Chapter 1: Genjutsu Daydream
Naruto sat at the counter of Ichiraku Ramen, drumming the butt ends of his hashi onto the cool wood—until Ayame gave him a reproachful smile. The noodles were just drained and the sweet scent of the stock tickled the inside of his nose. Oh, hurry, hurry, hurry.
His stomach couldn’t contain itself any longer and groaned loudly. The old man laughed and handed the bowl over to Ayame who served it with a flourish. “There you are.”
Lunch had to be fast, he wanted to get back to elemental training, but he would also have to wait for Kakashi and Yamato. Next time he would have to eat with them, because they were taking longer lunch breaks than he wanted and it was slowing him down. Of course, maybe Yamato just needed the break—he had started to look a little saggy this morning.
A good way through this first bowl of noodle perfection, the curtains whispered her arrival. Sakura-chan. He froze for a second, string of noodles hanging half in his mouth and half in his bowl. Don’t act like an idiot.
He slurped his mouthful and pretended not to notice her.
“Hey, Naruto.” Her voice sounded lifeless and sad as she sat down on his right.
“Sakura-chan,” he answered, aching to solve her troubles, but he couldn’t even ask right now. The light scars from where he had—from where the Kyuubi had—attacked her showed on her left shoulder. They glowed like a barrier between them. His eyes slid from his ramen and focused there, the four parallel lines. The Kyuubi had marked her for life and he hadn’t stopped it. He hadn’t even known.
She must have seen his focus; she put her hand over the marks. “Stop. It wasn’t you.”
“Hn.” He turned back to his bowl; she ordered as he writhed in his own guilt. That jutsu needed to be completed. Not just for Sasuke’s sake, but for hers as well. If he had a powerful jutsu to fall back on, maybe he could keep the damn Kyuubi where it belonged. He couldn’t hurt her like that again. What if he had really hurt her? What if he had…
The guilt stabbed him in the gut, but he wouldn’t let it show on his heated face. He changed the topic to steer them away from these dangerous places, but wanted to slap his forehead at the stupid words that came tumbling out of his mouth.
“Did you come here for a date, Sakura-chan?” Part of him hoped she would say yes, and part of him, the guilty part, felt like running away as he said the words. Sure, he stopped thinking about her scars, but it put the awkwardness between them right there on the table.
Grinning, he watched her lips tighten prettily. “Tsunade-sama asked me to find out how you thought it was going. That’s all.” Was that a gleam or a sparkle in her eye? He couldn’t be sure, and the twinging bit of him hoped she was mad.
He deserved her anger, but she had never said a harsh word about it. That stung deep–she wouldn’t talk about it, or threaten him, or retaliate in any way. She had just taken it; her quiet acceptance festered in his head. This part of Sakura he didn’t understand; she was too serious about it to tease or punish him, and that…hurt.
Feeling hopeless again, that jutsu seemed so damned impossible, he shrugged. “It’s going.” He didn’t tell her what he’d been thinking all morning—that it simply couldn’t be done and…he was about to give up. The Fourth hadn’t managed it; maybe Rasengan was never able to be anything more.
Her order arrived with his second bowl and she picked at it silently; he watched her from the corner of his eyes. Her hair fell across her cheek as she bent over her bowl, green flashes peering dreamily between her eyelashes, a slight smile played at the corner of her pink lips.
Naruto put his hashi down and stared at her openly, awkwardness forgotten for a moment. Her eyes met his and everything around them shifted.
The green grass of the training field stretched out around them, and a light breeze wafted into his face, bringing the scent of cherry blossoms and a flurry of pink petals. Sweat poured down his brow, cooling in the gust. His mass clones plopped out of existence as he panted from the impact of their efforts. He looked around, wondering when lunch had ended. Kakashi and Yamato were nowhere to be found. When had he taken his shirt off?
