Chapter 2

Works For Me

From Kakashi's point of view, the walk from the gates to the hospital was long and awkward. Dirty and travel-worn, he made his way along the village streets at lackluster pace, having just raced to the Hidden Leaf and back in far too short a time. On one side of him walked a teenage boy who was unusually busy examining the buildings as they passed. On the other side of Kakashi was a teenage girl rambling to him at top speed about the health of the Kazekage and that boy who'd been poisoned. He felt like she was trying to turn him into a medic nin in the space of half an hour.

Naruto was doing his best to look nonchalant and cool (like many young people, the desire to be seen as nonchalant and cool manifested in him rather suddenly around the age of fourteen), but inside his stomach was hopping and he was biting the side of his cheek. Kakashi had arrived to find Naruto and Sakura staring at each other in confused silence, and both had latched onto his presence as a distraction. Now, as they drew closer to the hospital where the Kazekage lay recovering, Naruto wanted to jump up and down, and either cheer or scream. Getting kissed by the girl he'd had a crush on for years as a child and come to respect as a friend was the highlight of the evening so far. However, he wasn't really sure what to do now. Did she like him? Maybe. Or maybe she was just teasing him, or it was because he'd been teasing her. Maybe it didn't mean anything at all to her. Naruto didn't even know if it meant anything to him. And he was hungry.

Sakura was embarrassed. Very much so. Impulsively kissing Uzumaki Naruto just because he'd been mocking her about it didn't speak highly of her maturity, and Sakura liked to think of herself as mature. She mentally approached it the way she approached any embarrassing situation these days: she ignored it with the passion of a religious convert. So far the plan was working perfectly; Naruto hadn't said a thing nor looked like he wanted to, and Kakashi was blocking their view of each other perfectly. Soon they'd reach the hospital, and Naruto would go find Lee and the rest of Gai's team while she could escape to the recovery ward. Kakashi would presumably talk to Gaara (which Sakura thankfully didn't need to be present for), then go off to do whatever it was Kakashi did.

Of course, they'd have to face each other the next day for the journey home, but by then the whole incident would hopefully have evaporated from both their memories.

"Alright, you two..." Kakashi said, coming to a stop. Naruto and Sakura panicked and squeaked, respectively. Surely he wanted to know why they were behaving strangely. And it was kind of hard to lie to Kakashi; he had a knack for sensing it in your body language, voice, aura...something anyway.

"...Nothing big. Just wanted to let you know that we're leaving at nine o'clock tomorrow morning from the village gates. On the way back we're going to be discussing the recent battles with the Akatsuki at length. You're going to tell me in exact detail about what worked and what didn't, and everything you know about each member, as if it were an official debriefing to someone who wasn't present to witness the fight. Later."

With a casual wave, Kakashi walked away and entered the building next to them, which Naruto suddenly noticed was the hospital.

"Hey, Sakura."


"I think he just wants us to go over it so that he doesn't have to think for himself when he reports to the council of Leaf elders."


Silence reigned over them with a heavy hand.

"Um, I'm going to go find Thick-brows and Neji and Tenten. So, uh, later."

"Right! Yes! And I'm going to look in on Kankuro, and everything. Later then!"