Whoosh. My second fict. ::proud beam::
If you can call the just one short chapter the first fict, anyways.
This fict was directly before and after my Mock exams as procrastination exams and as a cure for writer's block. (It worked, in case you're wondering, though I managed to get writer's block on this cure-for-writer's-block fict. Go me.) It was also done as sort of a test drive to see what I would be doing wrong for my planned ficts. This took me agonizingly long to write, so I've decided to simplify my style for the upcoming fict. I have high hopes for that one. ::grins::
IMPT Warning: As this fict was done very jerkily over a period of many randomly scattered days, so be prepared for sudden mood changes. I'm not all that happy with the fict but I'm pretty sick of it (meant only to break my writer's block remember? And look how freaking looong it got) so I'm not bothering to really polish up on it unless someone tells me too plus point out the certain spots that need attention. But, I really hope you enjoy it.
And yes, I'm painfully aware this whole body-switching thing is pretty much overkilled. But hey, I gave it my best shot. Well, for most parts of the fict, anyway.
More info on other stuff below. Enjoy.
They were waiting for her answer.
Drenched in the afternoon sunlight, Tsunade's office was lit in a cheery yellow colour as the sounds of the Konoha's noisy life permeated the room through the open windows.
It was almost ridiculous the way they were so tense.
Kakashi-sensei's back straightened from leaning against the wall and she could tell by the way his lone eye crinkled that he was smiling. Tsunade grinned in relief and proceeded to list the various instructions she needed to follow for the procedure to work. She listened attentively and made mental notes of the many, many rules. This was important to her, too.
Finally, after the whole schedule had been rehearsed at least five times, and the risks stressed repeatedly, she was free to go.
"Come back here at seven thirty tomorrow", Tsunade advised her, "and don't worry about Naruto. Kakashi will tell him there'll be no training tomorrow."
She nodded and turned to reach for the door.
She startled and turned in surprise. It was the first time he had spoken since she was called into the office, even though he was the reason for the whole process. Onyx eyes, usually unreadable, reluctantly seemed to show a hint of... gratefulness? as they held hers.
Haruno Sakura yawned and sleepily banged the the unfortunate alarm clock off.
Then, on second thought, she lifted the battered machinery and gazed blearily at the glowing numbers.
Ah... six thirty a.m.
What an ungodly hour to wake up at.
Groaning, she pushed herself off her warm, inviting bed and dragged herself to the cold, evil bathroom. With impressive fortitude, she forced her feet on the cold tiles and begin to freshen herself up for the day.
And what a day today would be.
She would be the first Mediator in over a century. She smiled weakly at her reflection. Somehow, she didn't feel as honoured as she should be.
"Have you ever heard of... the legendary Lost Containment Seal?"
Kakashi-sensei had asked her that but Tsunade was the one who elaborated. She could remember Tsunade's grave explanation of its use, and most of all, its risks. Till three days ago, the best information you could get of the Seal were brief descriptions of it in reference scrolls. Then, the Anbu squad sent to search for the rumored scoll had finally returned triumphant and weary from their three-year hunt.
It had taken a long time, and four of the village's precious hoard of Anbu, but it had been worth it. Believed to be created by one of the ancient sennins, the Seal had the power to restrain potent curse seals and other seals affecting the victim till it, or at least the power of it, was under the owner's control. Unfortunately, during the day-long procedure, the Seal would also evoke all the victim's memories. All of them.
The Seal would be immensely valuable to many ninjas in the village- Naruto and Neji would be obvious contestants, she thought wryly- but Kakashi had suggested Sasuke be the first. After all, it was only recently he had received that Cursed Seal from that terrifying... snake-creature and her sensei was uncertain of how long or how much his own seal could restrain it.
Which was where she came in.
Besides requiring a whole day of careful planning and one very powerful ninja to perform it, the sufferer also had to remain in a very stable mental state. Constantly.
This is of course, was possible for one with great will power and better yet, who was very young. Experience, while a good thing as a ninja, was literally the killer here. Painful or poignant memories that caused strains on the sufferer's mental state would immediately jeopardize the already perilous procedure. And Sasuke-kun, who lived everyday to kill the man that made his childhood a living hell, was hardly the best patient for the seal to be administered on.
Which then called for a Mediator.
Sighing, she opened her wardrobe and carefully scanned its contents.
She needed to wear black. Apparently, it was one of the multiple suggestions the scroll provided to make the process as smooth as possible. Something about the "transmit of conditional responsiveness etc etc etc...", she recalled. In fact, Tsunade had expressed some concern over her distinctive strawberry hair and had even suggested- to her growing horror- that she dyed it black for the day.
