Naruto growled as he slid against Sasuke's sweat slick skin, grinding down mercilessly and all but slamming him against the wall once again. Sasuke's hands were tangled in Naruto's hair, clutching desperately at the thick strands—torn over whether he should try to pry Naruto away or keep him in place.
He'd tried to be gentle at first but Sasuke had interjected, accusing Naruto of treating him like a girl and insisting that he wouldn't break. Naruto had responded by sinking his teeth, hard, into the dip at the base of Sasuke's neck. The cussing and groping soon morphed into a challenge. A power struggle broke out between eager bodies and tongues, practically a naked wrestling match for dominance. In ended with Naruto holding Sasuke up with legs wobbly from pleasure and Sasuke curling his knees up to his chest, too stubborn to make things easier for the both of them and wrap them around Naruto's waist. Naruto fucked Sasuke into the wall as if he resented him, fierce and insistent, thrusting hard enough to make the distorted, twisted hanging photos of his parents' disapproving faces hanging around them shake. Sasuke dug his nails deep into Naruto's shoulder blades and dragged them harshly across his skin, proving that he could and would hurt Naruto even in the peak of his pleasure. Naruto, eyes closed and gasping, was too close to bring himself to give a flying fuck. So he engrossed himself in the sensations, hips jerking helplessly and screaming like he might just bring the walls down.
He'd tried to be gentle at first but Sasuke had interjected, accusing Naruto of treating him like a girl and insisting that he wouldn't break. Naruto had responded by sinking his teeth, hard, into the dip at the base of Sasuke's neck.
The cussing and groping soon morphed into a challenge. A power struggle broke out between eager bodies and tongues, practically a naked wrestling match for dominance. In ended with Naruto holding Sasuke up with legs wobbly from pleasure and Sasuke curling his knees up to his chest, too stubborn to make things easier for the both of them and wrap them around Naruto's waist.
Naruto fucked Sasuke into the wall as if he resented him, fierce and insistent, thrusting hard enough to make the distorted, twisted hanging photos of his parents' disapproving faces hanging around them shake. Sasuke dug his nails deep into Naruto's shoulder blades and dragged them harshly across his skin, proving that he could and would hurt Naruto even in the peak of his pleasure.
Naruto, eyes closed and gasping, was too close to bring himself to give a flying fuck. So he engrossed himself in the sensations, hips jerking helplessly and screaming like he might just bring the walls down.
Just as he climaxed, Sasuke turned into George Washington.
Naruto bolted upright with a strangled gasp, clutching the lone thin bed sheet that he hadn't managed to kick off. Sweat soaked chest still heaving, his sleep-fogged mind began its steady crawl back to reality as his eyes scanned the room, his head whipping around so fast he wouldn't have been surprised if it did a one-eighty Exorcist style.
The only thing that answered his silent calls of 'Is anyone awake?' was the steady chirp of crickets leaking into the cabin through the screen door. His breathing slowed with a sigh, exhaling all the panic he felt upon waking. Thank God he didn't make any noises. If he had to discuss a wet dream with a counselor, he'd rather not be drilled on one of his bizarre ones.
It was bad enough he'd never be able to look at Sasuke or a dollar bill the same way again.
Disentangling himself from his sheets, he cursed the shirt and pajama bottoms he was required to wear. He tossed and turned for a while, not wanting to risk attempting to creep around and clean himself up, before finally collapsing on his back with a huff, too hot, sticky, and uncomfortable to go back to sleep.
Not to mention the bruised side of his face still felt like it had high-fived a brick wall. It was easy to see now how the counselors could've believed that was exactly what provided the zinger of a black eye and swollen cheek he was sporting.
Well, most of the counselors. Iruka had scolded him for lying, Kakashi hadn't looked very convinced, and Jiraiya had laughed so hard he'd nearly pissed himself.
Worst of all, his and Sasuke's little fistfight did nothing to derail his wet dreams. (Especially now that he couldn't even remember who or what had started it.) If anything, it'd actually added to them. Naruto blamed it on the stress; no one had ever made him want to pull out his hair quite like Sasuke. Oh god… now he couldn't stop thinking about Sasuke pulling his hair as he—
He desperately needed a fresh pair of boxers.
