It's All in Your Head
Disclaimer: Not mine
I already gave you guys the run-down in the last chapter, so I won't slow you down with my usual long-winded opening comments. However, I would like to point out that many chapters ago, I promised one of my loyal readers I would try to include a certain character in this story...well it took some finagling, but he's in there! Enjoy!
"I'm going to kill him! No, I'm going to kill both of them!"
"Not if I get my hands on them first."
"I-…what?" Jiraiya turned to blink in astonishment at the man beside him, the outburst from Konoha's normally good-natured schoolteacher stopping him mid-rant.
"Oh enough, you two. Naruto wasn't even critically hurt for Kami's sake."
"Yes, but he…he…" Jiraiya sputtered, face growing purple with the indignation of it all.
"And Kakashi was responsible for…he should have known better than to…" Iruka eagerly picked up where the white-haired sennin left off, but seemed to run into just as much trouble trying to articulate his frustration.
"Naruto is a baka and Kakashi is an irresponsible genius who insists on disregarding the rules governing shinobi behavior. That's the way things have always been, and considering the likelihood that they will eventually both become Hokages, all the muttered grumbling from you two seems extremely pointless." Tsunade placed her hands on her hips, shooting a stern look at the two men before her.
Jiraiya was the first to back down, throwing his arms into the air with a cry of exasperation and mumbling under his breath about "damn generations of students who are more trouble than they're worth". It was Iruka who, to Tsunade's surprise, stubbornly held the Godaime's gaze.
Heaving her own sigh, the fierce woman fought the urge to smile. It would seem that after facing the power of so many generations of Konoha's youngest rebels, Iruka's students were finally starting to rub off on him. However, after several minutes, the teacher's gaze softened and he gave a small, weary sigh.
"Please, Tsunade-sama, I just want to see him."
She held his gaze for one more calculating minute, before finally allowing the small smile to make itself known. "Alright, Iruka, but fifteen minutes only. Naruto's body and chakra is completely exhausted."
"And Kakashi?" A flash of defiance returned to those brown eyes, but Tsunade was determined to stay firm on this point.
"Kakashi is still in critical condition. Until he has been completely stabilized, no one except the medical staff is authorized in his room." Her eyes narrowed as Iruka's mouth began to open in protest, and effectively cut him off. "This matter is not open for debate, and if you push it you won't be visiting Naruto, either."
Feeling satisfied at the ugly glare she received, Tsunade smiled sweetly and stepped to the side, gesturing Iruka into the doors she had previously been blocking. He walked through them without a word, disappointment over Kakashi immediately being replaced with concern for the boy who had practically become his surrogate son.
"Will he be ok?"
The Fifth looked up at the question, studying her now-serious friend solemnly. Jiraiya waited patiently for her answer, all humor gone from his crimson-streaked face.
"Which one?" Her voice was laced with fatigue, the strain of a stressful night's work clear on her face.
"All of them."
Rubbing at her eyes, Tsunade leaned tiredly against the wall, ticking the names off on long, elegant fingers. "Naruto's fine physically, other than being completely exhausted," her face darkened slightly, "but mentally…well who knows how much stress that experimental technique caused him. It could take a while for him to fully recover."
Jiraiya only nodded, his eyes dark and solemn as he hung carefully to each of her words.
"Kakashi is still in critical condition; while I agree with Sakura that the move from Sand was necessary, the journey only weakened him further and that battle took a lot out of him." She shook her head in amazement, "I'm still surprised he actually managed to defeat Itachi…those were odds even I wouldn't have bet on."
"…Probably why he's still alive," the frog hermit muttered, rolling his eyes. Tsunade shot him an ugly glare before continuing.
"Regardless, I think he'll pull through. If there is one think I've learned about Kakashi, it's that he's tough…and damn near impossible to kill."
A dark cloud passed Tsunade's eyes, her arms rising to cross over her chest. "My staff is doing everything in their power, but…"
"Naruto, you are supposed to be in bed!" Sakura crossed her arms sternly, foot tapping impatiently as she entered the small, white hospital room. Honestly, her friend could be so stubborn when it came to letting his body recover, and as she stood there in exasperation, the kunoichi debated on which lecture to deliver this time.
"I am in bed," the blond pointed out, unable to help the small grin pulling at his lips.
