Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or these characters and stand to make no profit from posting this story. I do not own Peeps either, they are the product of the Just Born Candy Company.
A Summer Peep
Chouji glanced at the discount bin on his way to the checkout aisle of the Konoha Drug Emporium. His mom had asked him to pick up some aspirin and a prescription for her on his way home. Tucked away in one corner of the bin a glint of cellophane caught his eye. He passed his hand over the top of the display, pushing aside close-out deals on last season's hair-color and a few expired packs of store-brand batteries.
There in front of him lay a package of bright yellow spring Peeps at 90% off. Despite the ignominy of being one step away from the dustbin, the Peeps still managed to peep up at him with their cheery little black eyes. The cellophane crinkled in his hands, it was already becoming dry and brittle, only having been intended to shield the Peeps for a single season.
Chouji sighed. He couldn't just leave them there.
Adding them to his basket he paid for his merchandise and then left. He dropped the medicines off for his mom in her kitchen. Since he was mission-less for the moment he headed out to his team's old training field. Sitting down at the edge of the grassy field, the shadow cast by the tree-line in the late afternoon sun offered him some protection from the summer heat. He drew the box of Peeps from his pocket and looked at them, golden in the sunshine.
A kids candy.
Gosh, he had these every spring that he could remember growing up. They came in a veritable rainbow of colors and even a few assorted spring shapes, chicks and bunnies and tulips. But the original were still the best, plain yellow Peeps chicks.
The red-haired young man cracked open the box of candy chicks, the cellophane crackling in his hand. He pulled out the first one and held it up looking it in the eye.
How many of these things had he eaten as a kid?
Heck, he and Shikamaru had eaten them and tortured them and set them to sail out to sea and battled with them and even attempted to launch some into space.
But now his best friend was occupied with other pursuits, Chouji thought wistfully. Not that he minded, exactly. He was glad that Shikamaru had found such a great girlfriend in Temari. From the moment the two of them had met, way back in their chuunin exam, it had been obvious that the Nara boy and the kunoichi from Suna belonged together.
It's just that Chouji kind of ... missed him. He missed hanging out with him and just doing...nothing. Shikamaru was the best friend in the world for doing absolutely nothing with. But between assignments and Temari, Shikamaru just didn't have time to do nothing anymore.
Chouji popped the Peep into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. Slightly stale and a little crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy and cavity-inducing sweetness on the inside, the yellow chick was exactly the way he remembered them.
"Hey, Chouji," a voice called from the distance. He looked over and saw a slim girl approaching him, her blond ponytail swishing with her gait. It was Ino, his other teammate and best friend.
"Hi Ino, what are you doing out here today?" he asked as she walked over to join him.
"Eh, I got back early from a mission and just like to come here and relax sometimes. It's a nice place. Lots of good memories, don't you think?" She looked at him quizzically. "So why are you here?"
"Oh, same reason I suppose."
Ino sat down beside Chouji. "Whatcha got?" she asked, looking at the box in his hands.
"Oh, Peeps. Want one?"
"Ooooh, Peeps," Ino squealed and Chouji had to keep himself from laughing. Despite the fact that his teammate had grown into a tall, elegant young woman, she still managed to squeal like a four-year old girl at this offer. "May I?" she asked, her blue eyes sparkling at him.
"Sure, go ahead," he laughed as she tugged one loose from its companions in the box.
"You know, Chouji," Ino asked as she bit the bird's head off and chewed thoughtfully, "Sakura and I used to eat these every spring when we were kids."
"Really?" Chouji asked. "Shikamaru and I did, too."
"Mmmhmmm," Ino agreed as she bit the candy bird's remaining torso in half. "But we didn't just eat them. We played with them, too. Stretched them, twisted them, squished two of them together..."
Chouji laughed. "Yeah, I know what you mean, they're more than just a candy...they're fun. Did you and Sakura ever hold Peeps jousts?"
Ino giggled as she put the remaining bit of Peep in her mouth. Chouji realized that it had taken her three dainty bites to finish one Peep. "No," Ino answered him. "What's a Peeps joust?"
The Akamichi explained the technique of positioning two Peeps facing each other in the microwave, each armed with a toothpick. Within less than a minute a victor would emerge. Ino's eyes positively glittered with mirth and she laughed as she told him how she envisioned younger versions of himself and Shikamaru with their faces pressed up against the microwave watching such a fierce "battle." Chouji joined her in her laughter.
Chouji looked into his box. Of the original five Peeps three remained. "Have another one?" he offered.
"Sure, why not?" Ino asked, plucking one more away from it's companions as Chouji did the same. Once again he popped a whole Peep in his mouth while Ino took three delicate bites to finish hers. Still, it was extraordinary that she was actually eating something sweet and for once not complaining or worrying about the calories. Peeps really were unique.
Chouji was enjoying the late afternoon and the unusually pleasant and cheerful companionship of Ino. He watched the sun as it hung low in the west. Turning to Ino he started to say something else and noticed a devilish glint in her own eye.
"What is it, Ino?" he asked smiling then sat open mouthed in stunned amazement as she did the unthinkable.
She snatched the fifth and final Peep from the box and sprang up, running off to the opposite side of the field.
Chouji was stunned, flabbergasted, exasperated. Shikamaru would have never done anything like that. What kind of a friend did she think she was? No one ever took his last chip or last Peep!
"Ino, give it back!" He yelled as he jumped up to follow her.
Standing at the top of the hill between their field and the village Ino waggled the Peep teasingly at him and then... stuck out her tongue? Just like a four year old. His feet were already moving as he charged up the hill, halfway expecting her to yell something ridiculous like 'nyah nyah nyah."
But she didn't. She just turned and darted off, ponytail swinging wildly as she ran.
"Ino!" Chouji yelled again, closing the distance between them. Ino darted ahead like one of the Nara clan deer, headed back to the village with Chouji in pursuit. Laughing, she led him through side streets on the outskirts of the village, always staying just a little ahead of him. Her laughter was infectious, by the time he caught up with her he wasn't mad, not that he ever really had been, more astonished than anything really.
She made a wrong turn into a dead-end alley and turned to face him, her breath rapid, cheeks flushed, giggling the entire time.
"Ino...give it back," Chouji threatened in mock seriousness, advancing toward her.
Ino waved the Peep teasingly at him, holding it in front of her by two fingers of her right hand. Chouji reached for it, just as the blond raised it to her mouth, taking a bite. Not pausing in the least, Chouji grabbed her wrist, pulling it away, ducking his own face forward and nipping the Peep in two right as she took a bite herself.
Frozen in place the two of them realized just how close they were to each other, Chouji's forehead was practically touching hers. Slowly, she chewed her half of the candy as did he. Chouji swallowed hard and couldn't think of anything to say, not wanting to move or break the spell between them. Ino giggled slightly.
"You...ummm...you've got sugar crystals on your lips," he finally said.
"Do I?" she asked and her breath was soft and warm against him, tickling at his chin.
"Yeah," he grinned as he brushed his lips against hers. Surprisingly, Ino didn't push away. It was...nice...to feel her circle her hands around behind his head, her fingers threading through his red hair as he kissed her softly.
"Sweet," he whispered as they broke their kiss.
"Yes, very," Ino agreed.
And their second kiss was not so soft. It was a little bit more demanding, a little bit more hungry and a little bit more why-did-it-take-us-so-long-to-get-around-to-this kind of a kiss.