tale of galant jiraiya
Join Date: Oct 2008
Thanked 107 Times in 62 Posts
Re: The Truth of the Matter
“To late. We already found someone else. There’s no more room on the teams for him, it’ll just make them uneven.”
Kiba looked incredulously at Akira’s choice of teammate. “Shikamaru? You really want Shikamaru on your team?”
“Oi,” protested the young shadow shinobi. He may not have wanted to be a part of this game, but he wasn’t planning on standing there and being insulted.
Although, Kiba had a point.
Anyway, the dog-clan member was ignoring him as the argument escalated around them about whether to let Naruto join over Shikamaru or not. Shikamaru didn’t feel like getting involved, so he just stood next to Chouji, who had been the one to insist the black-haired boy take the invitation to play, and watched the scene unfold. It was…slightly depressing, and reminded him of when he first met his best friend.
Half of Akira’s team—the half Shikamaru was assuming wanted to win—was all for Naruto joining them. They may not have like him, but at least he was guaranteed to put in some effort. The other half disliked Naruto so much they were willing to put their victory on the line just to keep him away. Most of Kiba’s team agreed with them, grabbing the chance to strengthen the odds for their game, but one or two kept silent. Shikamaru was pretty sure that they also wanted to win but were more conscious about feelings that would get hurt even if they didn’t have the guts to stand up for their beliefs.
The entire time this was going on, Naruto’s face went from excited (while trying not to be) to hopeful (while expecting the worst) to disappointed to accepting (while trying to pretend it had always been that way.) It made Shikamaru a little sick to watch, knowing deep down inside that this wasn’t the first time this had happened to the blond. His mother and father had always taught him to respect other people even if you didn’t have a whole lot of love for them. No one should have to expect rejection from the start.
“Shikamaru?” asked Chouji as he opened a bag of potato chips.
“Yeah,” he answered and turned to walk away along with the snacking boy. Shikamaru hadn’t really intended to play from the moment Kiba suggested Naruto join them. The only reason he had agreed at all was because Akira was being pushy to the point that it was more trouble to ignore him than agree and Chouji had said he didn’t mind sitting on the sidelines. The young shadow shinobi didn’t really believe that, however, so if they had someone else he wasn’t about to let his best friend sit on the sidelines without him.
Chouji glanced back one last time at the group before stuffing a handful of chips in his mouth and jogging a little to catch up with Shikamaru.
“You think he’s okay?” he asked through his mouthful.
“Naruto? He’ll be fine. He’s always fine.” It was kind of the thing that defined Naruto. When the blue-eyed boy wasn’t fine that’s when you knew things were really bad, but Shikamaru had never seen Naruto shed one tear, not even when his entire class made fun of him, not even when Shikamaru knew he hadn’t eaten in a couple of days.
“It’s just…he looks a little like my mom.”
“What? He looks nothing like your mom.”
“No, I mean…Mom’s been sick lately. Really sick. She’s throwing up and her face is all red and hot. Dad says it’s a fever.”
“Don’t you think Naruto looked a little red in the face?”
Shikamaru sighed. It was too much trouble to worry about someone like Naruto. It wasn’t like they were close friends. They barely hung out and when they did it was more of a coincidence than anything else. “You’re only seeing things because you’re worried about your mom, Chouji. It’s just the sun. You know Naruto. Before they found him he was probably running around doing something stupid.”
Chouji didn’t look quite convinced but he still agreed with his best friend. Shikamaru was a lot smarter than he was. Naruto would be okay.
The game lasted less than half an hour. Naruto was allowed to play just because the others were getting fed up with fighting, but that still didn’t mean they accepted him. Only half his team made any real effort at heading for the goal and the only time he managed to put a foot on the ball was due more to a lack of coordination on the other team’s part than any real teamwork from his side. Naruto’s heart wasn’t in the game anyway, not really. He refused to let others see that they were getting to him, that their words always made his chest feel like it was hard to breathe, but today it was difficult to trick himself into believing it too.
The others got bored or pissed off fairly quickly and the only reason Naruto lasted as long as he did was because people left in pairs. Finally it came down to five people, which wasn’t much of a game anyway, not when Akira insisted on having a goalie, but Naruto didn’t even have to be told to know that he was going to be kicked out. He was a little surprised when, after Akira stated the obvious, Kiba tried to turn the game into a free-for-all that would include him, but the blue-eyed boy wasn’t interested and the other three made excuses about their mothers and dinner-time.
He had to give Kiba credit though. He might even let dogface’s earlier threat slide.
Naruto trudged back home, sweat dripping down into his eyes, his whole body aching a little. The sun was setting, and the dusk air was beginning to cool but he still felt warm. His arm was hurting too but, lest he rip the stitches, he didn’t dare touch it except to rewrap it as the bandage had started to unravel again. The seven year old messily tried to twist it back around his arm and tuck the end in, hoping it would be enough to fool the adults.
His thoughts drifted towards his cupboards and Naruto wondered if he still had anything cold to drink in the fridge, or if there was anything left to eat for supper. He had already skipped lunch; there should still be one package of instant ramen left, but then again he had eaten a midnight snack a couple times this month—maybe a few more times than he should have. Thinking about all this food though, the young boy wasn’t really sure that he was even hungry in the first place. His stomach wasn’t so much empty as it was uncomfortable and he decided to wait until he arrived at the apartment to think more about it.
Suddenly, the troublemaker realized that he had missed a turn three streets back and was heading for the market and center district shops. If he wasn’t careful he’d soon run into the old manager again and it would be hours before he even saw the orphanage dorms, let alone be in them to actually make dinner. The blond turned and raced back in the other direction, coughing as he kicked up street dirt.