Only temporary, of course, she had assured her.
She had been about to protest weakly when to her- and Tsunade's- surprise, Sasuke, who had been silent the whole time, had shaken his head at Tsunade.
Even now, her cheeks reddened when she remembered Kakashi's sly knowing smile.
He had been the one to explain to her, his lethargic manner serious for once, how she was needed in the process. Tactfully, for they all knew the Uchiha survivor was listening, even if he seemed not to, he had explained the chances of Sasuke's mental stability staying calm and why hers probably would.
You had a happier childhood, he had said softly, while his... was different.
They needed a Mediator, as the scroll once again suggested, who would serve as the stable mental support the Seal needed. Quite simply, she would... switch minds with Sasuke. The eternal student in her appreciated the practical logic in it. While Sasuke's body would undergo the Seal's power, she would be the mind that was in it- providing the essential mindset it needed. And since she fulfilled the requirement of being the same age and was familiar with him, she was the best pick. She wouldn't be hurt- so long as she stayed calm- but she would have to recall every one of her memories: painful, joyful, cherished, trivial. Every one.
Just think of it as a ten-hour body switching period, her sensei had grinned, you would even get a lunch break. But beneath his lighthearted manner she could sense his anxiety at her reaction, her answer. She hadn't even hesitated.
As long as it would help him, she would do it. As long as he might remember her more for it, she would do it. Even if she had to surrender her body for another for a day.
Later, Kakashi had caught her when she exited the building.
Aa... Sakura, don't worry about it too much, he had said. As long as you stay calm, no one would get hurt... Sasuke would get most of the fatigue and temporary chakra loss anyway- you'll just be the transition branch...
Determined green eyes flashed up as she smiled and nodded. Then, after a brief hesitation, she asked the question that had been lingering in her mind.
He had been slightly amused, and showed it too, in his lazy way.
Well... you were chosen for all the reasons we told you, of course...
And also... because he asked for you.
This time he had been more amused at her expression.
Well... he said it was either you or Naruto... But, he added, seeing her crestfallen face, maybe it might have been more than that...
It might have been more that that...
Such trivial words, yet it had lightened up her mood and her day.
She had emerged from her musing reverie to see Kakashi almost at the end of the lane.
Sasuke's going to be in your body for a while...
A quick grin.
Don't wear too short a skirt.
Sakura grinned, shook her head firmly and scrutinized her cupboard even more closely. If she chose a skirt, much less a mini-skirt, Sasuke would probably hate her for life. Though the reaction might be priceless...
Triumphantly, she pulled out a black shorts and shirt, both suitably loose. Then, after slipping them on along with her kunei pouch, she quickly made her way down and out of her house.
That was one of the rules: no food during the first four hours. She breathed in the crisp morning air as she hurried along the path. The sky was still overcast in a depressing grey-blue and the light morning mist frosted the grass with glistening dewdrops. She was still early, but she'd rather be there early than late.
She had just turned the corner to where Tsunade's building was located when she saw she wasn't the only one who was early. Dressed in black with a red band tied around his forehead-once again, as the scroll instructed-, he had almost stepped through the entrance when he seemed to sense someone watching.
Fiery heat spread through her cheeks when his dark eyes found her and surprisingly, waited for her to arrive.
Nodding absently, he appraised her clothes briefly before they both entered the building and started the climb up the stairs.
Sakura timidly watched him through her curtain of pink hair she let fall aside her face. Today, the Containment Seal would prove its worth for the first time in a century yet he still looked as unaffected as ever. She wondered if he ever felt the nervousness she was feeling now.
Apparently, without taking his eyes off the ground, he had managed to catch her staring at him.
"Aa... I was just wondering..."
She faltered and was encouraged when he glanced at her. Well, at least he was still listening.
"Wh-why did you pick me?"
He barely hesitated before he gave a brief shrug.
"It was either you or that idiot... And he didn't have a happy childhood either... "
The unspoken words hung in the air. For once, Sakura wondered whether she could be more fortunate than her two male comrades after all. She had always envied their easy strength and stamina... But her sinking heart stemmed more from the fact that he had chosen her only for practical reasons. She bit her lip. So Kakashi-sensei had really only been kind to her. After all, her sentiments concerning Sasuke were hardly private...
-Damn me and my idealistic imagination...-
Dark eyes swept over her while her inner misery unconsciously personified itself on her expression. A reluctantly guilty look, an inaudible exasperated sigh and then:
"And because... I trust you."
Sakura's beam lit up the gloomy stairway and persuaded an uncomfortable Sasuke that maybe, the admission might have been worth it.