'Lecture 53,' Sakura decided as she took a threatening step into the room. "You are supposed to be in your own bed!"
"She's got you there, dobe."
Naruto shot the raven sitting beside him a menacing look, making sure that his elbow jabbed the Uchiha's stomach at an uninjured point. "Traitor! You are supposed to be on my side," the blonde pouted.
The raven rolled his eyes at the other boy's dramatics. "Traitor? I though we'd already been over this…how many times do I have to get stabbed before you stop doubting my loyalties?"
"Hmpf," Naruto snorted, but there was a flicker of guilt in his expression as he slouched against Sasuke's shoulder, enjoying the warmth of the other boy next to him.
A dark cloud passed Tsunade's eyes, her arms rising to cross over her chest. "My staff is doing everything in their power, but…he is impossible!"
Jiraiya raised an eyebrow questioningly at this unexpected description. "Huh?"
"Impossible," Tsunade repeated, throwing her arms up in the air as if to beseech the heavens for strength. "It's hard enough to handle one of them when they're restricted to bed rest, but both of them? It's like they…they feed off each other!"
Jiraiya managed to keep an incredulous look on his face for all of twenty seconds before dissolving into chuckles. The man knew first hand what a handful a sick or injured Naruto could be (the twerp was just too damn stubborn for his own good), and he had heard stories that the Uchiha's hospital manners could sometimes even surpass the blonde's.
One thing was for sure: he would never begrudge Tsunade her job…
Tired of being ignored, Sakura cleared her throat loudly, bringing both boys out of their own little world and shaking her head in frustration. "You two are hopeless," she decided, before walking to the bed and grabbing Naruto's arm firmly in one swift movement. "You are going back to bed."
"Aw Sakura-chan, I like it better here."
"Can't we just put my bed in this room?"
The rosette just kept shaking her head as she dragged the blonde to his feet and shoved him towards the door. "We already tried that, remember? I think you scarred Shikamaru for life."
"Hn," came a snort of amusement, "You'd think a 'genius' would have remembered to knock before entering…" Sasuke mused from his bed, already feeling lonely sitting in it by himself.
Naruto snickered from the doorway, but was unable to completely hide the faint blush creeping over his cheeks at the memory of this morning's disaster. "It was Sasuke's fault," he muttered at Sakura's disapproving look.
"Well you're about to have another visitor, and unless you want Iruka-sensei to see you being molested by Sasuke, you'd better get back into bed." Sakura raised an eyebrow challengingly, and was pleased to see Naruto's expression blanch before turning bright red. As a strangled sound escaped the boy's throat, he suddenly disappeared in a flash of yellow that would have made the Fourth proud.
Rolling her eyes, Sakura turned back to look at the raven sitting innocently in his bed, a small smirk pulling at his lips. It looked like it was time for Lecture 36…
Naruto knelt low in the underbrush, watching the raven before him warily. So far, it seemed that Sasuke was not aware of his position, but the blonde knew from experience that this could change at any moment.
'I think its time to trigger the tag,' Kyuubi rumbled quietly, the fox's excitement at the prospect of a challenging battle clearly apparent in his voice. His host nodded in agreement, fingers moving to form the seal…
"Don't even think about it, dobe." The voice, accompanied by kunai suddenly landing where Naruto's head had had been five seconds earlier, almost made the blonde jump. Instead, he settled for grinding his teeth in frustration as he swiftly rolled to the left and took to the trees.
'Damnit!' He mentally swore to Kyuubi, watching as the raven's sharingan seemed to effortlessly follow his silent movements now that his position had been given away. 'How the hell did he find me!'
'You know, sometimes I wonder if that old hag really did remove the jutsu like she said she did.'
'Well if it was still there, I would have noticed him sneaking up on us, now wouldn't I have?'
The demon seemed to give this point some thought before heaving what Naruto took to be a mental shrug. 'Well, since the element of surprise is no longer an option, I suggest we revert back to the usual tactic.'
This time, his host's grin was a devious one. 'Use endurance and sheer power to beat the shit out of him?'
Naruto snorted, resisting the urge to roll his eyes at the old fox. For a creature supposedly known for its stealth and cunning, Kyuubi always seemed rather fond of head on attacks, and was usually one of the reasons Naruto always ended up barging into situations without thinking them through.
