew the details it would dull her smiles, make her watch him like he's about to break, make her cry.
She can't take him whole, stand steady and uncompromising and make him rise up to her expectations. Sasuke can. Does.
It's a bit scary, the thing they have. It's deep and it has dark sides and thorns.
It's not even dating at this point, with all the lightness and no-consequences and let's-try-it-out the word implies. It's...
"So," Sakura says. "Wanna be friends?" Just friends, he hears. Real friends, he hears. "With option to upgrade to best friend when Ino gets fired?"
Naruto grins back. "So, every other week then?"
He starts laughing. "Sure. Shake on it?"
They shake, almost managing to look solemn, and then they grin together, flushed with contagious happiness.
"But I'm still not telling you sex details!"