Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 8 ( Chapter 18 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: I will say again, it wasn't really the number of reviews that bothered me last chapter, it was the number of hits. That dropped almost 20% from the previous chapter, which would explain where the drop in reviews came from. Since it's hits which tells an author (roughly) how many people are reading his fic, this was a bit startling. Obviously, something in V3 Chapter 6 made me lose a significant reader base, and I don't know what it was. Okay, one to other things: Someone commented on how he didn't feel as if the NaruSakuness was going anywhere, yet. I have a response to that, but it would spoil parts of this chapter, so those are in the closing notes. I will simply point out that good relationships usually take time to develop, and sometimes that development hits a slow point.
Chapter 8
By the time that Ino and Sakura were assigned their apartment together, the pink-haired girl was really getting tired of her blond girl friend. She had been teased -- constantly -- about the incident involving the academy student, and it showed no signs of slowing down. What was worse, Sakura had no ready comebacks to respond with, and would flub the few times she tried to shoot back. It wasn't quite so much that the two girls were back to the days of their rivalry over Sasuke, but Ino appeared to think that Sakura needed to be shown who was the 'boss.'
It wasn't exactly a new phenomenon. The first time she and Ino had moved in together, Ino was still too wounded from her experiences to instigate any fights, and with Sasuke gone Sakura had no desire to launch any of her own. It took months before Sakura tried to 'tease' the old Ino out from her, and it had been a friendly teasing since then. However, there were times when one or the other of them would go too far... and so one of them would have to leave for a little while, just to get away from it all, and when the other would come back (usually after spending a week or so in the Haruno household) they would be friends again. Sakura had reached the point at which she normally would have left -- had long passed it, actually -- but there was nowhere for her to go. Housing was at a premium, already, so it wasn't permitted for her to find a replacement at that late date. She couldn't go to her parents -- they didn't have a spare bed (they did have a two bedroom apartment, but only one bed... the second room was being used as an office). The only thing she could think to do was to try and switch apartments with someone who maybe could stand to live with Ino... and who Ino could stand to live with. As annoyed as she was with her friend at the moment, she didn't want to strand the girl with someone who would drive her even crazier then she was driving Sakura.
The first person she approached was Kakashi. He wasn't exactly very enthused by the idea. "I would, but... the last time I lived with a girl she burned all of my books. I'm not going to risk that again. Sorry."
The next person she approached was Asuma -- of the older males, he seemed the most normal. He wasn't a pervert, like Jiraiya (nor like, according to Naruto, Ebisu the 'closet pervert'), and she didn't know much about Genma. Asuma, however, couldn't have helped her even if he wanted to. "I'm the only person who hasn't gotten an apartment, yet," he pointed out. "I'm staying in the dorms until I can get back to Kuren... uh, I mean, until I can get back to Konoha."
If Asuma-san thinks he's keeping his affair with Kurenai a secret, he's got another thing coming, Sakura mused at the time.
She decided, in the end, that the adult males were all either perverts, or unable to help. The genin males would be... a bit too interested in her teammate for her to even consider, given they were just starting puberty and Ino wasn't exactly bad-looking. The female genin were too glad to be on their own to give it up. That left the remaining women of the group -- Hana, Yuugao, and Anko.
Yuugao... wasn't exactly friendly. "Um, look," she'd said. "I... can't. No. Sorry." The ANBU didn't explain anything, she just walked away, ignoring Sakura's questions. A simple no, and that was it.
Anko's answer wasn't very friendly, either, but her explanation made some amount of sense. "No. I'm not allowed. It seems the hokage doesn't trust me -- not that I blame her -- and has forbidden me from living with anyone else. There's too much danger that I'll be 'controlled' into murdering my roommate. I'm stuck in a one bedroom by myself for as long as I remain in Blossom."
Of all the people Sakura approached, Hana tried to be the most helpful.
