Marked By Jutsu

Part XXIII

Naruto

Sasuke's hospital visit threw me off to say the least. I was worried, frustrated, and confused. I doubt he even realized his confession to me. To make things easy though, I was just going to pretend I'd never heard it. If I thought too much on it, it might make me back out on my plan. I needed my plan to succeed though. I couldn't jump ship now. The release of the music vid set was coming up, which meant the plan was about to open into full fruition.

Today was going to be busy while Sasuke was in recupe. Practice, then some final filming, and then some photos for Ino modeling some of her new outfits for us. Ino had actually been working on submitting a fashion portfolio to get her own brand and I was more than happy to help her. I even roped Neji into it. I asked Gaara, but to my grand surprise he had a date. He'd been so embarassed when he told me that he was barely able to get it out. I was of course pleased. Gaara was going to have his first social outing without me and I was so proud. Even though Ino was going to dress him up for his date, it wouldn't be enough time to let her get some good portfolio pictures with the photographer she hired.

I was actually kind of nervous to meet this guy. The publicity photo shoots we had done were tedious, and I felt like since I kept fidgeting that I was constantly being looked down on. In other words, I had this idea that all professional photogs were either snooty, jerks, or both. I was seriously hoping this guy wasn't like that. Ino had assured me he was more of a quiet serene person, but that didn't ease my nerves.

Practice for the most part was just going to be us learning our parts without the guitar. Difficult yes, impossible no. The lacking instrument provided by Sasuke's playing made the song sound empty. I found it hard to concentrate with the music being all "holey". I would have asked Neji to play the guitar part, but I knew he'd written some pretty complex bass riffs for this that he needed to practice. It was kind of neat to be able to hear them clearly. I was impressed yet again by his skill. I wondered if the substitute guitarist was going to be as good or as creative. I wondered if he was going to "fit" with us. Despite how Sasuke fought with all of us, there was still a special dynamic. I had a hard time thinking anyone else would be able to fill that. Oh well, it was only temporary. I was sure after that, Kabs would find a place to fill them in so they kept whatever gains they would make by being with us. This was optimistically thinking, of course if the plan worked.

Before I realized, we were finished with practice. I'd been so distracted in my thoughts that time passed quickly. I moved to help Neji and Gaara put stuff away, but was shooed out. Neji had assured me that they would be fine in putting everything away since neither had anything immediately to do. I sighed and thanked him while dashing off with my duffle bag to Itachi's studio. I didn't know what the last bit of filming was going to be, but I was actually kind of excited to see. Despite being uncomfortable with the last filmings and having to "act" intimate with with Kisame. Some of the MV stills had looked pretty impressive, and I didn't even know they'd look like that. We looked pretty convincing as a couple. One of the stills from the first filming session of me "crying" on him had been shot in black and white and what I thought looked emotive, even if to some it was cliched. I was pretty impressed with the work they had put out so far, and I hadn't even seen any of the finished products yet.

Filming today was supposed to be for the last bit, then everything else was going to be edits and the like. I was a little bit apprehensive about being taken to what looked like an abandoned warehouse. They had dressed the thing up like it was some kind of science lab. The freakiest part was after all the costuming and make up was done. Itachi was dressed in a "bloodied" lab coat, and the put me in some oversized grey shirt. It was all torn up to show "doll" joints they had made on me with bands. This whole thing had an idustrial groove to it. I supposed it fit with how their bad was anyway. I felt really uncomfortable like that though. Those bands on my arms and legs were going to leave a nasty mark. In the very least, this vid was going to look different than the rest. I was excited to see what the result was going to be.


Filming had definitely taken much longer than it was supposed to. Because of the length of filming Itachi had sent Kisame to take me back to the studio. I was grateful for that. It at least kept me from being late to Ino's photoshoot. I had arrived there just as she had finished up getting Gaara ready for his date. He looked great. She'd dressed him in some black skinny jeans and a cream-colored tank top then had finished it off with a slightly too big black shirt with silver zippers all down the length of the arm. His hair was artfully toussled and she dabbed just a little bit of grey eye-shadow on him. It looked classy and punky all at the same time. I was sure his date was going to be all over him.

Ino wasted no time in getting me and Neji dressed up for the shoot. Everything was just so perfect. I was hoping that her photog was going to be just as skilled as she was. While we were waiting for him to show up I made an assessment of out clothing. Ino always dressed me in bright colors for shows, so it was no surprise that she would do the same for regular clothing. I was wearing these orange cargo shorts that had parachute buckles on the pockets with a red sleeveless shirt and a lemon yellow zip hoodie-vest over it. The vest had an orange and red spiral in the middle of the back that nearly perfectly matched the colors of my shorts and shirt. My shoes were red sneakers with yellow laces to match and then to top my outfit off, I was wearing an orange headband to hold back the spikes she'd styled into my hair. I enjoyed the outfit. And a plus was that it wasn't revealing like my concert garb.