Her head was throbbing. Painfully. Through the haze, Sakura could groggily make out Tsunade's worried face peering above her.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Her entire head really, really hurt. It felt like it was being used as a drum. Make that a badly abused drum. In fact, the throbbing beats could almost block out the distant roaring in her ears. It didn't help that her body was aching all over in a strange, heavy way.
Dimly, the last six hours flooded back to her in bits and pieces. They had entered the room, which had been suitably morbid in its gloom and walls of plastered scrolls. Then... Tsunade had ordered them to sit in a strange... circle? –her head ached even more with her unwelcome attempts to dig out more images- while Kakashi had finished the preparations. All she could remember after that was Tsunade ordering her to stay calm before oblivion had consumed her. For a fleeting moment, images- bright and colourful and wistful- skirted tantalizingly across her mind before reality made itself rudely known again.
"Good, you're finally awake. How do you feel?"
Tsunade broke her daze and gave her a tired grin. With a guilty start, Sakura realized the Sennin must be completely fatigued from working the Seal for slightly more than five hours. Forcing away her bemusement, she lifted herself up on her elbows from the floor she had been sprawled on and returned a weak smile.
"Hai... I'm feel-"
She stopped abruptly.
–WHAT THE HELL...??!!-
Something was wrong with her voice. Low, deep, and hauntingly familiar, it sounded like... Sasuke. To her mounting horror, the body she was in wasn't the one she grew up in either.
A movement across the foggy room happily distracted her from these her terrifying discoveries... and rising hysteria. Pulled up from the floor by a weary Kakashi was... herself. Or at least, what used to be herself. Unique pink hair hid its owner's face from view, but not for long. Her-His head soon snapped up, caught sight of her-himself across the room and she was soon staring into equally aghast- and disturbingly familiar- large green eyes.
Absently, a small voice in her head wondered whether that was how she looked when she was appalled.
Oh damn indeed. In her daze, she had forgotten one very important aspect of the whole process.
...Just think of it as a ten-hour body-switching period...
She was suddenly really, really glad she didn't choose wear a skirt, for Sasuke's sake. Heck, she was having difficulty adjusting to this body as it is. A grinning Tsunade pulled her up –HOW DARE SHE LAUGH AT THIS!- and the abrupt change in height nearly tripped her. –Oh... lord- She never knew how... muscular Sasuke was. It was a disorientating feeling- to mentally feel nothing different yet feel so out of place physically.
Automatically, her-his?-her feet clumsily made its first few steps to where Sasuke and the jounin was standing. As her footsteps slowly grew more confident, her eyes were focused on, well, herself. And she could see Sasuke studying his approaching self too. She halted in front of him and for one unnerving moment, they were staring at what used to be their bodies.
Kakashi broke into their incredulous trance.
"Yo, Sakura? You and Sasuke can have a one and a half hour break now, but remember to be back here at two thirty sharp."
This, from a man who considered coming in two hours late instead of three a huge achievement? Sakura nodded, not trusting herself to stay calm enough if she heard Sasuke's voice from her again. Apparently Sasuke was taking it better than she for he... she looked calm enough already- green eyes devoid of emotion and hands already shoved in the pant's pockets. Black did become her, the little voice observed again.
"Oh yeah. Before I forget, Naruto is going to be waiting for you both in that Ichiraku ramen stall. He already knows you're in each others bodies."
Glaring at the her masked sensei's lazily grinning face, she realized just how very evil he could be.
"What? You told him? What if he tells others?"
Apparently, Sasuke wasn't taking this very well either, judging from the glower the jounin was receiving. Nor did he appreciate the voice change very much too, from his following look. It was unnerving to watch herself move and talk as a spectator; it was almost as if she had lost control of herself. Which, she glumly realized, she had. Literally.
Tsunade interrupted Kakashi's too-ready flow of lame excuses. "Never mind, we don't have time for that. You two just go down there and meet him. Kakashi and I need to rest before we continue. And," the Hokage suddenly grinned, "try not to drink to much water, ya? Don't want you two going to the toilet too often..."
-SADISTS! I'M SURROUNDED BY EVIL SADISTS!!!-
Inner Sakura's scream went unheard as she blushed furiously. Or to be more specific, "Sasuke" blushed furiously...
Sakura blinked. Then, as the white spots cleared from her eyes, she followed the whirring sound to find Kakashi happily pocketing the camera.
Kakashi beamed cheerfully.
"Yes, Sasuk- Sakura?"
"What was that for?"
Kakashi was still smiling that disturbing jovial way.