With about as much quiet stealth as an elephant on roller-skates, he clamored down the bunk ladder, stopping and wincing at every bang and creak the steps made before giving up and just tip-toeing down them as fast as possible. He let out a sigh of relief when his feet touched the ground…
And nearly leapt out of his skin when he heard a voice behind him.
"Don't leave," came a weak whisper from the bed.
Once his lungs remembered to breathe again and it'd finally registered who had said that, Naruto furrowed his brow in confusion and turned to face the other boy.
"What? I'll be right ba—"
Resisting the urge to slap his palm against his forehead, Naruto stared down at the boy's closed eyes and the steady rise and fall of his chest. Of course Sasuke would have to be either still asleep or post-lobotomy in order to say something like that. Still, replying to him was almost as bad as answering someone when they were talking to themselves.
But wait, were those—was Sasuke actually crying?
"I'm sorry. Please, come back," Sasuke said, his voice breaking.
He was. Sasuke Uchiha was actually crying. Well, he was still asleep, but still, crying! As tempted as Naruto was to rip through his things until he found his Polaroid for future blackmail, it hurt to see the other boy that upset. He raised his hand; slowly extending it towards Sasuke to stroke his hair and preparing to try and pry more information from Sasuke's sleep talking.
"You're up late."
Naruto froze. Wind groaned through the screen door as a palpable sense of dread filled the cabin. Oh. Shit. He'd been so distracted with Sasuke he hadn't even noticed when his cabin supervisor had gotten up and moved beside him.
"I-I—" Naruto began, his mind too busy panicking to catch himself before he blurted, "I had a dream."
"Alright." Kakashi tossed Naruto a ball of fabric. "Go clean up."
Naruto caught it and stared down at the lump of his clothes in surprise, wondering when and how exactly Kakashi had gotten them out of his bag and why the hell the man didn't start questioning him immediately.
"When did you—but you—don't you need more, um… details?"
He could barely make out the small curve of the man's lips in the shadows of the cabin. "Oh? Of what?"
Naruto felt his mouth drop open. Was he serious? No, no he couldn't have been, otherwise he wouldn't have known to get Naruto a fresh pair of pajamas. Still, no cabin leader in such a strict camp could be that apathetic about a wet dream. Something was amiss. At least, he thought something was. Damnit, this guy was seriously messing with his head!
"Wake up. Someone needs a buddy," Kakashi said as he pushed on the kid with the red cheek tattoos sleeping in the lower bed of the next bunk over with his foot, his hands occupied with being shoved in the pockets of his pajama bottoms.
"Huh? Wha? What time s'it? 'N what stinks?" The brunet yawned as he rolled away from the irritating limb.
"Go with Naruto to the bathroom." He toed the kid again, this time in the face.
"Ah, sorry. You were in my blind spot," the man apologized, even though Naruto knew full well that the man could see better than he let on.
"That's it?" Naruto's mind still wasn't fully grasping what was going on as the other boy sluggishly made his way over to him.
Kakashi scratched at a patch of fresh stubble on his chin, looking thoughtful before adding, "Oh! Hurry back and get some shut eye."
Naruto bristled. "But, but what about my dream! There was sex! And George Washington! And—oof!" His bathroom escort effectively cut off any details about Mr. President's scandalous cameo appearance with a "Dude, shut up!" and an elbow to the solar plexus. That didn't stop Kakashi from getting that goddamn annoying knowing look in his eye though.
Great, now Kakashi probably thought Naruto had a thing for pale guys in powdered wigs.
As they walked out of the cabin, Naruto's bathroom buddy snorted a laugh and mumbled, "Washington? What the hell kind of History class did you take?"
Even though he'd heard the other boy, Naruto's brain was still too stunned and frazzled to process it. He knew he should've been grateful about his cabin leader's reaction, but… something just wasn't adding up.
After finding out about the Bible porn, part of him expected Kakashi to be some creepy youth pastor that would ask Naruto to sit on his lap and tell him all his dirty, dirty dreams. There had been a mischievous twinkle in the man's eye, like he knew more than he let on.
Naruto had a feeling Kakashi was hiding more than just an eye.