Where I was bright, Neji was subdued. He was all blues and greens. He was wearing some nice boot cut navy jeans with a teal belt slung around his hips. His t-shirt was a soft hunter green with a sky-blue button down over it, half open and half tucked in. Teal studded wrist bands were on each arm matching his belt, then he had small blue and green bands on his thumbs like rings, and his hair was mostly free except at the end where it was loosely plaited. Lastly Ino had hand-painted some ankle lace ups with a shiny blue for the body of the shoe and a pale blue for the toe and heel. (1) Our outfits, though different really seemed to compliment each other.

When the photog arrived i think I felt my jaw hit the floor. He looked A LOT like sasuke. I assessed his appearance as he was not what I was expecting. Black skinny jeans and grey sleeveless sweater and all. He was very subdued looking and way younger than I thought. He smiled very slightly as Ino approached him and shook her hand. After some conversing between the two, she finally introduced us.

He wasted no time getting set up for pictures. Between him and Ino, they had managed to convert the studio into something worthy of a photoshoot. Objects and lighting had been moved and he'd set up a grey backdrop to shoot from. He set up first to do singles of us. constantly he was asking us to model his grey-card so that he could get all the colors balanced properly. After all that, he was quite. He would watch how Neji and I moved and would take pictures of what he liked. He only spoke out when he saw a pose he wanted us to hold. Even when he came to adjust a pose he didn't speak much. It was a little unsettling, but I supposed it was just his way. Being there in his viewfinder was more never wracking than being on stage though. It felt almost like he could see right through me.

It seemed like forever before he decided to take some pictures of the two of us together. This time he was a bit more talkative and hands on. At first the pictures were casual and kind of fun. Then they gradually became more serious. I was actually impressed by the amount of thought he put into each pose. Every turn of the hand and tilt of the head was considered. When he described how our expressions were supposed to look, it was like we instantly understood because it was so particular. I didn't know how the guy wasn't already a professional.

When we were finished, he thanked us for our time and told Ino he would have prints for her to look through and choose for her portfolio in a few days. I had to say, I was curious to see how the images came out. I heard her arranging another time to meet up but I guesss I wasn't really paying attention.

"-is that ok Naruto-san?"

"OH! Yea. When did you say again?"

"Next Thursday Naruto. After practice and your mv viewing." Ino reminded while rolling her eyes. " Unless you have a date or something?" She asked while eying Neji.

Neji chuckled at that. "Of course Naruto would love to help you. In fact I would too whenever you need me. Despite what you have come to think, I occasionally like the pampering."

Ino smiled gleefully and nodded to the photog happily. "Thank you Naruto and of course you too Neji. I do enjoy making you up." Ino led the guy out while arranging to meet up and pick other locations.

I sighed and started packing up Ino's junk while Neji started moving things back into place for practice. I didn't realize that I was so tired until they had left the studio. It shouldn't have been a surprise though. My day had been full. The last thing on my list was to go back to the hospital and visit Sasuke. Unfortunately I looked at my phone and realized visiting hours would be over in twenty minutes.

"Go ahead." I hadn't realized Ino had returned. "I'll help Neji finish up. If you run you might make it."


When I awoke the next morning, I was surprised to find Gaara had not yet returned. It was disconcerting and exciting at the same time. Instantly my mind thought up sordid little things that the blushing drummer might have done. I couldn't wait to ask how his date had gone. Part of me wanted to wait up until he got back and instantly hound him for questions, but the other part wanted to cram some cereal down and then go back to sleep for another hour. Eventually I decided that breakfast sounded good so I grabbed my "kyuu" plush and made way to the kitchenette.

I was just settling in for a second bowl when the door opened. I peeked out expecting to see Gaara, but was surprised to see Kabuto helping Sasuke in. I almost dropped my dish as I watched him slide into a seated position on the couch. Kabuto released his arm and then dropped a package of pill bottles in his lap.

"YOu better take them brat. If you don't I'll have Neji paralyze you and force them down your throat."

That being said, Kabuto left grumbling about how he had more important things to worry about. After a moment I ventured into the small den and decided to test the waters with Sasuke.

"YOu got out early? They told me last night it'd be another few days."

"Last night?"

"Yeah. I've been worried about you, so I'd go over everyday after practice." I sighed and set my breakfast down. "I almost missed the visiting hours last night.

Sasuke snorted then replied. "I got out on good behavior."

I felt myself laughing as he looked distastefully at the medicine in his lap. " What is all that voodoo for?"

"Pain killer, sleep aide, um..." He rifled through the bag tossing the bottles on the table. "Another pain killer, nausea and dizziness, and steroid for swelling on my shoulder." He scoffed. "pointless crap except for maybe the second pain killer."

"Well I hope you get it all together soon. The music sounds weird without you."

