Title: Lazy Hero
All Standard Disclaimers Apply
Shikamaru casually strolled down the streets of Konoha, hands in his pocket, eyes squinting against the blaring sun. Sweat trickled from his brow and ran down his temples to eventually pool at the base of the collar of his Chuunin vest. It was too hot to be outside if not necessary, and the lazy nin was annoyed that he was forced to go hunting for the exuberant blond man who had gone missing late last night. He had checked the ratty apartment Naruto called home, but it had been empty. His bed was torn to pieces, covers strewn everywhere, a pillow lying haphazardly on a small dresser where it had obviously been thrown. The area had been trashed but no one seemed to be worried. It was too hot to be worried.
A check with the old man who ran the ramen shop came back negative, Naruto hadn't been there all day. Though rumours were circulating that the blond had been seen at the training grounds obliterating some poor trees since sunrise. That was where Shika was heading now, though he wasn't happy that on his day off he was being forced to be anywhere near a place of exertion.
Long before the clearing came into site, the sounds of loud grunts of frustration and splintering wood could be heard. Shikamaru flinched at once particular crack that resounded around the area. He wasn't sure whether it was from the wood or the blond's knuckles. "Oi," Shika shouted and walked into the clearing.
Naruto was doubled over, supporting himself with his right hand against the damaged trunk. Both of his hands were bleeding, a pool seeping into the grass below him. The lazy nin's eyes widened as he took in the clearing, two fell trees were to his right, and the one the blond was leaning on didn't look much longer to be standing upright.
"Naruto?" he said more cautiously. He approached the other man slowly, with measured steps. Said man only tensed as the other approached but didn't say anything nor flee. "You've been here all day?"
Naruto straightened and
grunted, a habit he had picked up from old acquaintances, meaning that
he didn't wish to speak to anyone. Shika knew better than to leave his
obviously upset friend alone. He walked closer to the other man, hands
still in his pockets trying to look casual.
"You done here?" he asked, casually looking about the clearing. When the blond didn't say anything he decided to continue. "Come on, I'll treat you to ramen."
The blond didn't even flinch. Instead, he walked over to the middle of the clearing and bent down to grab his orange jacket that he had shed sometime earlier. It was while he was doing this that Shika first got a glance at the blond's face. It was beaten and bruised. Small trickles of blood were flowing down his face from tiny lacerations in his skin. His right eye looked swollen; they both looked bloodshot.
"Holy shit Naruto," he exclaimed. "What happened to you?"
The blond shrugged. He pulled his jacket on, flinching a little as the rough fabric rubbed against sore muscles and torn skin. Shikamaru was getting a bit worried, the blond had yet to speak and his behaviour was absolutely unusual. "Oi, answer me or else I'll have to inform Tsunade."
"I suspect you'll do that anyway."
His voice was startling. It was quiet and solemn, nothing like the loud, boisterous tone he usually spoke. "Naruto," he started but was interrupted.
"It's nothing serious, just cuts and scrapes I got from the falling wood scraps."
Shikamaru was doubtful that was all, it was unlikely that such a highly distinguished nin would so easily be hit by flying wood debris. Or if it was in fact the case, something was deeply troubling the blond that he wouldn't bother to avoid being hurt, even if it was just minor wounds.
"My offer still stands," Shika said. "For the ramen, that is."
"No," he said. He paused and looked at the other man. His normally sparkling blue eyes were dull and empty. "I'm not in the mood for ramen."
He turned from the other man and began to walk out of the clearing and back towards the village. Shikamaru moved to walk next to the blond, keeping stride so that they continued their descent into Konoha side by side.
Silence rained between them, not tense but not comfortable. The streets were only partially crowded. Noon had come and gone and much of the lunch-goers had returned to indoors where air conditioning could keep away the blistering heat. The people who were left outside were mostly wandering nin, on their way to or from the mission room, and the occasional shopper who decided to brave the heat and continue on with daily life anyway. "This way," Shikamaru said, disrupting the silence. "My place is closer and it's too hot to be walking around."