The campers marched into the early evening, their shoes making an audible crunch, crunch, crunch on the loose gravel of the makeshift path. Naruto shuffled to catch up with the rest of the stragglers, desperately trying to keep his eyes open.
He let out a massive yawn, wincing as it stretched his injured cheek. After a hectic and nearly sleepless night (thanks to overly paranoid thoughts about his oddball cabin leader) and a long day of therapy and meetings, the last thing he wanted to do was go on some lame hike with a cheesy name to some hidden chapel for more therapy and more meetings.
Of course, it didn't help that the weather was about as sour as his mood.
It was the kind of weather where Naruto felt like if he inhaled deep enough, he'd snort a cloud up his nose. Dark, with the sun heavily veiled under the rumbling grey skies, but the looming shadows from the trees were steadily making everything feel as if the camp had been sucked into a black and white film.
"Over the river and through the woods, to God's house we go," the boy that looked remarkably like Sasuke whispered behind Naruto in a singsong voice as the other campers ahead of him snickered.
The boy walked on ahead, offering Naruto a too wide cat-like grin as he jogged up to the rest of the group. That left Naruto alone with the last person he wanted to be alone with. Sweating nervously, Naruto peeked over at Sasuke to see him deep in thought, unconsciously glaring at the air as if the object of his animosity was about to materialize in front of him.
Naruto looked away, trying to ignore how warm he suddenly felt. It was hard to look at Sasuke the same after what he'd seen last night (not to mention that remarkably strange—and hot—sex dream), but he sure as hell wasn't about to bring it up when there was a chance that other people were conscious and within earshot.
One thing was for sure though: Sasuke looked like he didn't want to be there anymore than Naruto did.
"C'mon, let's get out of here." He grasped Sasuke's hand and shuddered.
Naruto wasn't sure how it was possible for anyone to have chilly hands after walking so long in the fairly warm climate but, yet again, Sasuke managed to surprise him. What was he, a reptile? Naruto bet his shitty circulation had to do with all the cigarettes.
About as quickly as Naruto had grabbed it, Sasuke yanked his hand away and delivered a hefty punch to Naruto's arm.
"Don't touch me so familiarly."
Naruto gaped at him. He didn't know if he should be angry or flat out laugh at that, especially considering how serious Sasuke had sounded. So he settled for somewhere in between with some sort of strangled, chuckling growl that came out sounding more like a choking rooster than a human being.
Sasuke rounded on him. "What was that?"
"My brain… trying to react to you, saying that, to me."
"Good to know you have one."
"Hey bastard, you break it, you buy it."
"I thought that only applied to things that are actually worth something," Sasuke bit out in a tone like a punch to the gut.
Naruto's head snapped back. Usually, even though most of what Sasuke said so far came across as exceedingly arrogant, Naruto was always able to tell that he was teasing in his own little socially retarded way. This time though, it sounded like Sasuke really wanted to hurt Naruto; and damnit, it was working.
But that didn't mean Naruto was about to just lie down and take it.
"Why you…!" Naruto began, balling his hands into fists and preparing to pop the bastard right in his steel-trap of a mouth.
Before any fists could fly someone shoved past Naruto, bumping his shoulder just hard enough to bring him back to reality. Still seething, he twisted around to see the pineapple-haired boy from group therapy sauntering in the direction the rest of the group had went. The boy shot Naruto a warning look.
Letting out a shaky breath, Naruto lowered his fist.
"Fine," he ground out between gritted teeth, "consider yourself uninvited, you dick."
Then he whipped around and stormed off the path, making sure to kick up plenty of pebbles in Sasuke's direction, and headed farther into the woods to take out his aggression on an innocent tree. Preferably a stupid looking one with spiky hair and a pale ass face.
Naruto had been walking for all of five minutes when he heard footsteps behind him.
What was his problem! First he acted all pissy and punched Naruto in the face, and then he tricked Naruto into thinking that maybe he was human after all by crying, and then he practically bit Naruto's head off for absolutely no reason and followed him anyway, even after Naruto had uninvited him!
Maybe he's acting weird because Neji's here. Out of nowhere, his mind began relaying Sasuke talking and laughing with Neji at lunch. Ignoring how irrational he was being, Naruto felt a sudden pang jealousy and used it to fuel the fire.