He wiped the side of his face with an arm nearly just as slick. When he opened his eyes again, Sakura stood too close, green eyes narrowed like sighting prey and promising…something terrible and wonderful at the same time. A ticklish feeling lurched in his belly without his consent and he prayed it wasn’t the fox; it couldn’t be, it felt too good. The fox burned like this, too, but in a painful way. This burned with hunger and laughter and sweet pain of wanting something that couldn’t be had.
Her fingers shushed him as he started to babble like an idiot, but her soft touch across his lips cut his voice short like a kunai through rope. He groaned as her fingertips, cool on his overheated skin, traced the outline of fatigued muscles across his chest and shuddering stomach. Shaking now, fearing the worst, he stepped back. The limit of control reached, his breath huffed in uneven gasps. The animal was about to take him and Yamato was nowhere near to put it back where it belonged. He would burst into flame and sear her to death if she touched him again.
The trail of her fingers burned on his skin that puckered into gooseflesh at the ghost memories of her caress.
Oh, touch me again, Sakura-chan.
Her eyes, great fiery pools, threatened to swallow him whole, and he lost the will to fight. Pounding, raging fire rose from his belly and shook his knees. His head spun from the heat. This didn’t feel like the Kyuubi.
She closed the gap between them, grabbing the back of his head on each side and pushed his face into hers. Soft lips slipped over his, the gentle flick of her tongue opened his and he was falling, spinning, grappling at her and pushing her hips into his own. Groaning at the sweetness of her, the silk of her hair as it stuck to his sweaty cheek, the greedy press of her fingers as they clawed under his hitai-ate.
A tap on his shoulder; he shrugged it off and pushed his tongue further into her mouth, shivering as she rose to press more completely against him. A more insistent tap, and finally a painful jab, and his eyes opened. Drooling, he lifted his head off his arm—sprawled across the counter of Ichiraku Ramen, bowl still three quarters full.
Sakura sat there with that dreamy look in her eyes, and Kakashi’s face was too damn close. What the…?
Naruto’s head still spun, and he pulled his knees higher searching for the higher rung on the barstool, gasping and shaking as if his body belonged to someone else.
“Everything all right, Naruto? We must be working you too hard for you to fall asleep in your lunch like that.”
Naruto just nodded, and wiped the drool off his chin. His blood still raged as he tried to focus on his ramen. She had been so soft against his chest…
That wasn’t helping.
He pulled his knees closer and tried desperately to think about ramen.
The hard throb in his pants would not release him, and an image of her hand brushing across that tight fire put a jolt of involuntary electricity that strained painfully against the cloth.
He yelped and shoveled another mouthful of ramen into his mouth, pretending to enjoy it immensely.
Kakashi poked Sakura, and she startled. “Ka-Ka-Kakashi-sensei?”
Kakashi folded his arms over his chest and looked from one to the other. Naruto willed himself to swallow and think about ramen, but the crush of lips, the sweet scent of her cheek made that almost impossible.
“Hmmm. I see,” Kakashi said at last. “Sakura, have you been working with Kurenai?”
Sakura blinked. “No. Why?”
“I think it’s time you do. As soon as possible.” He turned back to Naruto, who all but choked on a bit of pork. “Any time you’re ready, Naruto. Hey, I know, let’s go right now.”
Naruto’s attention went to the problem with leaving right this second—the hard knot of desire that pulsed with every heart beat, that ached to be freed—that jolted at the thought of her touch. “Just let me finish, Sensei,” he muttered around a mouthful of noodle, unable to even taste it, with the memory of her fingers on his chest. Oh no, even worse.
“Exactly what I was afraid of,” muttered Kakashi.
Sakura—cheeks glowing a heart-stopping pink—rose and paid her bill, green eyes hidden under thick lashes. Then she was gone, in a swirl of heat and longing and just a hint of feminine perfume.
“Wh-what was that, sensei? What did you say?” Naruto managed at last. How had he fallen asleep into his lunch?
“It isn’t important,” Kakashi’s one eye wrinkled up in a smile. “Yamato and I will be at the training field when you’ve…gotten a hold of yourself.”