With his elbow he nudged the blond down a small alleyway between a green grocers and a bakery. They traveled, single file, down the alley until they got to the street on the other side where several cheap apartment buildings were located, mostly all of them inhabited by unmarried shinobi. They were small and easy to keep places, where the landlord would watch over the apartments of their tenants when missions kept them away for too long. Many of the former rookie nine, minus Hinata, Shino, and Naruto, had taken up residency in the apartments here after they had moved out of their parents' house. A couple of them even shared residencies, though Shikamaru couldn't understand why. He liked having his privacy, where he could relax from missions without having to deal with other people.
The two men walked into the first floor walkway of a dark blue building. Its paint was chipping around the shutters and the rusty fire escape trembled with the slightest breath. Several nin were lounging about in a communal room just to the right of the front entrance. Shika nodded to the men, recognizing them but not knowing their names. The men did the same, eyeing Naruto as he walked by. "I'm just down the hall," Shikamaru murmured, more to break the silence than to actually instruct, Naruto already knew where his apartment was.
He unlocked the door and slid it open. He let Naruto enter first before following in and closing and locking the door behind him. "Food? Drink?"
Naruto shook his head and settled down on the floor, his back resting against the far wall, just below the window. His hair shimmered brighter in the sunlight.
"There's a bathroom right there if you want to clean up," Shika suggested.
The blond just shook his head and leaned back against the wall some more. He closed his eyes to the inquiring stare of the lazy nin and evened out his breath. Before his eyes, Shika watched as the small cuts began to close. It was an amazing sight, but even with the cuts closed, the blood and sweat still remained. "You still need to clean up," Shikamaru said. "You smell bad."
A small snort from the blond opened up a flood of relief through Shikamaru. While Naruto was certainly not back to his old self, at least the outward appearance of amusement meant he wasn't permanently affected by whatever had caused this overnight transformation.
"Go ahead and take a shower. There is a towel and washcloth by the sink. I'll find some spare clothes you can fit into."
"Still not doing your own laundry?" the blond commented under his breath.
"Just go shower. I'll leave the clothes by the door," his said, disgruntled and trying to hide a blush.
The lazy nin watched as the blond stood from his spot and stripped down to his green boxers. Taunt muscles moved under unmarred, tan skin as Naruto walked into the bathroom without a sound. Snapping out of his shock, Shikamaru moved into the room and began to search for clothes that could fit the blond. There was a large difference in the size of the two men. Naruto's constant training made him thick with muscles. His height, on the other hand, was slightly shorter than the tall and lanky lazy nin. Though, with the way Shikamaru carried himself, shoulders slumped forward, slightly curled into himself, hands in his pocket, you couldn't tell when they were side by side. Searching through the drawers in his small closet, he managed to find a pair of drawstring sweatpants. They were a little big on Shika, so he figured that the blond could possibly squeeze into them. As for something to wear underneath, now that was pretty much a negative, he'd have to go commando. Shirts would be an issue to, but it wasn't as if the other man actually needed to wear one. So he'd continue the search later. Walking over to the bathroom, he knocked once on the door and opened it, announcing his presence while he walked in. "Oi, Naruto, I found some sweats you can probably wear, I'm leaving them on the toilet lid." A grunt was his only response. Shika turned to look at the other man through the opaque shower curtain. He was hunched over slightly, both arms stretched out in front of him and braced on the shower wall. The water poured on his body but he did nothing to clean himself. Shikamaru watched as the blond's fists clenched. "Kuso," Naruto mumbled, as he leaned forward to press his forehead against the tile.
"I woke up last night," Naruto said, his voice quiet. Shika was unaware if he was supposed to be hearing this or if the blond was speaking to himself. "And I swear, I smelled him in the air. H-he always had this deep, fragrant smell: like fine incense and green leaves, with this edge of char, probably from all those damned fire jutsu he was so fond of. But I woke up all of the sudden and inhaled, and that smell was there, filling my nostrils and just sending my brain into euphoria. A smell--it's not normal for a smell to do that to a guy."