"Ah... I knew with you in Sasuke's body, you would make him do things he never would. Such as smiling, talking, blushing, laughing, showing emotions etc etc. It might be a once in a lifetime thing. Don't worry Sasuke," Kakashi turned to give a fatherly pat on a glowering "Sakura's" head, "you'll thank me one day."
Sakura highly doubted it from the way the scowls were growing increasingly vengeful. In fact, she thought she recognized the expression. It was what she usually wore before she lost it and whacked her unfortunate yellow-haired teammate. Speaking of which, Naruto was still waiting...
Hastily, she grabbed the unresisting sleeve of herse-Sasuke and dragged him to the door.
"Ah...haha... Kakashi-sensei, Tsunade-sama, maybe its time for you both to rest..."
Her newfound strength making it easy to tow a reluctant Sasuke to the door,- added by her rather light weight, she was pleased to note- she threw an apologetic smile backwards as she was pulled the door close. Or rather, "Sasuke" threw an apologetic smile...
Really, death would be too kind for that man.
By the time they had emerged from into the bright afternoon sunlight, Sasuke had already managed to compose himself and his killer instincts. So there they were, walking down the street as if it were a normal day: an emotionless pink-haired Sakura fully clad in black and seemingly oblivious to her long-time heartthrob beside her, and a panicky Sasuke, blue-black eyes nervously glancing askance at his shorter companion every now and then. And instead of Sakura trailing a little behind and to the side of Sasuke, it was the other way round.
Konoha was in for at least five weeks of solid gossiping.
Sakura nearly stumbled in her agitation. She was, to say the least, a little edgy.Walking down the street to Ichiraku, their passage had already left various interested looks and whispered conversations in their wake. Not to mention the many knowing winks and furtive thumbs-up from unknown gossipmongers on the way.
-Great. If he finds out, he's going to kill me. On the other hand, he's probably seen them and doesn't really care either...-
She giddily wondered which was worse. –Maybe everyone will jus- -
His-Her voice, excluding the characteristic buoyancy, snapped her back into reality.
"Calm down. You're too nervous."
Irritable green eyes flashed up in her direction. For a split second, Sakura's mind struggled between the belief that she should be looking up at Sasuke and the reality that she was in Sasuke. Then, she watched herself blink, shake her head briefly and add:
"Try to act like me."
Inner Sakura flared immediately and Sakura, already stressed to the breaking point, tried to hold back her temper. Really, she did.
The street erupted with the never-before-heard-of sound of Sasuke's roar.
"YOU ACT LIKE ME! How the hell are people supposed to believe you're me when you're acting like you?!"
"Sasuke" whirled around glared down at a surprised "Sakura".
"And of course I'm nervous! Look at me! Listen to my voice! Recognize it?! ITS YOURS! SO DON'T YOU DARE TELL ME TO CALM DOWN RIGHT NOW!"
"Sasuke" stuck his hands on his hips and continued to rage on his tirade to a bemused "Sakura'.
"Why don't YOU show some emotion! SMILE at people! And because you're Sakura and I'm Sasuke now, YOU TALK TO ME!"
There was a glorious moment of silence as everyone in hearing range sorted out their bearings.
Then, because all things good must come to an end, Sakura's temporary insanity died down and she suddenly realized how loud she was.
And how many people on the street was staring.
And how many people had heard her, or actually, how many people had heard Sasuke yell at Sakura, judging from the number of curious residents in nearby houses peering out.
Then, to the baffled- and greatly fascinated- stares of the spectators, they watched a normally bashful Sakura determinedly drag a suddenly meek Sasuke down the street and round the corner. It said a lot for their self restraint that the whole street only burst into raucous gossip when they had disappeared from sight.
Strange things the usually unemotional Uchiha genius had said to his female teammate, indeed.
In fact, if you ignored the bizarre things he had yelled in the beginning, which must of course be from those darn teenage hormones- understanding nods all round-, and added in that he had... ah, been emotional because of her, you might almost say he... could it be? The gossipmongers strained their willing imaginations and came to one conclusion.
He liked her.
And the whole street burst into animated babble once more.
Five weeks? Better make it ten.
Naruto banged his head on the counter.
Ramen. Ramen. Ramen.
Everywhere was ramen. Dolefully, he looked at Chouji slurping up his enormous bowl of ramen. On his other side was ole Fuzzy Eyebrows heroically gulping down his huge bowl of ramen, that mad glint in his eyes again. And further down the counter was Kiba, Hinata, the weird bug guy Shino, Tenten and even Neija for pete's sake- all of them with one nice, yummy, big hot bowl of ramen in front of them.
