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Cherry Blossom Thread

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Seven-year-old Naruko stared wide-eyed up into the colorfully decorated display window. There were so many interesting toys and gadgets she figured, that any child her age would be entertained for ages!

Pressing her nose against the cool glass, she watched with eyes wide in wonder as a train lazily chugged it's way around and around a circle on a toy track, following its movements until it made her dizzy.

The bell attached to the shop door jingled loudly and Naruko turned her bright blue eyes towards the left to see who was coming out.

A boy who looked about her age came out clutching a bag in one of his little hands. He had short and messy hair that was the prettiest shade of pink Naruko had ever seen!-like the cherry blossoms Old Man Hokage took her to see – He wore a long-sleeved red shirt and white shorts. His face held a look of pure glee while he stood just outside the shop not noticing Naruko's presence right away, instead peeking into his little bag and giving out a soft – pretty sounding, in Naruko's opinion – laugh all the while.

Naruko fidgeted nervously, twisting the hem of her own dirty orange dress. She could only guess that the boy had just bought some amazing new toy and was immediately curious as to what it could be.

"I hope Ino likes it!"

Naruko's heart deflated a bit at that, pretty sure she remembered hearing that name before. A moment later recalling it as one of the more popular girls she'd seen walking around, surrounded by a group of friends and blatantly ignoring Naruko all the while talking about Sasuke Uchiha.

So then this boy must be a friend of hers, Naruko reasoned sadly.

The boy was smiling now and Naruko subconsciously ducked a little more behind the nearby corner not wanting to get yelled at for 'scaring away customers' like with all the other shops and such, watching the boy starting to walk away.

Something inside of Naruko told her not to let him get away, so she followed after him trailing behind and being extra careful to stay out of sight. She would hide behind bushes, trees, trash cans, whatever was around. Watching from a distance really wasn't all bad though, as Naruko decided right there and then that she rather liked the way this mysterious boy's eyes sparkled when happy.

It made her long for someone to look at her like that.

Naruko had just ducked down behind a single park bench, peeking through the wooden boards only for her blue eyes to widen in horror. She looked back just as the pink-haired boy had accidentally hit an uneven stretch of road, his foot catching on a lump of twisted grass and dirt making him gasp in surprise whilst falling. He fell with his face flat on the ground, his precious bag getting sent flying a few feet away with its contents still inside.

Without a second thought, Naruko went scrambling over to his side.

"H-hey, are you okay?" She asked not sure if she should touch him or not. She really didn't want to get yelled at anymore today.

The boy, who still seemed more surprised than actually hurt, pushing himself up into a sitting position and looking down at his dirty dress and lightly scraped knees with a dejected pout.

"Uh-oh, I hope mom won't be too mad..." he mumbled trying to dust himself off as best he could.

Naruko, however, was just glad the boy seemed to be alright and that he didn't yell at her right off the bat like so many others usually did. Up close she could see his eyes were probably the most beautiful shade of green she'd ever seen; everything about him looked beautiful to Naruko from the cherry blossom hair to the delicate pink looking blush that was currently staining his cheeks.

Such thoughts were dashed suddenly remembering the bag that had skittered off a short distance away and seeing the slightly frantic look that came onto his face. The green eyes pinched with worry, flicking this way and that looking for something.

Leaving his side she walked the short distance away and plucked the bag off of the ground without peeking inside, turning and expecting to be met with the usual apprehensive stare and wary approach even. Only when she turned she saw bright, happy green eyes and an equally bright smile greeting her while he hurried over to stand directly in front of her.

"My bag, thank you!" The boy said making Naruko blush when she realized he was looking right at her now. He was smiling at her!

"I-…."

"But...who are you?"

Naruko swallowed nervously, carefully handing him back his bag letting her gaze drop to the ground.

"M-my name's….Naruko…."

"Thank you, Naruko." The boy said, softer this time making her heart flutter a bit knowing she was the cause of his thanks.