His smile widened, canines glinting slightly as he swerved back to directly face the Uchiha. "Kyuubi," he said out loud, voice laced with repressed laughter, "you are a bad influence."
Sasuke was upon him in seconds, and as they both reached for their weapon pouches, the air of the small forest glade was filled with the metallic clangs and glints of dancing blades. Several minutes later, both boys stood facing each other carefully, Sasuke's chest heaving, Naruto's lips pulling upwards into a smug smile.
"Worn out already, teme?" he taunted, raising an eyebrow teasingly, "I could keep this up all day."
"You didn't have a chidori puncture your lung two weeks ago!" Sasuke snapped crossly, clearly displeased with his current shortness of breath. "Not all of us have built-in healing parasites."
"Aw, you're just jealous," Naruto jeered, ignoring Kyuubi's indignant shout of protest that boomed through his head. However, as he watched the other boy carefully, his eyes took on a darker shade of blue that radiated concern. "Seriously though, do you need a break? Sakura warned you not to overdo-Ooof!"
He was cut off mid-sentence by a blurred force slamming into his chest, sending him crashing to the ground. Glaring up at his attacker, Naruto took in the sight of the divine being now straddling his waist, victory shining in his obsidian eyes.
"Hn," Sasuke grinned superiorly, satisfaction rising in his gut despite his ragged breath and sweat-soaked face. "Luckily, I could take down a baka like you regardless of physical handicaps."
"Cheap shot," the blonde grumbled under his breath, twisting in an effort to escape from below the raven. His movements were futile, but as he looked back up into that smug, handsome face, Naruto decided that he really didn't mind the predicament he was in too much…
…Not that he was going to let Sasuke know that. Bucking his hips upwards in yet another failed attempt to free himself, the blonde only glared harder. "Let me up, bastard."
The triumphant smile on Sasuke's face was still solidly in place, but had taken on an evil, almost feral glint. "And why," he murmured lowly, leaning down towards Naruto's ear, "would I want to do that?"
The blonde couldn't help it; he closed his eyes as a shiver ran down his spine. He opened his mouth to speak, but had to swallow before the words would come out. "B-because I haven't lost yet." He bit his lip as the raven smirked and nibbled at the tip of his left ear.
"Oh, I really think you have," Sasuke argued calmly, before his mouth trailed down Naruto's neck to suck happily on his pulse. The blonde moaned appreciatively, his arms finally ceasing to fight Sasuke's vice-like grip.
"You're playing dirty," he whined into the Uchiha's hair, pouting as a light blush spread across his cheeks.
"That is precisely the idea," Sasuke agreed with a growl, his hand following the path that had become familiar over the past two weeks. Finally, fingers found their way beneath the other boy's shirt, lightly tracing the spiral seal they now almost knew by heart. Feeling the fire in his lower belly increase sharply, the raven paused his ministrations to Naruto's neck and smirked down at his breathless captive.
"Stop," Naruto groaned, arms coming up to push at Sasuke's chest weakly. "I can't."
"Last night's events beg to differ."
The blush deepened, but blue eyes glared up in defiance. "Sasuke, I promised I'd meet Sakura and Kakashi at Ichiraku's in a half an hour!"
Obsidian eyes considered him for a moment, the dangerous glint never faltering for a second. Adjusting his grip on Naruto's arms, the raven's smirk grew ominously, his head leaning down until his lips just brushed the blonde's.
"Hn…looks like you're going to be late."
Well...it's over. I've got to say, even though I'm relieved that It's All in Your Head is finally finished, I'm still a little sad to see it go. Thank you to all of the wonderful readers who patiently stuck wtih me through all the chapters, and to everyone who took the time to review. I know it sounds kind of trite, but writing this story really was an adventure for me, and I enjoyed sharing it with all of you.
Please let me know what you thought of the conclusion as well as the story as a whole. As always, all comments are welcome (be they good or bad). Also, I've received a few questions about fanart...if my story has inspired you to draw a picture (an art form I'm hopeless at), just send me a link and I'll post it on my profile page. It would probably make my day!
If you have any suggestions for future stories, I'd love to hear them...I'm already working on a few new projects, and I'm always looking for another good one. Thank you all again, and please keep an eye on my profile page for new stories!