A Naruto fic by Tobu Ishi
(Just to clear one thing up, this is a side fic to a longer story I'm working on. Any references to autumn leaves, etc., are references to that fic. Sorry for any confusion.)
Was it the rain that did it? Was it the grey evening sky, or the way the grass rippled under the falling fingers of silver?
Splashing through a murky puddle that's grown to swallow the path, she's laughing as she runs with her wet hair plastered to her cheek and it doesn't matter that there's mud spattered from scalp to soles and ruining her clothes, because it's starting to grow dark and they've been training since it was starting to get light--well, all right, they broke for lunch, but only briefly--but, for the first time, she still has the energy to run home.
Was it her, a straggly muddy grinning mess with long bare legs all mottled with wet dirt and bits of grass?
She catches him by the hand as they reach the bridge and pulls him along, dances him in a circle over the slick wet boards just for the joy of it as he protests, because jounin he may be but it's hard to keep up with her when she's on a rush like this. There's no one here to see, no one to worry about dignity and propriety and whether or not a chuunin kunoichi with sawed-off hair and water-blue eyes should be playing like a child with the one person she can't pin down into one box of her life, her trainer and best friend and better half. And when her foot slips in a puddle and tired muscles caught by surprise aren't enough to yank her upright again, she pitches into his arms as he catches her expertly, the way he has countless times before.
Was it him, and his arms all muscular with their knobby elbows like a kid's, and the way her fingers caught in the mesh of his shirt?
His eyes have always been gray-green and she knows that, has known that--and him--since time immemorial, but of course it's now, with her arms twined around his neck and their wet clothes warming up where they're pressing together, which suddenly feels like just about everywhere, that they decide to turn warm and almost true-green as he looks down at her, all of two inches down at her...
Was it the hammering of her heart through the layers of cloth that were far too wet to really do their job?
And they're suspended there, in the sheeting rain that runs over their faces and drips off the tip of his nose and down her neck, and he knows it's dripping down her shirt; and her warm breath isn't helping anything, since he's already remembering a quiet glade in the forest years ago, full of a bonfire-spectrum of leaves and the memory of her kiss. They never talked about it again. It was a teenage thing, something awkward and better left alone. They're older now, but no wiser because the next thing she knows his arms slide away from her waist and he's walking away, and she feels colder than she did in the first place.
Was it the sunblind dizziness of hours of chakra burning away as they leapt in and out of each other's minds?
He's not going to take advantage, he's telling himself, he's not going to do anything he'll regret, and he keeps telling himself that as they wind their way through the empty streets of Konoha with their feet dripping mud at every step. And he's wondering who invented toeless shoes anyway, because he intends to leave metsubishi in their bathtub, as soon as he stops thinking about bathtubs in general and about who's going to be in one soon.
Was it a sudden flare, flint and steel rolling around in a basket together for years until a spark finally strikes and catches and the whole thing goes up in crackling glory?
It's his house they reach first, though, and she counts the shoes in the entryway and realizes no one's home. She's not sure what to think of that, but she knows she doesn't feel like going home just yet. Her energy is starting to fade a little, but something else is rolling out through her nerves to replace it and send them humming like plucked strings. So she asks to use his shower.
Was it something that smouldered for years, waiting for some catalyst to turn over the coals glowing under the layer of ash, add a handful of tinder and fan it to life?
He's never liked rain much. It gets in your eyes when you try to watch the sky in peace, and it's ridiculously hard to peel off clothes that are soaked in it so that they cling like a second skin. He's towelled off--not too much mud to deal with for him, but she took a bad fall while running across the clearing to dodge a shadow that zig-zagged through the puddles after her. Mud all down her front, and he took far too much malicious pleasure in making her roll over before she sat up; he had the sense to stay where the grass was wet but clean. He can hear the shower running over the sound of the rain drumming on the roof, and it's buzzing at the edges of his brain like a maddening little song, so that he's entirely unprepared for her appearance in the doorway, changed into an old shirt and pants of his that are a bit too big for her shower-damp body and hang loose-collared in a way that isn't especially good for rational thought.
Was it the shadows that slipped over the curves of her skin and deepened the blue of her eyes as she stood in the half-light, gazing at him?
She can see where his eyes are lingering, and she knows she ought to do something about it, but he was halfway through toweling his hair dry when she walked in, and it's hanging loose in damp locks around his face, and she realizes she's never really seen him with it down. Not like this, anyway. So it's just natural curiosity that makes her walk over, achingly slow because she doesn't want to give him the idea she's still feeling his arms around her, and run her fingers through his damp hair, push it away from his face with her thumbs gently running along his hairline where the raindrops are still gathering. He's not moving, isn't sure if he can with her so close and giving him that look that's burning away the old lists of not-too-pretty-and-not-too-plain, but if he looks down he knows he'll get an eyeful; that shirt really is too big and he ought to be sorry he lent it to her, he ought to but somehow it's not happening that way...
Was it that she could still smell the rain on his skin?
Over the years, they've snatched the occasional kiss, for one excuse or another, once or twice out of a need for comfort after the latest rejection, most of them unexpected before and awkward after. It's the in between that creeps into their dreams, because that's where there's always a flare of something that leaves them both tipsy and off kilter and afraid to try it again; after all, she's got other plans and so does he. It begs the question of what would happen, if for once those plans could be left out in the rain, the neat blue lines and diagrams washed away and bled together into something new, something like clouds in a pale sky.