She wasn't used to such long interaction with someone before, other than Old Man Hokage that is. Well okay, maybe Teuchi and Ayame too. Everyone else either scorned her or drove her away.

"It's for a friend, I kept it in the bag so it wouldn't get dirty." The pink-haired boy went on to say, his smile was softer now from thoughts of his important person, or so Naruko figured. A pinch of jealousy ignited inside Naruko belly, though she wasn't entirely sure why. "Good thing I kept it in the bag, huh?"

His smile was like gold to her. "Yeah, that was pretty good thinking" Naruko quickly agreed watching him take another peek to make sure it wasn't dirty.

He blinked, noticing the mildly curious and hesitant look on the blonde girl's face before speaking.

"Would you like to see what it is?" He asked with his head tilted innocently to the side. He didn't really understand what about the simple question made her eyes light up so, reaching inside and pulling out the mysterious object.

Naruko looked down at it in wonder, surprised to see it was some kind of amazing toy like she originally thought. It was a ribbon, nothing really super special about it, it was made out of some kind of long and silky material dyed a bright orange color. It wasn't anything special, and yet Naruko thought it was one of the most amazing things she'd ever seen.

"Wow...that's a pretty ribbon!" Naruko exclaimed, smiling now. Especially when the boy was looking so fond of it.

"Thanks, Naruko!" He said again, and yet again Naruko felt her heart flutter at the gesture. "I got it for my friend, I figured the color would look pretty on her."

Her eyes fell back down to the ribbon he held, a part of her wishing someone would do such a nice thing for her.

Naruko didn't realize her sadness was showing now, but the pink-haired boy certainly did. Especially with how she was looking at the ribbon he held, and a thought occurred to him remembering his mom's words of wisdom and that 'an act of kindness can go a long way'.

"Would you...like to try it on?"

The look she gave was the same one he had seen his dad give to his mom after saying something he thought was deep and profound only for her to rebuff he was being far too lenient and carefree. The two were intense like that, and despite all the bickering, made it well-known how much they loved one another.

"C-...can I?" the two words were laced with such trepidation that the pink-haired boy couldn't help but laugh.

A smile, brighter than any other that had ever come onto Naruko's face, pulled at her lips spreading wide across her face. Only to drop a moment later, her hands falling back to her sides and looking down in a dejected manner.

"I-I shouldn't. It might get dirty..." Naruko said glumly, she really did want to to try it on.

The pink-haired boy pondered this for a moment, looking her over, taking in everything from the unkempt, greasy looking hair and filthy looking clothes to the sad, almost bitter smile pulling at her lips. His own gaze flitting back to the ribbon he held, then towards Naruko coming to a silent decision.

"Don't worry!" He said happily, smiling brightly while he moved to stand behind her. "Ino says it's impossible for any girl to look bad while wearing a ribbon."

Technically, Ino had said it was impossible for just her to look bad, but...well Naruko didn't really need to know that part.

Naruko blushed feeling small, nimble fingers touch her long disheveled golden locks of hair trying to brush and untangle them into something a little more manageable. She gave out a small squeak of embarrassment feeling something soft get placed into her hair, barely brushing the skin of her forehead and keeping her bangs form obscuring her sight anymore.

When the pink-haired boy stepped back around, he was sporting a somewhat proud smile and a slight blush. "There! See? Now you're really pretty."

A beat of silence passed between them in which Naruko reached up and felt the silky material of the ribbon nestled securely in her hair. Feeling something hot stinging at the corners of her eyes she opened her mouth to say thank you, and to ask for the boy's name finally when a shout from across the yard stopped her-

"Well, well look at what we have here boys and girls!" A jeering voice taunted.

Naruko and the pink-haired boy's head whipped around, the latter's heart dropping in despair. Naruko's smile was gone now.

All of the approaching boys and girls had mean, jeering looks on their faces, intensifying when they looked form the pink-haired boy towards Naruko. One of the girls, the leader of the little herd if Naruko had to guess, stepped forward closing in on the pink-haired boy.