"Well, um, I guess it would be alright with me," the Inuzuka woman answered when Sakura had posed the question to her. "But... are you sure she'd be willing to go along with it? I've got three large dogs, and most people don't like the odors which come from having that many dogs in that confined a space."
Sakura had tried to convince Ino to accept Hana and her dogs, but in the end she was refused. Ino was obviously having too much fun taunting and teasing her to even consider it, and Sakura wondered if she'd have let her switch with someone even if there's been a candidate who didn't have three dogs. It was getting... frustrating.
For that reason, if no other, she was rather ticked off when she started getting ready for her date with Naruto, just one day after having moved into the new apartment. She wasn't having an easy time of it deciding what to wear -- her custom-made kyuubi dress was back at home (and would probably need to be lengthened when she got back -- the one time she talked about the dress to her mother, she explained that she'd designed it for her daughter to 'grow with,' and any time a size adjustment was needed to bring it back to her), and she didn't think it would have been a good idea to wear it two dates in a row, anyway -- and its purpose was best served in Konoha. No, she needed something else... but when she'd packed for this 'year-long' mission, she hadn't thought to bring anything to go on a date with.
Sakura was still trying to decide, wearing a pair of panties and not much else, when Ino walked in the door looking at her. Smirking, the blond girl said, "Are you planning to flash Naruto tonight, or do you just do that for little boys now?"
"Niether," Sakura growled, gritting her teeth. "I just don't seem to have anything to wear tonight."
"I'm sure Naruto won't mind if you show up at the door as you are, now," Ino suggested.
"He might not, but I would," Sakura snorted. "Unless you've got another dress for me to wear this time, Ino-pig, get out of here."
Ino, taking the hint, retreated to her own room and left Sakura to deal with her problems herself. Deciding that there wasn't much else she could do, she merely picked the parts of her standard outfit (which wasn't necessarily a bad thing to wear on a casual date -- she'd picked it out because it kept her looking good while still usually being flexible and durable enough for missions) that had survived the journey to Blossom in the best shape (and it was hard to find parts of her outfit in good shape, considering that the month-long journey had left most everyone's clothes and gear in fairly poor shape, with mud, mold, wear, and tear) and wear that.
Naruto, much to her added frustration, showed up in a decent suit -- somehow, he'd either managed to preserve some dress clothes all the way from Konoha to Blossom or he'd managed to obtain some in the week since they agreed to this date. She suspected the later, which frustrated her even more -- he'd just shown he put more thought into this date then she had. Considering she had always felt her greatest asset was her mind, being out-thought really annoyed her.
Apparently, her frustration showed on her face, as he had gone from the smile of absolute glee which only Naruto seemed to be able to manage convincingly to a rather terrified look of apology the moment she was done glancing up and down his suit. "Er... did I do something wrong?" he asked hesitantly.
"No," Sakura answered through clenched teeth -- after all, she couldn't exactly complain about him actually trying to treat her right, could she? Well, not if she was even pretending to be fair, at least.
She had anticipated being taken to either a ramen place or that okonomiyaki stand Ino had found a week before, but Naruto had a different idea in mind. Somehow, he found what many people in Konoha had felt was the crown of culinary achievement as far as restaurant food went -- a fancy sukiyaki restaurant. Considering the village hadn't existed as of a year before, and the first civilian establishments in town were permitted only about three months before Sakura and the other Konoha nin arrived, it was rather astonishing to find such a high class place in the middle of Blossom.
"Just how in the world did you find a sukiyaki place this fast?" she asked.
He looked at her, a little surprised. "I asked some of the civilian workers, why?"
The thought Naruto had put into this was making her feel even worse, considering she'd been so distracted by Ino over the week that she hadn't even remembered it until an hour before she had to get ready. She was both frustrated that he was being so much better of a date then she'd ever believed he could be -- even after their first date -- while she had been so careless about it that she'd not even considered trying to find something she might wear when she had a whole week to look for a dress -- or at least to make sure that she had at least one set of clothes didn't have holes in it or needed to be ironed. Combined with all of the stress Ino had been putting her under, she felt like breaking down and crying.