He nearly drooled. Oh wait, he was drooling.
Life was just unfair.
First he came early, spent all his money on a tiny winy bowl of ramen- he stared pitifully at the four empty bowls heaped in front of him- and then all of them came and bought their own ramen to eat in front of him. Maybe he shouldn't have told so many of them about the whole- he scrunched up his nose- body switching thing. A small, long-suffering voice in the back of his head patiently told him Sakura would definitely convince him of that but was, as usual, drowned out by the more important consciousness of Naruto's mind.
Ramen. Ramen. Ramen.
Actually, he had just wailed about it to Hinata, whom he had met after Kakashi had broke the news to him. Something about how unfair it was Sasuke-bastard could spend time with his Sakura. She had been quite patient, he remembered vaguely, or at least, she didn't tell him to shut up like others usually did. But then annoying dog-boy Kiba had walked by, heard his not-too-quiet complaints and then managed to tell the almost everyone about it in half a day.
And so they all came. Kiba gleefully dragged his teammate Hinata and even Shino along for the show. Chouji came for the food and entertainment, dragging lazy guy Shikamaru along. Fuzzy eyebrows had came along to "protect my poor Sakura-chan!"-Ha. Not when I'm here to do that, he thought grimly- and to his ever-lasting amazement, even Neija had joined the ride.
Something about using his Byakugan for research, he dimly recalled. He had a feeling Sakura wouldn't be too pleased when she found out about almost the whole gang being here
No, that unheard resigned voice muttered, she's going to kill you.
Happily for him, the whiskered Hokage-wannabe continued in his blissful oblivion of his impending doom by being distracted by the stuff of dreams being offered to him.
Standing there with a barely-touched bowl of steaming ramen in her hands.
Naruto could feel his tongue drowning in saliva.
"Na-naruto-kun... I couldn't fi-finish my bowl so I th-thought..."
The Hyuuga heir blushed deeply and lilac eyes shyly tried to meet her object of affection's eyes. Too bad all her courageous attempts to catch his attention were outshined by the bowl of noodles in her hands.
"Ma-maybe you want it?"
Hinata's cheeks tinted fiery red again as disbelieving large blue eyes slowly rose to meet hers. Maybe she had been wrong about his love of ramen after all, or worse, maybe he was offended? She berated herself silently for her mistake and hastily tried to correct it.
"If y-you don't want it, I understand. I di-didn't mean to-"
"ARIGATO HINATA! I OWE YOU BIG TIME FOR THIS!"
The ramen was eagerly- and carefully- snatched from the his saviour's hands and tenderly cradled before it was put on the counter. Naruto beamed at the blushing girl while snapping his chopsticks.
"Arigato Hinata! If you want anything next time, just ask me! I won't forget this when I'm Hokage! Arig--"
His next words were muffled by the waterfall of ramen flowing in his mouth. Ah... warm bliss, bliss, bliss.
Life was worth living after all.
Sasuke was not very happy right now.
And for a guy whose typical 'happy' days consisted of being able to plot his brother's death without distraction, that's saying something.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see himself tailing him miserably. Good grief, didn't the girl know how to control her-his facial muscles? He gritted his teeth and shoved his hands further in his pockets. Did she have to make him look so... so expressive? He glumly watched his face being pulled in a yet another pathetically doleful expression.
Guilt did not suit him.
Damn it, this body did not suit him.
Trudging closer and closer toIchiraku – and to Naruto's laughter, he darkly reminded himself- the pink hair that blew into his eyes sporadically kept making him start. It reminded him of his current... situation. How on earth did she train with all this hair in her eyes? As if on cue, another wisp of hair blew into his eyes. His large green eyes.
He shuddered inwardly.
This was very, very wrong.
Remember who's the one that needs this, Sasuke. And who doesn't.
Sasuke scowled and blocked out Kakashi's drawling voice in his head.
He had been unreasoningly apprehensive of what her answer might be when they asked her, much as he hated to admit. Foolish, really, when everyone who wasn't deaf in Konoha knew of her devotion to him.
Mindless devotion, he added silently. If the girl was really as smart as she was supposed to be, she wouldn't be wasting her time on him.
Still, perhaps he shouldn't have treated her so harshly for her... unexpectedly outburst.
She did, after all, agree to helping him in a high-risk untried Seal-formation usually restricted only to jounin and above. He was grateful to her for that, at least. From how he treated her, she didn't owe him anything. No one in the village owed him anything, and he had been satisfied with the way it was. It was only she who seemed to feel obliged, for reasons not understandable to him, to keep doing him undeserved favours, keep trying to keep him happy, if she even knew what happiness was to him.