"Stop following me!" Naruto said, deciding that Sasuke didn't deserve the decency of Naruto turning around to face him. The prick.
Naruto stopped and turned around, glaring at Sasuke as he pulled out his pack of cigarettes and took out his next dose of tobacco.
He lit his cigarette and inhaled deeply, as if filling his lungs with that familiar warmth could take him somewhere else. Smoke tumbled out of his mouth and curled around itself, dreamlike and wispy. He ashed in Naruto's general direction.
"What?" The words seemed to fill the cloud of smoke that passed between Sasuke's lips like a smoggy speech bubble.
"Your voice is gonna be all gross and raspy when you're older. Like that one lunch lady that chain-smokes and doesn't believe in sneeze guards and just lets the ash on the end of her cigarette fall into the casserole. And—and you'll probably look all ugly and gross and crusty like her then, too!" Naruto bit out, knowing how ridiculous he sounded and not caring.
He waited for the comeback, his fists already tightening just in case Sasuke tried to sucker punch him again. No blows came, verbal or otherwise, and Naruto dropped his guard enough to at least relax his shoulders as he began to scrutinize the other boy.
All the hate he'd been gathering to fling at Sasuke came to a screeching halt when he saw just how miserable the other boy looked. It looked like Sasuke hadn't had a restful nights sleep in weeks rather than just one night. That's when it dawned on Naruto:
What if Sasuke's bitterer-than-usual attitude had to do with his dream?
Knowing that the almighty Uchiha wouldn't want to play therapy, Naruto settled for trying to make Sasuke smile. Which, when Naruto really thought about it (which was equally as rare), was still asking a lot from Sasuke.
"Heh, but if you're getting iron lungs you might as well get a voice box to go with it. Who knows, maybe you'll get half off if you buy them at the same time. Oh! And maybe by then they'll have started making some that will play songs you download, like ringtones."
Naruto stiffened his body, moving it in jerky intervals while singing Domo arigato Mr. Roboto in his best robotic voice. Sasuke smothered a smirk and pasted on a glare, making a smooth transition from appearing half-amused to looking like he wanted to light another cigarette just so he could put it out in Naruto's eye.
Sasuke eyed him suspiciously. "Are you on drugs?"
Naruto jerked to a halt, sputtering, "What—no! This is all self-generated! Sort of like photosynthesis, only with crack."
Now Naruto had never been much of a smooth operator, but he at least knew he was better than that. Shit, his face was burning from his cheeks to the tips of his ears! He was actually flustered. Not that he'd ever actually let Sasuke know that, of course.
Naruto would rather eat a batch of urinal cakes than admit that the pretty bastard made him feel like a little kid dizzy on sugar.
Silence fell around them like dead leaves, and it suddenly occurred to Naruto that he had no clue how to communicate normally with Sasuke. Every conversation he'd had with the other boy had someway or another ended with a kiss—either with his lips, or his fist.
Even if he did really like Sasuke (which was hard to say since Naruto often had trouble deciding whether he wanted to be around the guy or if he'd rather tie him up and lock him in a room with Jiraiya for hours worth of lady-part-talk induced torture) where could a relationship like that really go?
Or rather, what was he even looking for? Did he even want a relationship with Sasuke, or was all of this nonsense really just stress relief during a similar major crisis in both of their lives?
Sasuke was interesting, that was for sure, but one glance at the guy sent all of his instincts screaming, "No fucking way! Abort, abort! Danger, danger Will Robinson!"
Naruto licked his chapped lips. He knew they couldn't go on like this forever, but maybe all both of them needed was a little… stress relief. Especially if Sasuke's nightmare had rattled him as much as Naruto's had (all of his nerves felt like they'd been tied up in expert-boy-scout-quality ropes).
Swallowing whatever guilt he still felt from the dream and trying to act nonchalant, even though he was paranoid as shit that someone would find them, he shoved Sasuke into the tree behind him and kissed him hard on the mouth.
Surprisingly, Sasuke grabbed him, reversed their positions, and kissed him back just as fiercely.