The boy took a few nervous steps backward, he had started trembling. Naruko watched the girl flick him in the forehead causing him to fall back onto his bum, his cheeks burning in humiliation with the whole group – minus Naruko of course – laughing at him. He bit his lip a moment later, the beginnings of tears shone in his eyes.

"If it isn't The Forehead and The Freak, why it's a match made in heaven!" The one who flicked him said loudly.

Something inside of Naruko burned with anger, rattling against non-existent bars like a caged animal. Looking over at the pink-haired boy, however, she felt her anger give way to concern seeing how utterly terrified he looked. His eyes were wide and fearful and his skin had turned a few shades paler.

"He probably couldn't find anyone else to be friends with him, so he had to settle for this other freak!" Another of the cruel kids yelled out, one of the boys stepping from the crowd now and circling around before grabbing a fistful of the other's pink locks making the green-eyed boy cry in pain, "Isn't that right freak?"

The pink-haired boy was openly sobbing now. Something inside of Naruko finally snapped and without thinking things through, she lunged, tackling the meaner boy to the ground.

The girls and the pink-haired boy all stood with varying looks of disbelief as the brawl escalated between Naruko and a majority of the boys now, some of the other members of the group rushing in to help their companion. A few broken noses and exchanged insults later and one of the Anbu showed up, causing the remaining kids to scatter, including one pink-haired boy who kept throwing worried glances over his shoulder when the silver-haired masked wearing Anbu hauled Naruko away from the scene.

~x~

"Hey, Sakurai! There you are!"

"S-sorry I'm late Ino." Came the apologetic voice of Sakurai who was panting now, looking towards the girl before him with a sheepish expression.

"How come you're all dirty?" Ino exclaimed, her sharp blue eyes giving him a once-over-lightly tugging at the sleeve of his dirt-covered shirt. "And hey I thought you said you went shopping?"

"Oh, this?" Sakurai said shyly looking at the dirt covering his clothes and blushing some, "I-I just tripped and fell, that's all." Her next question brought a small frown to his face, hanging his head in a small show of shame. "I-I did, but I..."

"Oh no, was someone bullying you again?" Ino asked, worried. "Did they steal whatever you bought?"

Sakurai felt the burning on his cheeks grow hotter, shaking his head. "N-no, I-...I gave it to someone!" Ino looked a bit taken aback by this.

"They needed it more." Was Sakurai's simple statement remembering the sad look of longing on the smaller blonde's face when she looked at the ribbon. "...I'm sorry."

"Hey, it's ok!" Ino said quickly, patting him on the back. "Anyone who needs more help than you must really be a work in progress, you know what I mean?" She said with a laugh, causing Sakurai to blush even harder if at all possible.

~x~

It was worth the light scolding she got from Old Man Hokage and the silver-haired Anbu. Definitely. Looking at the bright orange ribbon she held in her hands, she remembered the face of the boy who had shown her kindness after so many years of hardship.

He told her she looked pretty, even after saying thank you and everything!

He was so different from anyone she'd met before. Everything about him from his smile to those shiny pink locks of his, and of course his eyes were pretty too. Naruko smiled happily looking down at the ribbon in silence.

The smile turned into a frown when she remembered the way said boy cried out in pain when the other kids had started to gang up on him.

She remembered how unbelievably angry she felt.

More than anything though, she remembered his tears. He had been nice to her, and he had suffered because of it. If only she had been stronger, or maybe even if she just reacted quicker.

"I never even got his name..." she said aloud, sighing sadly.

Looking around her empty, messy little one bedroom apartment made Naruko yearn for the mysterious boy's company some more.

Looking down at the ribbon he had so carefully kept inside of the bag for most of his return trip she had to wonder if she would ever see him again. Would he be as happy to see her?

Letting out another aggravated sigh she flopped back onto her bed staring at the ceiling, "mom...dad...I really wish you were here."

She clutched the ribbon she was left with just a little tighter, the cold emptiness of her room being driven away by the bits of warmth she found when she thought of that boy's face. His smile serving as a small comfort in her moment of loneliness.