Shikamaru's eyes had gone wide. "Was he--?"
"No," Naruto interrupted. "I rolled over and he wasn't there. It was simply just a memory, unwanted as it was." He paused and took in a deep breath. He pushed himself away from the shower and turned the water off. "I-I just got mad at myself, you know, because just from that familiar scent I was so happy, like everything that has happened in the past few years had never happened, just a bad dream, and I had just woken up from the nightmare."
He choked on his words. Shika moved forward, grabbing a towel, and opened the curtains. Naruto's form looked so dejected in front of him, his shoulder slumped, his eyes barely containing the tears that threatened to fall. He looked up to meet Shika's eyes. He gasped at the empty void he saw within the usually vibrant blue eyes.
"But this is the truth, this is the reality of the nightmare."
Naruto collapsed, his form squished into an upright fetal position to fit into the narrow width of the small tub. With a sigh, Shikamaru approached and sat on the lip of the tub, legs on either side of the man. He began to towel the blond hair, allowing the other man to lean heavily against his left leg under the ministrations.
"I never knew Sasuke all that well, in all honesty. You were the only one he really opened up to, and the rest of us just took him as a stuck-up bastard."
Naruto's body trembled and he leaned further into the warmth of the other man.
"So when he left," Shikamaru continued. "We were all indifferent. Yes he was a Konoha nin that was deserting us, but there was no personal connection, not like there was with you."
There was a deep sigh from the lazy nin. He released the towel to let it lay across the other man's head. He leaned back, bracing himself on the toilet directly behind him. "The truth is, I hate him. We all hate him."
The blond's body went rigid and blue eyes peered out from under the white towel. "Not because he abandoned Konoha, or that he joined up with Orochimaru and Sound," he paused with a sigh before continuing.
"You're such a strong ninja, Naruto. Of the people who know you or have been on missions with you, there are very few who doubt that you'll accomplish your dream some day. T-to see you like this," his voice wavered. "To know that it's because of him that you are like this. That's why I hate him."
"Don't," Naruto whimpered.
Shikamaru shook his head, getting up from his precarious perch. He grabbed another towel from the rack and motioned for the blond to stand. Naruto's body shook and Shikamaru took it on himself to dry the beads of water that were still rolling down his body. He wrapped the towel around the blond's waist once he felt that he had done as well as he could drying him off.
He looked up to meet the blue abyss of the other's eyes. He reached out and cupped whiskered cheeks with both hands. "Listen, what you and Sasuke had, that kind of love," he said, quietly, his own form slightly shaking. "I don't know what it is, or how it feels."
His thumb moved to trace the contours of the blond's lips. He smiled gently at the way they opened slightly at the gentle caress. "B-but, I do know this kind," he said.
Leaning forward, he captured the Naruto's lips in a shy, fleeting kiss. The blond tensed and looked down at his feet. His eyes were invisible under the fall of blond spikes and the white towel still over his head.
"Why don't you get dressed, I'll search around for food."
Naruto nodded, the towel slipping forward a bit, hiding his face more. Shikamaru let out a sigh and turned to leave the small bathroom. He paused when he heard the blond call his name. "T-thanks."
Naruto lifted his head, pulling the towel off and letting it drop to the floor. He smiled, not his usual face-splitting smile, but a soft, gentle one. He took a step out of the shower and crossed the small space between he and the lazy nin. "For this," he said.
Cupping the man's face he brought it quickly to his own and kissed him roughly on chapped lips. Shikamaru was too shocked to react until he was turned around and pushed out of the bathroom.
A quiet chuckle, like a low rolling thunder, followed him out as the door closed behind him so the blond could change. Shika just smiled and walked into the kitchen, his hand stuffed in his pocket, as usual.
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