It wasn't anywhere near as good as he remembered. It was messy, their noses kept bumping and he was pretty sure if someone were to walk up (knock on wood), it would look like he was actually trying to chip a tooth.
He vaguely remembered someone talking about lip biting being hot, but it was hard to grab Sasuke's bottom lip when his own head was tilted so far to the side that it was practically upside-down.
Just when Naruto was finally beginning to get into it though, Sasuke abruptly stopped and pulled away.
Naruto tried to follow him with his lips, but looked up when Sasuke stopped him by shoving his shoulders back into the ruff tree bark.
"What—" Naruto gasped, trying not to pass out from lack of oxygen, "what's wrong?"
Sasuke looked him in the eye, breathing just as evenly as ever, and announced, "You suck at kissing."
Naruto fumed. "Hey! What the hell, bastard? Like you're any better!"
"Obviously," Sasuke said, actually smirking without the enmity that he'd been showing Naruto all day. Naruto could barely keep the grin off his face. God, he never thought he'd actually miss that bastardly smirk.
Yeah, Naruto thought smugly, obviously I am that good. Guess the bastard's a liar, too.
"Ha! Yeah right! Just because you're a self-proclaimed man-slut doesn't mean you're any better!"
Sasuke gave him a dry look. "Do you listen to yourself when you speak?"
"Of course! Well... sometimes. But still, it's true! I must rule, I mean, how else could I have gotten past that black cloud of yours without gettin' hit by lightening? Hey, and maybe you're the one that sucks. Yeah! And you're just embarrassed that you aren't as good at macking as me, so you're trying to make me think that it's really me that's the problem when it's not me but really you! Um, wait..." Naruto made himself dizzy. He really had to learn how to think before he spoke; it was starting to make him look stupid.
"That answers my question."
Naruto decided to switch taunting tactics. "What if I just don't want your tongue down my throat? Who knows where it's been?" He said in his best 'ew, cooties' voice as he scrunched his nose up in mock-disgust.
"Okay." Sasuke released Naruto's shoulders and began to pull away.
"Eeigh!" Naruto replied eloquently as he scrambled to grab Sasuke's arm and yank him back. "What's your problem?"
"You don't open your mouth."
Naruto could practically feel the steam coming out of his ears as he flailed. "Yeah, well, your mouth is too open! I thought you were gonna try and swallow me whole! Like a python!"
Sasuke shoved Naruto back against the tree. Pressing their bodies together, he delivered a look that made Naruto snap his suddenly dry mouth closed so fast his teeth clicked audibly.
"Just follow my lead," Sasuke said. His face was hovering so close that Naruto could feel Sasuke's breath on his lips.
Their lips met again. As much as Naruto hated to admit it to himself, while still a bit messy, the kiss was much better this time. Instead of waiting for the other to open-wide, they moved their mouths together, sliding them in sync as best they could.
Sasuke pulled back momentarily to whisper, "Breathe through your nose, stupid," before diving back in.
When did Naruto stop breathing? Was he still breathing? Oh God, with Sasuke pressing up against him and kissing him like that, all teeth and tongue, it was hard to think about anything else. Even things that were supposed to be automatic, like, say, his air-supply. Sasuke was a mutant freak for being able to breathe!
They stayed like that for a while, kissing and groping under the awning of the trees and getting more turned-on than they had any right to be on a hike called 'Getting Back on God's Path.'
So when they heard a surprised giggle next to them, they broke apart faster than a group of skittish deer. Naruto unthinkingly turned towards the intruder, hating his trend of forgetting that there was a world outside of him and Sasuke.
Naruto felt like putting his head through a tree when he came face-to-face with the red-faced girl from his therapy group that used to have pink hair.
The girl blushed harder and covered her mouth. "Oh, sorry. Just ignore me, boys!"
Sasuke just gave her his usual watching-paint-dry-is-less-boring-than-you look, shoved his hands in his pockets, turned on his heel, and strode away faster than a hooker on a front street during a police raid.
Traitor! Naruto's mind screamed after Sasuke, along with a few other colorful nicknames, for ditching him while it simultaneously tried to convince Naruto that Sasuke was about as useful as a blistering case of herpes. (Which was easier said than done after a kiss like that. Stupid Sasuke.)