"Sakura-chan, is something wrong?" Naruto asked softly, seeing her distress.
"Yes," she sighed. "But it's not your fault, and there isn't anything you can do about it. Let's just eat and enjoy ourselves for now -- maybe what I need most is to get my mind off of things."
Naruto looked dubious, but he delved into his food, anyway. He had better table manners then she'd ever seen him use, before, and he kept a close watch on her throughout the entire meal. Afterwards, he suggested they take a walk, for a bit, and she agreed.
There weren't very many 'beautified' spots in Blossom, yet, although there was the occasional lot where flower gardens and fish ponds were being established or turf was being laid down, so the walk wasn't very scenic. However, Naruto somehow managed to find a route which lead them to a little, out of the way area which seemed to be a pleasant clearing outside of the village. It took Sakura a moment to realize that this was one of the training grounds that had been set up, but because it was there were nice places to either hide or sit down to listen to a lecture. Sitting down, apparently, was on Naruto's mind, as he lead her over to a place where five stumps perfect for sitting were 'conveniently' arranged in a small circle. He took one, and gestured to her to use another. Finally, he sighed.
"Sakura-chan, if you didn't want to be on this date, you could have just told me," Naruto finally said. "I would have understood."
Sakura blinked in surprise. "No! This date is fine -- it's the best thing that's happened to me all week, in fact. You've done such a good job with it, I just feel so guilty that I didn't put more effort into preparing for this... I didn't even think about it until a few hours ago, and--"
"Sakura-chan, it's all right!" Naruto exclaimed. "I'm perfectly happy with my Sakura-chan, whether her clothes have holes in them or not!"
Sakura flushed. So, he had seen the ripped seam in the back of her blouse, after all. She thought she'd done a good job of hiding that with some safety pins, but apparently not good enough. "It's not just that," she admitted finally. "It's... well, Ino-chan and I agreed to share our apartment, just like we did back in Konoha. Only... back in Konoha, I had my parents place to go to when things between us got too out of hand -- we've been rivals too long to remain civil for very long, and sometimes the teasing we do with each other gets out of hand. Well, Ino-chan's been pushing my buttons all week -- since that... uh, incident, in the bathroom, at least. I'm having a lot of trouble dealing with it, and I'm starting to realize that -- without an outlet to go to, like at home, I can't stand living with her. All week, I've been trying to find someone to trade apartments with me -- Kakashi, Asuma, Anko, Yuugao, Hana, I've asked them all, and they're all unable to do it for one reason or another. I'm at my wits end, because I was told that I can't get another apartment, now that I've taken this one. I'm just... I just want somewhere to stay for a while. I suppose I can take it -- Ino-chan and I have lived with each other for a couple years, now, and we've managed to cope with a lot of things together -- but I have to adjust to not having my outlet, any more."
Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Well, why didn't you ask me?"
"You mean, you're willing to trade apartments with me?" she asked carefully after a long moment of silence. She hadn't even thought to ask him. Would he be willing to live with Ino, just to help her? To Sakura, that seemed like a huge sacrifice on his part.
"Well, I suppose we could," he agreed. "But I was thinking more of you coming to live with me."
Sakura's face darkened. So he was a pervert, after all. "Naruto, if you think two little dates is enough to make me want to... to... well, I..."
She was so upset, she couldn't even get a complete sentence out. She started to stand up and march towards him, fists clenched. He jumped back, surprised, and started waving his arms furiously to try and calm her down. "I didn't mean it like that! I really didn't mean it like that! Please, Sakura-chan, don't kill me -- I wasn't trying to say anything like that!"
Normally, she would have pounded him despite his pleadings -- all perverts deserved to be punished, especially if they were being perverted towards her. However... she recalled how he had acted after he'd run into her bathroom and caught her in little more than a small towel barely held up to her chest. He'd definitely been interested, yes, and he'd definitely enjoyed the sight of her nearly nude form... but he'd also been polite about it, and respectful of her ever since. Maybe she was jumping to conclusions, here, but maybe not.