Was it that his skin was still chilled from the cold outside, and hers was hot enough from the shower that rising steam wouldn't have been surprising when they touched?
When her hands trace across his cheekbones and down over the corners of his mouth and jaw, when they settle at the back of his neck and she feels him shiver at her touch, when she presses her lips to his cheek and finds it tastes like rain, and when she kisses his other cheek, the tip of his nose, the corner of his mouth... He's never been one to take initiative in anything; but a turn of his head, just an inch to the right, isn't much to ask, and it's enough to catch her wandering lips with his own as his arms pull her close, and the rising heat in the room is turning them both into something that simmers and melts together like chocolate.
Was it the literal letting-down of hair that did it, blond strands tangling up with dark ones and collecting beads of water at the ends?
And she knows what she wants now, has known it for quite a while but has only just begun to admit it even to herself, so when his hands hesitate at the hem of her shirt--oh, he has wonderful hands, sculpted hands, he should have been an artist and she could have been his muse, the sort that kisses you awake when you've fallen asleep the day before a deadline and tells you in the firmest of ways that if you keep dozing off she's going to expect you to be plenty awake tonight--she guides them right on up without pausing in her kiss, because she's always been good at multitasking. Who would have thought a mesh shirt would be so difficult to take off of someone so willing?
Was it just that the bed was two steps away and waiting?
He's the one who's pausing, trying to hold onto the scraps of his sanity, as clothes fall to the floor that were just pulled out of his drawers a few minutes ago. Somewhere in the haze that's fogging up his mind, he realizes she's not wearing underwear--well, of course, it's all muddy and it's not like he had any spares to offer--and for an odd moment he's relieved, as he's never unhooked a bra before and he really isn't sure how to go about it. He is quickly distracted as she kisses her way up the line of his jaw to nip at his earlobe, catch the little ring there in her mouth and turn his knees to jelly, and they tumble backwards into bed tangled in each others' clothes and suddenly laughing, as they realize that neither of them knows quite what they're doing, this being something of a test-run and all. Still, what's lacking in experience they can make up for with her enthusiasm and clever mouth and the yelp that melts into a satisfied giggle when you catch her by surprise, and those wonderful hands and the natural genius that seems to run to everything he never thought he'd need or want to excel at; and after all, they've got plenty of time to learn from each other. If he has his way, they'll take their time. If she has her way, they'll take all night.
Or was it just inevitable?
And by the time she's drifting back into a newly sweet reality with morning sun filtering golden through the window and an especially familiar and warm arm slung comfortably around her waist, his breath ruffling up the fine golden hairs at the nape of her neck, there's something like relief between them. Years and years of brief touches and glances and wanting everything that they know they shouldn't expect are out in the open, and all wrapped up in a blanket in a warm bed in a room with a floor littered with clothes that they don't feel like bothering with just yet. She shifts in his arms and rolls over for a good look at him. All mine, she feels like singing from the top of the monument, all mine and it's about time, too, but instead she kisses him, which is just as good, especially as it may be the best way he's ever woken up. He decides he might stop hating mornings if they could all start out like this, with birdsong outside the window and her in his arms.
It was the rain, and years of trust, and his rare and genuine smile on waking to find her there, and her eyes with their mesmerizing ring of darker blue, and a dash of fate, shaken and served with a sprig of sheer luck.
There's a moment of awkwardness, since obviously something--scratch that, a lot of things--have shifted and will need to be given time to settle before they can be safely trod upon again. She breaks it with a smile and a good-natured complaint about his shirt. He asks, in that long-suffering voice that he seems to save especially for her, why not just leave it on if it's so hard to take off, and since she's in a very good mood she settles for fondly calling him a lazy bum, albeit a lazy bum with a great chest; and he decides it's less troublesome to keep her quiet with another kiss, than to try and keep up with her teasing at this hour of the morning.
It was seasons of training together and learning each other's minds by heart.
When he finally climbs reluctantly of of bed to retrieve something to wear, since sooner or later someone is bound to come by looking for them, she stays in bed, wrapping herself up in the warm sheets and trailing an arm absentmindedly over the edge of the mattress as she watches him hunting down his pants among the jumble, muttering to himself as usual, though his heart isn't in it today and she can tell. Her fingers brush something shoved half under the bed and she glances down and recognizes the grid of neat squares and a few wooden chips scattered across the carpet, and a laugh escapes her as she realizes, to her very great satisfaction, that it's very possible they kicked this game over at some point the night before.
It was as neat a match as ever really happens, a fitting together of strengths and weaknesses that would hold beautifully and stand the test of time.
He was going to try and find his shirt next, until she clears her throat and he turns to look and catches his breath all over again. She's beautiful and golden and wrapped in his sheets, and smiling at him, and for once he knows that's a good thing. She tosses him something, and he catches it and looks at the characters inked on it, realizes it's the gold general...where did she find his shougi pieces?
"Would you teach me to play?"
With that look she's giving him, blue eyes glimmering so invitingly between strands of short pale hair, how could he refuse? The day stretches out before them, and scattered through it are images of her leaning her chin on her hand, a little smile on her face as she springs her latest trap, dodge that if you can, and it's a lance idiot of course I can dodge it, but keep an eye out for the dragon horse eating all your pawns...
And in the end, at the root of it all, growing out of persnickety friendship and implicit trust...it was love.
He would love to.