Naruto turned back to the girl, deciding to turn on the old Uzumaki charm even though he was pretty sure that even his toes were blushing at the moment. Puffing out his chest, he strutted over to her while trying to look as cool as possible, even though it came across as more of a limp than a swagger.
"Er, hi?" Naruto squeaked suavely.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare him off. I was only joking. I didn't think he'd react… well, like that," the girl said, looking sincerely apologetic and just a tad disappointed.
"Oh, it wasn't you. He has, erm, Acid Reflux. Yeah! Makes him real gassy," Naruto said, looking especially smug at making Sasuke look bad. He deflated a bit though when he noticed that the girl was staring at him like his head was the gassy one.
"Uh-huh, Acid Reflux. Sure." She sighed. "Listen, I don't mean to be a buzz-kill, but do you want to get caught?"
"But—but we were the last ones—we went off the path! No one else was back here!" Naruto said, wildly gesturing to the empty woods around them.
"You know that if that was really true, then I wouldn't have found you. " Her eyes flickered over to his neck and she made an exasperated noise. "And you're covered in hickeys! Honestly, do all men think with their crotches?"
"Hey! Not all of us are—wait… I'm what?"
The girl reached into her back pocket, jerked out a small mirror compact, and wordlessly shot the reflection at his neck.
"What the—Ahg! I'm going to kill that stinkin' gassy bastard! I bet he did that on purpose!" Naruto whined, pawing at the marks in a fruitless attempt to wipe them off.
He knew Sasuke had sucked on his neck at some point, but he hadn't thought it had been hard enough to leave a freaking hickey. He should have went ahead and dug Naruto a grave while he was at it.
"Maybe I can help," she said, grabbing Naruto's arm and pulling him closer before putting the compact away and rummaging through her other pockets. "Luckily for you, I just borrowed my friend's concealer, and even luckier, it just so happens to be green concealer."
"Green concealer? Do I look sick or somethin'?" He blinked, inspecting his skin in search of a green pigment. Sure, sometimes people looked at Naruto like he was an alien, but he doubted that he had actually sprouted green skin and antennas since he'd last looked in the mirror that morning.
She giggled. "No, it just helps to cover up red spots better. Trust me, I know it sounds weird, but this stuff is a miracle worker when it comes to love bites. Now hold still."
It took every ounce of strength Naruto had not to squirm like a worm on a hook. Man make-up felt awkward. He didn't know how girls, cross dressers, and jaded rock stars were able to stand it. All of his instincts were screaming at him to wipe it off.
"Seriously though," the girl began, jarring Naruto out of his thoughts, "this place has eyes and ears everywhere. This time it was only me, but next time who knows who it might be?"
"Heh, I guess it was kind of stupid to suck face out in the open like that."
"Very stupid," she agreed, Naruto faltering at her tone. Her face warmed slightly though as she gave a soft smile. "But I guess sometimes they do that to you."
Naruto's cheeks suddenly felt like a pair of heat lamps. "Whaddyamean? H-he doesn't do anything to me! Well, I guess he does… but—but not like that. There are definitely no warm and fuzzy, cuddly feelings on this side, oh no. It's not my fault he can't resist me!"
"I'm sure. My name is Sakura, by the way."
"Oh, heh, I'm Naruto Uzumaki!"
"There, all done," Sakura announced as she pulled away and wiped her fingers clean on the underside of her t-shirt.
"Really? Let me see!" Grabbing the compact, he inspected her handy work. "Ah, no way! I can barely see it! You're amazing, Sakura," he said with unabashed awe as he poked and prodded at the now hardly noticeable spot on his neck.
She rewarded him with a resounding smack to the back of his head. "Don't touch it, you idiot, you'll wipe it off!"
"Ow! Hey!" He sniffed and rubbed at the new bump on his head, trying to sooth the hurt before straightening up and offering her a sincere smile. "But, really… thanks. You didn't hafta do that."
"You're welcome. Now here, take this," she said, smiling back and handing him the green stuff and a small bottle of some tan goopy looking liquid Naruto only recognized from casual glances at make-up counters. "The foundation is too dark for me now anyway and it may come in handy—well, later."