"You've got three seconds to explain before I show you just what Tsunade-sama taught me to use against perverts," she snarled.
Naruto swallowed nervously. "Um... it's just... well, I got the apartment we worked on together -- you know, Apartment 6? So I've got an extra bedroom, and I'm not using it at all, and... well, I thought... maybe...."
Sakura blinked. "How did you get a two bedroom? I thought you could only get a two bedroom apartment if you had a roommate!"
"I didn't ask for one," Naruto sighed. "I didn't think anyone but you or Ino would be willing to take one with me, and I knew you two were going to pick each other. I wanted the bathroom, but I didn't particularly care about anything else, so I just didn't say anything when they asked me. Apparently, they ran out of one bedroom apartments, and I was the only one who hadn't given them a preference. Between dog girl, the closet pervert, Kakashi-sensei, Genma-sensei, the purple haired ANBU chick, Ero-sennin, Anko-sensei, and all the genin girls they didn't have enough one-bedrooms built when we had to move into the new apartments. So... they gave me Apartment 6. I didn't know what to do with the second bedroom, so it's still completely empty... but if you'd prefer, I'll let you have it and I'll take yours. It won't make any difference to me."
Sakura shook her head. "That... won't be needed, Naruto-kun," she replied softly. "Thank you. I'm... not entirely comfortable with the idea of living with a boy full-time, but... maybe I could sleep over at your place every now and then. It could be that place to go to get away from Ino-chan, like I had in my parents house back home, and... and I would enjoy your company, from time to time." She paused. "But you'd have to agree to stock your cupboards with more than ramen, got it?"
Naruto rubbed the back of his head, smiling nervously. "If you say so, Sakura-chan," he answered, looking a little abashed.
Finally, for the first time that night, she smiled. "Good. And thank you, Naruto-kun... I think that we'll both be happy with this."
* * * * *
Notes: Shortest chapter yet, I think (final word count isn't determined until after I do my ' edits,' since the difference in whether scene breaks are counted matters sometimes), but at least I got this one out before having to go on jury duty tomorrow. I'll try to keep writing, but I don't know if I'll have enough time to do a full chapter like usual... or even to write anything at all. Anyway, related to what I said above, regarding Naruto and Sakura's relationship not moving: When one of the earlier reviewers of the last chapter said, because I mentioned 'repercussions,' that "Apparently, something bad is going to happen [on the date]," I almost went ROFL. Obviously, I already knew what was coming, and that Sakura and Naruto would start 'living together' off and on following the date, so that comment really struck my funny bone. Especially since I was trying to figure out how to keep things from going TOO good on the date -- they aren't ready to be a full-fledged couple yet (as Sakura still has to get over her Sasuke fixation -- which she hasn't done, yet, and won't for several months still, fic-time), yet I wanted them to be living together part-time before they did... because there's a certain event (not taking place for several chapters) which requires them to be living together without being fully 'involved.' I was considering just having Sakura decide to live with him in order to 'give him that fair shot she'd promised her mother she'd give him,' but I decided that was a bit of a stretch for her reasoning, and went with this instead. Again, though, they aren't able to be a fully fledged couple just yet. Since it's no secret that this is a NaruSaku fic, I suppose it wouldn't hurt too much to say that they WILL be a full-fledged couple well before Volume 4, and likely somewhere in the middle of this volume (as a point of reference of fic-time, I intend to have them a full-fledged couple by Sakura's eighteenth birthday. Volume 4 starts, fic-time, after her twenty first birthday. She is sixteen right now). There is going to be at least one major storyline development AFTER they go official and yet before Volume 3. Possibly more, as I haven't firmly decided when certain 'stand-alone chapter' events will take place in this volume. Next Chapter: Ino, Sakura, and Naruto each start their first lessons as teachers.