Naruto has never been one for birthdays.
Ever since he was little, he would either forget or be too busy training or eating ramen to remember anyone’s birthday--not that he had many people’s birthdays to remember. Iruka-sensei’s birthday was the only person’s birthday that mattered to him back then.
But this was different.
Hani’s seventh birthday would be in four days, and Naruto had absolutely no idea what to get the child.
Naruto had made careful preparations in coming for this day. He had scribbled everywhere to remind him--his calendar (which he hardly looked at), the front of his cabinet (which was usually open, so he never saw the front of it) and even his bathroom wall.
It was his bathroom wall that had reminded him, which meant yelling out in surprise, hitting his head on the wall and cursing his brains out. Naruto had always been the ultimate procrastinator.
Now, procrastinating wouldn’t be so bad. Naruto still had four days to find a present--it was the present that was giving him the problem. Being the little, isolated, demon fox possessed child, Naruto had never really given a girl presents. Well, there was that one year he got a slug for Sakura’s eighth birthday, but Sakura wasn’t too happy about that. Plus, Hani didn’t really like slugs. She was probably afraid of them. Which was probably really cute.
So Naruto was stuck on square one: Finding a present.
Naruto had been looking around for a present all day. He had been to Ichiraku (after three bowls of ramen, the idea dawned on him that Hani didn’t like ramen all that much), the grocery store (where all he could find was candy, which Baa-san didn’t like Hani having), and Neji’s house (who promptly kicked his butt to the curb). All and all, Naruto was having no luck.
That, of course, was before he was inspired to ask a girl what they liked when they were little, especially for their birthday.
The first girl he thought of was Sakura. Not exactly the best idea. Sakura and Hani were on two completely different ends of the scale.
The next girl he thought of was Hinata. Naruto grinned. Now that was a good idea, if Naruto had any good ideas. Better yet, Hinata was Neji’s cousin, and Neji probably brought Hani over to his house nearly every single day.
After a few minutes of sprinting, Naruto ran up to the Hyuuga house. He knocked on the door. “Hey, is Hinata home?!” He shouted through the door. “I need to talk to her!”
After a few seconds, the door opened. A small girl with black hair and Hyuuga eyes was staring up at him. “Can I help you?” she asked coolly.
“I’m Hanabi. Hinata’s little sister.” Hanabi finished for him. “Hinata isn’t home right now. She went to help Neji buy a present for that Hani chick.” Hanabi rolled her eyes. “I swear, if Neji gets any more doting-like, he’d be a grandfather with his first grandkid.”
Naruto burst out laughing. “That’s exactly what I think!” he said cheerily.
Hanabi smirked. It was a Neji smirk. Naruto couldn’t help giggling even more.
Then it dawned on Naruto.
“Crap! If Hinata’s helping Neji, then she can’t help me!”
“What? You’re looking for a gift for this Hani kid, too?” Hanabi asked. “Don’t tell me--an idiot like you probably never got a gift for a cute girl, and now you’re asking Hinata because she’s a girl, and she probably knows what Hani likes. Since she’s not here, you’re back to square one.”
Naruto sighed. “That’s it…exactly. But you’re so mean about it…”
“Well? Are we going, or what?”
Naruto looked at Hanabi. She was standing there, a smug look on her face, her arms crossed. Naruto suddenly got a very bad feeling. “Wha--?”
“I’m your only hope, you know. I’ve been around this Hani kid a couple times. Plus, I’m only a few years older then her. You’ve got no chance without me.” Hanabi rolled her eyes and scoffed.
“Would you really do that?” Naruto’s eyes shined.
“Of course…for a price.”
Naruto fell over. “What price?”
Hanabi was silent, then glanced away sheepishly. “I want a present, too.” She muttered.
It was silent for a few moments. Naruto stared at Hanabi, who, in turn, stared at the wall.
“…you want a present, too? Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
Hanabi blushed again. “It’s because I’m a cool, level-headed, sophisticated ten year old!” she snapped. “I can’t be asking for toys left and right all the time!”
Naruto grinned. “Sure!” he said, the stupid grin still on his face. “Why not?”
Hanabi slowly looked at Naruto. “…thanks.” She mumbled shyly.
And so, Naruto set off to find a present with Hanabi directing him where to go.
“Hani doesn’t like blocks or plastic things,” she informed him. “She prefers that little doll she’s always carrying around, and big, soft stuffed animals. I say we go to the toy store and find some stuffed animals. Giant ones.”
“Okay,” Naruto said. “What do you want, Hanabi?”
“I’ll figure that out after you get that kid’s present.” Hanabi replied. “You can just owe me.”
Soon enough, the two entered the toy store and came upon the stuffed animal section. Gigantic stuffed animals rested on every shelf, some even bigger then Hanabi. Naruto was in awe at all the fluffy things. How many things could he get for Hani? Naruto ran around the section like a small child, touching everything and hugging everything. Hanabi stood by, ignored the stares she and Naruto were getting, and sighed. “Oh, gawd, what did I do to deserve this?” she muttered.
After what seemed like forever, Naruto scurried back to Hanabi carrying two big stuffed black birds and a giant stuffed bunny.
“What do you need two birds for? She’ll only need one.” Hanabi told Naruto. “You’re going to spend all your money if you go on like that!”
“Ehh? One’s for you!” Naruto exclaimed. “I figured you’d like birds, so I got you one, too!”
Hanabi looked away. “Thanks…I guess.” A small smile played on her face. After a few seconds of fighting it, she gave in.
“Ehh?! You smiled! That’s awesome!” Naruto said, his eyes wide, pointing at Hanabi with his free hand. “You should smile more often! It’s cute!”
Hanabi looked away. “Let’s just pay for the stuff and go.” She muttered. “People are staring.”
So the two paid for the stuffed animals and left, Hanabi cuddling her black bird.
Naruto continued grinning at the small black-haired girl. “You really like it?” he asked, excited to see another smile from the normally sullen girl.
Hanabi nodded. “Thank you…Naruto-niichan.”
Naruto blinked. “Did you just say--?”
“So what if I did?! I don’t have any big brothers.” Hanabi snapped.
“Don’t you have Neji?” Naruto asked.
“Neji isn’t a big brother! He’s too busy doting on Hani. He never has had any time for me, even before Hani came along!” Hanabi hugged her black bird. “Hinata doesn’t have any backbone, so it’s not like I can look up to her! And Father…Father is…” Hanabi sniffed behind the toy that was hiding her face.
“Hanabi, are you...crying?”
“So what if I am?!”
Naruto could feel a twinge of sadness. “Hey, Hanabi?”
“I’ll be your big brother.”