He didn't like it.
He was in debt to her too much already, much as he denied it, and he didn't need unpaid for debts, even ifunacknowledged, to hinder his ambitions.
Maybe at Ichiraku, he could make up for it by... treating her to a meal or something, he thought resignedly, painfully aware of the inadequateness of the repayment. Hopefully she wouldn't pass out with ecstasy from that rare treat –and in my body too, damn it- first.
Squinting his-her eyes in the bright midday sunlight, he could make out the shape of the popular ramen stall just further down the street.
In fact, he could actually see Naruto in there chomping away with...
Besides him, footsteps echoed to a halt and in his low voice echoed his thoughts.
If Sakura's eyesight didn't fail him, he could see the dim shapes of a Chouji and Lee flanking the baka. Then, due to lack of space, the shop owner had put out tables and chairs for the Hyugga heir, the dog boy, Shino, a unfamiliar black-haired girl - he gritted his-her teeth at the crowd- and even Neiji. And apparently even Shikamaru had managed to drag himself there, though only making it far enough to slump outside the store's walls.
-That baka told everyone. I could- no, I will kill him. –
He swung round abruptly, grabbed his still-staring dismayed self unceremoniously by the arm and proceeded to drag "him" back where they came from. After all, she was in it too.
"What- where are we going?"
He paused in his strides, turned around to face his bewildered image and nodded towards the shop.
"Away from here."
His disturbingly worried face confronted his green-eyed glares.
"But... They're all waiting for us!"
He tried to tear his eyes away from his dark pleading ones- oh god, why him-, failed miserably before he managed to force out an answer.
Then, to his consternation, he watched his face gaze worriedly behind him at the damn shop, waver uncertainly, struggle between two mysterious decisions, then eventually set in a fatalistically determined expression.
That five seconds alone was more expressions then he showed in a week.
But the worst was yet to come.
Inwardly, Sasuke unleashed his non-existent sharingan. Outwardly, green eyes flashed dangerously and an appalled scowl formed on Sakura's face.
Dammit, he should have kept the Cursed Seal.
Though his haze of disbelieving horror, he could hear his voice firmly stating that they go down to the overfilled shop to not let down Naruto, their teammate. -Why not? He retorted silently- It pleaded with him and offered up ridiculous reasons such as not disappointing their friends, though it may be... embarrassing.
His mind reeled from her unbelievable loyalty. –And what friends?-
Finally, he found his-Sakura's tongue and managed to answer his hopefully awaiting face.
Sakura looked crushed.
Sasuke couldn't take it anymore.
"Stop it. We aren't going there. We act too much like ourselves in these bodies. And we just have to avoid them for about one hour. We don't owe them or the baka anything."
He shouldn't need to justify his actions to her. But she, well he, still looked doubtful. He swung round and was about to walk off when she offered her last weak protest.
"Please, Sasuke-kun... as a favour? ..."
A favour? He hesitated. A favour to clear all debts? And it wasn't as if she was going to enjoy it either...
He had hesitated for too long. Sakura beamed gratefully and started to pull him down the street before he changed his mind. Resignedly, he could see their arrival wasn't going unnoticed. Shikamaru was already stirring from his spot and going in to inform the others
–Damnit. We can't escape now.-
Well, if this was inevitable, he could always try last resort damage control.
He glanced at the reluctant but determined "Sasuke" dragging him towards their mutual doom and sighed.
"At least try not to smile too much, Sakura."
Shikamaru groaned as he dragged his lazy arse off the ground and entered the noisy shop.
Lethargic he may be, but he was at least going to get a good viewing chair to watch the whole scene. And snooze in should Naruto and Kiba prove wrong about their claims.
He spotted a good seat- one good enough for viewing and far enough not to attract unwanted attention- and slumped next to Neiji. The pale-eyed genius quickly assessed him and focused his attention on the doorway, where two dim shapes in the bright light were slowly making their way to the ramen shop.
Everyone else seemed too distracted by Kiba and Naruto's loud antics and Chouiji preoccupied with his food to notice. Of course, he could always tell them but that was way too troublesome.
He yawned. This had better be good.
"NANI? NANI? WHAT'S THE BIG SECRET?!? KIBA YOU BET-"
Naruto's voice died down abruptly. Apparently, he had noticed everyone's sudden transfer of attention to the doorway.
Sasuke and Sakura had finally arrived.
There comes a time when a single, still moment arrives when all activity fades away as everyone is held captive by one unanimous thing.
This was it.
Shikamaru almost laughed.
So Naruto was right, for once. Even just standing there it was obvious both of them must have switched minds, or at least, switched personalities.