He looked at me oddly for a minute. "I'm still pissed at you."

"Darn. I'd hoped you'd forget with all this nonsense." I sighed and crunched on my cereal. "I still think you should reconsider leaving the band."

I knew I touched a chord as soon as I spoke. "Why? You seem to have gotten really buddy buddy with him! I'm going to expose him for the murdering fraud that he is!" He huffed angrily at me. "You're so damn naive. He's just going to use you and toss you aside."

I sighed and grabbed Kyuu to go finish my breakfast in my room. "Yea, and you wouldn't know a thing about that." I muttered.


The day hadn't gotten any less tense. Sasuke was still pissed at me and was being very obvious at practice. And speaking of practice, it was going slower today since with Sasuke's insistance on being there, he was over working his shoulder and would frequently have to sit and take breaks. Despite all that, we actually got some new stuff written out. It was later when our practice was nearly done that Ino came in to tell us that, as part of our publicity, Sakura had booked some club for us to just make an appearance at. I felt the temperature drop in the room as Sasuke's mood went from bad to worse.

"It's just an appearance. We don't have to stay okay?" I tried.

Sasuke grunted in disapproval, but from what I could tell, was going to go along with it for now. Ino continued on with the details of the event. I zoned out while she did. From what I could gather, it was a local battle of the bands kind of thing. We were just going to make an appearance to show that we supported up and coming musicians. It was I guess to appeal to the softer side of fan base. I figured it made sense. It's where we came from.

I snapped out as I heard Neji speak. "So are we supposed to be making an appearance to talk to the young performers or are we just watching?"

"You know, I think it was just to watch, but I think it'd be a great idea if you guys did go back stage and chat with them." Ino eyed Sasuke warily. "Well, only if he behaves."

"I think just staying quiet will be good enough for him. I'm all for it though! I mean think about how we were in their position not too long ago."

"Great! Though you all know that means I'm dressing you up." She grinned at us.

Ino kept our clothing pretty casual this time. After all, we weren't there to steal the show from a bunch of young performers on their night. I had grown to love having Ino as a kind of fashion consultant. Even the most casual stuff she got us in looked super posh when she was done. Even my favorite orange cargo shorts and black spiral shirt. Ino seemed to keep a drawer full of accessories for me to wear. At some point she'd made me some black wrist bands with a red spiral to match my shirt. She was also the only person that I was aware of that could tame my hair into anything other than spikes. Somehow with the use of those odd female contraptions, she's straightened it and gotten it to lay flat against my head. Never ceased to amaze me.

I also loved looking at how the others looked when she got them all spiffed up. Neji always looked so professional, even in casual stuff. Grey jeans that hugged his legs and a caramel brown button down would have looked dull on anyone else, but it just worked for him. Gaara normally would have been in some variety of red, black, or white; recently though Ino had been trying new colors on him. Simple white jeans with a hunter green shirt really brought out his eyes. She even had manage to tame his mop of hair with a thin white headband. Made me realize how much his hair had grown out. Sasuke had refused to wear anything bright long ago, so she had frequently been making his outfits on a blue base. A navy sleeveless hoodie did the trick. fitting nicely with his torn up jeans. It looked strategically trashy and oh so perfect. Ino had wanted to go as well. I thought it was just a ploy to dress up, but for a girl, she did clean up nicely. Purple looked great on her. Crop top that matched leggings with a tattered denim skirt. It was a classice "Ino going to the club look", but it fit her well.

When we got there, Ino immediately went up to the sponsor to let them know we were there to have a word with the performing bands and get them pepped up. Obviously she was very convincing since they let us pull around to the load in area to avoid being seen. Instantly I felt at home walking into the ampitheatre's dressing room area. It brought back all kinds of memories of us first getting started. As we walked in, the performers all recognized us. Some got nervous while others ran up to us for autographs. I smiled and of course was willing to sign a few.

"Naruto-niichan!"

I was surprised to be bowled over by the same kid I'd taken a picture with on his cell phone. He blabbed on about how he was excited to see me again, and how no one believed that I had taken a picture with him. I smiled and gently pushed him off me and got up. I could tell some people were waiting for a reaction.

"Good to see you again kid. How's the geezer doing?"

He beamed proudly at me. "The old man is doing great. Healthy as ever. Been hitting on all the female patrons." I laughed at that. I couldn't remember his name for the life of me. "I've been wearing your Kyuu nametag. Mine broke and the old dope won't make me another one."

"Ok. We'll catch up after you play. I actually came up to give you all some support."

I could feel Neji smiling at me as I got in the middle of everyone and started in on things that I thought were important. I was really positive the entire time. I could see some of the apprehension draining out. I could tell this was the first time for some of the bands there. My spiel was interrupted as a bunch of girls came piling through to stage door and went right over to Sasuke. I laughed as his eyebrow twitched.