Strawberry-haired feminine Sakura was dressed all in black today, with hands shoved familiarly into her pockets and an annoyed scowl to match. Instead of her usual merry greetings and smile, this Sakura looked as if she was ready to kill. Sasuke, on the other hand, was looking embarrassed and fidgeting slightly- oh heavens forbid, the human ice-cube looking embarrassed-, one hand going up self-consciously to touch his hair and the other pulling at his own set of black clothing. And was it mentioned that the Sasuke Uchiha looked as if he was trying to hide behind an very irritated Sakura?
The dumbfounded stillness lasted about five seconds.
Then, not surprisingly, Naruto and Lee broke it.
"SAKURA-CHAAAAN!! WHAT HAS SASUKE-BASTARD DONE TO YOOOUU!?!"
"SAKURA-CHAN! HAVE YOU BEEN HURT IN ANY WAY??"
The ramen shop audience watched as Naruto, being the baka he was, leapt off his stool and bear-hugged an alarmed "Sakura". Lee was at least smart enough to direct his holler at a mortified "Sasuke", after a few seconds hesitation. Shikamaru swore he could see his eyes shoot pink heart shapes to his horrified object of affection.
"Arigh... baka! Get off me!"
"Aa... haha... I'm fine Lee-san...."
"SAKURAA-CHAAAAN!! I'LL PROTECT YOU FROM SASUKE-BASTARD!!"
"Baka! I am Sasuke!"
There was a brief moment of silence while the engaged individuals took a moment to sort out their bearings. And while the audience absorbed the scene before them. Namely, the mind-switch being real, "Sasuke's" weak smile, Lee's disturbing love-struck expression at Sasuke, "Sasuke's" weak smile, Naruto indirectly hugging his rival, "Sasuke's" weak smile.
The Avenger's awkwardly smiling face was given another close-up by a gleeful Kiba.
Shikamaru predicted that by the end of the day, Kiba would be running a solid business to fangirls for pictures of the Uchiha's face.
At the moment, though, Naruto was too busy dawning upon the remembrance of the whole mind-switch affair to notice anything.
A brief pause while a horrified Naruto gawked up into a glaring "Sakura" face.
"NARUTO NO BAKA!"
A deep roar thundered before "Sasuke's" fist connected with Naruto and sent him flying out of the ramen shop. While Lee was still partially in shock by being called Lee-san by "Sasuke", Sakura had finally noticed Naruto hugging... well, her body.
Unfortunately, in her untested new strength, her usual wallop of Naruto was much more heavy-handed and the poor boy was knocked unconscious down the street.
Their audience stared, fascinated, while Sakura just smirked and a guilty Sasuke tiptoed to see if the whiskered troublemaker was alright.
If Ino was here, she would be in high heaven, Shikamaru thought dryly. An emotional Sasuke. Well, a fake emotional Sasuke, anyway...
He watched, mildly interested, as the pair then made as if they didn't notice the gaping crowd. Heck, even Chouiji had stopped eating. Apparently, their grand plan was to ignore their spectators. Sasuke had no problems with it, his, or to be more specific- Sakura's eyes flashing irritably over them, lingering a moment on an intently observing Neiji before his side faced them when he sat at the counter to order.
Sakura, on the other hand, seemed to have more trouble feigning carelessness. Though "Sasuke's" face was forced a blank, the darting dark eyes spoke differently and best of all, he was blushing.
Shikamaru shuddered along with the rest of the males. A blushing Sasuke? So everything is possible, it seems.
While "he" seated himself beside the real Sasuke, budding entrepreneur Kiba had already taken at least five shots of the fiery-cheeked Uchiha genius.
The happy whirring of the camera and Kiba's chuckles filled the ramen shop. "Sakura" scowled darkly, "her" chin resting on mounted joined hands- a familiar Sasuke trademark gesture. "Sasuke's" blush deepened even more, and tried in vain to use the raven bangs to cover "his" face. It was obvious, however, that they had semi-effectively ended the show, at least for now.
Chouiji started eating again, with one eye on the pair, and a slowly, a chattering hum filled the shop again. Shikamaru yawned, stretched languorously and slumped down on the table before him. Well, it had been fun while it lasted. Too bad it ended so soon, for all his trouble of letting his teammate drag him along.
He absently watched the dissatisfied Hyuga beside him withdraw his Byakugan.
"So... What did you see?"
He didn't really expect his drawling question to be answered but Neiji, half distracted by still studying the pair sitting across the shop, answered shortly.
"Nothing. They don't show any differences at all." His brows twisted in frustration. "Even their chakra controls in the brain are the same. There's no connection between them to show they have any transfer of any sort."
Neiji suddenly seemed to realise who he was talking to.
"What do you think?"
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow and avoided the piercing calculating stare the other was giving him. He watched "Sasuke" smile automatically at the serving girl, watched the girl redden in surprised delight, and watched the real Sasuke groan.
No connection at all? Interesting. That usually only meant the transfer was final and irreversible. Since it couldn't be possible for this case, it meant the level of Transfer jutsu being done was extremely high-class, and the any damage or accident that should happen would be permanent to all those involved. Could it mean they could be stuck in each other's bodies permanently?
He distantly watched Hinata quietly slipping out into the bright afternoon to where Naruto was no doubt rousing. It was a very real possibility. If that did happen, their mental and physical states would deteriorate gradually as the jutsu kept them trapped in their unnatural conditions. Their bodies and mind would just revolt against each other and their Chakra usage would slowly diminish. He was surprised at the risks those two were taking. What they were doing with the Hokage had better be worth it.
He came out of his thoughts to find the white-eyed genin still eyeing him with suspicion.
Shikamarua shrugged, banishing the notion of even bothering to explain the whole thing.
Neiji snorted. "In that case, I'm leaving. My business here is finished."
Leave? Why not? Shikamaru languidly considered the idea as the seat beside him vacated. Maybe he should leave too, if he could just summon up the will to get up again. After all, it wasn't as if anything interesting was going to hap—
"SASUKE-KUUN!! WHAT A COINCIDENCE!!"
There was a flash of yellow and purple and the next thing anyone knew, a blond pony-tailed girl had thrown her arms around a choking Sasuke and squeezed him in a tight embrace.
Shikamaru groaned and flopped down on the table again. Even Kiba had enough survival instincts not tell Ino- a hot-blooded female- that her rival would be trading bodies with their long-contested object of affection for the day. It seemed that all Chouji's and his own half-hearted efforts to keep her busy today was going to waste.
Ino was going to explode if she found out, he thought moodily, and I'm going to get all the blame as usual.
His vivacious teammate was still holding on to a gasping Sasuke. "He" didn't look like he could breathe very well.
"Sasuke-kun! What a surprise to meet you here! Can I join you for lunch?"
Without waiting for a reply, Ino immediately pushed Chouiji away and plopped herself onto the seat beside "Sasuke", finally releasing him from her grasp. While Ino firmly moved a faintly protesting Chouiji, Sakura swept the stall- only Kiba, Chouiji, Lee and him left- with a warning stare. Obviously she didn't want Ino to know about her situation either.
Ino returned her full blue-eyed attention to "Sasuke" and flashed him her mega-watt smile. Shikamaru ignored the tinge of annoyance and watched as Ino leaned nearer and tilted her head up at the bemused Uchiha. Then, the Ino's dreams- and Sasuke's nightmares- came true.
Without thinking, "Sasuke" returned an automatic smile.
-Great. Big mistake.-
Ino looked as if she couldn't believe her eyes.
"Sasuke-kun!! You finally returned my feelings!!"
The real Sasuke jerked up his head and glared as a overjoyed Ino enveloped a dismayed Sasuke with a hug. Sakura realized her mistake and tried in vain to keep a cold mask on while pulling away from Ino's unyielding grasp.
"Damn... no... go away."
Ino continued to blithely hold on to a struggling Sasuke and threw an aggravated looking Sakura a triumphant grin as she squealed on, "Sasuke-kun! I knew you had feelings for me!"
"No... I didn't mean it... let go..."
"Sasuke's" desperate words seemed to spur Ino on.
"Ah Sasuke kun! You don't have to hide your feelings anymore!" Ino beamed up at her harassed heartthrob, "I saw you smile at me!!"
Sakura had finally managed to free Sasuke's body from Ino.
Shikamaru watched intently.
He knew better than most how those two former best friends competed fiercely for the most popular guy in Konoha. Sometimes, he thought Ino simply strived so much after Sasuke just because of their personal rivalry.
Though that may have just been foolish wistful thinking on my part, he thought self-mockingly.
But right now, Sakura literally held the power to crush all of Ino's hopes and self-esteem. All she had to do was say a sentence or two and Sakura would be the be the sole competitor for the Uchiha's affection. At the corner of his eye, he could see Chouiji stiffen and stop in his eating to watch Sakura's reaction to their teammate.
It all came down to Sakura right now.
For various reasons, I have decided to split this initially long chapt fict into two parts. Read on, enjoy and review.
And yes, I know this is a weird place to stop.