"Aren't you jealous?" I heard one of the guys ask.

I shrugged realizing that most fans were still thinking Sasuke and I were together. After a moment of torture I made my way to Sasuke and grabbed his hood. "Always gotta steal my thunder." I murmured while smiling slyly at him.

It instantly dawned on Sasuke what I was doing and he faked a blush while turning to me. "Is that how it is? I thought you were trying to make me jealous with all the fanboys." He whispered while looking up at me through lowered lashes. "Just paying back the favor."

He was a good actor. If I hadn't know better I would've been in an embarassing situation right then. He took my hand and started to follow me back over to the performers much to the chargrin of the crowd of admirers. The moaned and complained as finally event security ushered them out. As we turned around I noticed Gaara standing with one of the younger competitors. The kid looked absolutely terrified. I watched as Gaara knelt down and reach into one of his pockets and pulled a pair of sticks out to hand to the kid. He looked up shocked at first. He had to be the youngest drummer there by at least two or three years. No one except his own band members were talking to him. Poor kid had felt completely out of place. I could feel a smile coming on as he accepted the gift and reached up and hugged Gaara. I saw my drummer stiffen, but awkwardly return the hug before shuffling away.

Neji at some point had amassed a small gathering of fans as well. Most were asking him tips on composing bass rifts, while others were asking how he kept his hair so nice even after performances. He calmly gave out a few pointers and had very cleverly brought a few of his extra picks to give out. Man he thought of everything. Ino was off to the side taking video of us as we made the tension in the air nearly dissipate for all the bands competing. Eventually they started ushering the bands to get ready, which meant our appearance was officially over. I decided to stay and watch though. Actually everyone decided to stay for at least a little bit. I was pleased.

The show had been surprisingly good. Most of the bands while inexperienced played their hearts out. It had been really enjoyable even if I was only watching from backstage. They all seemed to have pleased the audience. It was great to see all their peers had come out to support them. When the bands were mostly done packing up, I saw the boy I'd promised to catch up with packing away his amps.

"Hey kid!" I called out while walking to him.

He turned and smiled at me, but before he could even get up to talk to me someone came up making a scene. "KONOHAMARU! What the hell are you doing here?" I saw him flinch as the man approached him. "I told you that you were not allowed to come here!"

"Dad! I wasn't going to let my band down!"

"No! You disobeyed me! This junk is a bad influence on you. You can't go anywhere with this! You will never succeed."

"Dad-"

"No buts. I won't allow this. Those friends of yours are nothing but trouble. Giving you false hopes that you're any good at this."

At that point I'd had enough. "HEY! Where do you go off telling your son he isn't good?" I was seeing red.

"Naruto-nii-"

"You! You're that queer brat he idolizes." He stalked toward me ignoring his son. "I'll not have you making a son of mine gay. Get out of here you faggot."

"Stop! Dad!" A loud smack sounded.

I didn't realize I'd punched the guy until I heard the crack of his jaw. I was absolutely furious. He was yelling at me from his felled position on the ground, but I could care less about the insults he spewed at me. To insult and then smack his own son made me see red.

"DON'T you EVER hit him like that again!"

Next thing I knew, there were armed guards taking me in. Kabs was going to toast my ass for this one. I didn't care though. I merely huffed as the guys took me off away from the screaming man.

" a jerk."


"So, assault and battery?" Kabs said as he walked me out of the jail.

"The guy was an ass. He slapped his own son for no reason. The guy can insult me all day and I couldn't give a damn, but to not only pretty much tell his son he sucked and to smack him one? Yea that didn't sit well with me."

"I'm sure it didn't. Unfortunately, you're in the spotlight now, so you can go around being reckless like that."

"I'm sorry." I sighed and looked out the window of his sleek black car. "I just don't know why it made me so mad."

I'm sure Kabuto was smiling as he said the next thing. "Well, what's done is done. You're going to be a headline tomorrow, but for now we won't worry about it." He chuckled a bit. "Besides, it's good publicity. And also the kid told the authorities that his dad goaded you into it."

"I'm in trouble aren't I?"

"Yes but, lucky for you I have a few connections with the papers and got them to reword some of the stuff."

"You have connections everywhere. It frightens me a little."

Kabs chuckled good naturedly. "Well, for now we'll just have to see what they say. That will determine how much trouble you get into. Try not to worry about it."

I was not looking forward to tomorrow...


A/N: Thanks for reading. I appreciate all the favs, reviews, and alerts. You guys are the best. I actually have part of the next chapter already written, so maybe I'll get it done before a year ne? Sorry if I offended anyone with the last section. I did not intend to. Also, the next chapter should be chock-full of juicy stuff. Stay-tuned!

1- Neji's boots are based off a pair of old army combat boots I own. I painted them the exact way I described. They're actually some of my most favorite shoes.