A jolt shot down his spine when his hand connected with the tube; his thoughts traveling back to Jiraiya's so-called lesson. Sure, the old fart was a ridiculous pervert… but what if he was right?
What if there really was something wrong with Naruto's masculinity, and what if this only hurt it more?
His grin suddenly felt incredibly strained. It was one thing if she was putting it on him, but for some reason it felt completely different if he was the one doing the make-up.
His grin turned into more of a grimace as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Uh, look, I know I'm gay and all, but I ain't putting on make-up."
Sakura didn't look impressed. "Are you insinuating that straight men don't wear make-up?"
"What? No! It's just… arg!" Naruto threw his hands up it frustration. "It's just weird, okay? Besides, I don't even know how to put it on!"
"It's not rocket science. If some girls that use only twelve percent of their brains can do it, you can too. Now what's the real issue?"
Naruto shifted. Damn this girl was perceptive. "I've already got entire classes that are centered around me being less of a man…" he mumbled, hoping he wouldn't have to elaborate.
There was that soft look again. "It's okay, hiding a hickey doesn't mean you're going to run off and join a drag show. I mean, not that there would be anything wrong with that, of course. Just… think of it as war paint."
"Yeah. War paint," Naruto repeated with a lopsided grin, feeling some of the pressure lift as he stared down at the slender tube of cover-up. "Thanks."
"No problem. Oh, and next time you want to be alone with someone, just tell the counselor you're going to the bathroom. They'll make you take a buddy for that," she said with a secretive smile as she clasped her hands together behind her back and began to stroll away.
"Gotcha," Naruto said, shoving the tube into his back pocket. He paused as her words finally sank in.
"Hey… wait a second—how did you know that? Sakura? Sakura! Hey, wait up!"
Naruto jumped as another loud roar of thunder echoed throughout the woods. He ran with the other campers, one hand clamped against his neck to keep the make-up from running off his hickey as the rain finally began to impatiently rush down.
It was too humid to be refreshing though, like God was sweating on them.
Or pissing on us, Naruto thought sourly as they rushed towards their final destination.
The second of the reflective chapels was nothing like the worship center. Moss and vines had managed to claw their way halfway up sections of the blistered wood and the few high, grim windows that Naruto could see through the rain looked like they were composed entirely of stained glass.
The building had probably once had a large biblical scene painted on it, but all that remained of the past mural was a pair of pained weathered eyes gazing out from under a fading crown of thorns. Eyes that seemed to follow whomever looked upon it wherever they went.
Naruto suppressed a shudder as he broke eye contact with the mural, remembering Sakura's words. Eyes and ears everywhere, huh?
They were all quickly ushered over to the building's one entrance, but the farthest that Naruto was able to get was the small rickety almost-porch. A taut, burly man filled the doorway and a few helpful counselors tried to redirect him.
"I'm sorry Mr. Sannin, but you aren't authorized to be here during this portion of the program," a woman on the other side of the door said.
"Not authorized? Just what the hell are you planning on doing with those kids, anyway?" Jiraiya said, still trying to shove his way through the door. He must have finally bowed to the rules, because his once long hair had been chopped into a short, spiky cut that resembled Naruto's.
"Sir, there's not need for that type of language. What she means is this building is very old and just isn't made to hold any more people. We're already pushing it as it is. You understand, right?" A male counselor explained to the irate teacher, but there was something dangerous about how calmly he said it.
"Of course, of course," Jiraya said, even though the two counselors ended up having to forcefully pull him away from the building while he gave them his best stink eye.
Naruto didn't have time to stop and scratch his head at that scenario though because he was soon being pushed onto floorboards that creaked out songs of generations. If the little building even had power, it was out by the time they arrived.
The warmth from the rows of candles was stifling, but it sent his knees shivering.
Aside from the crucifix at the front of the room and the few old-fashioned pews, the chapel felt more like an army hut than a house of God. The flicking glow of candlelight only seemed to shrink the room further.
It must have been peaceful during the day, but it was eerie in the dark. Naruto felt like the only thing missing was a disfigured man playing an organ in the corner. A stick of a man walked to the front of the room. The shadows from the candles seemed to stretch the man's face into a gruesome mask.
Naruto was too distracted trying to make out the man's features that he missed the counselor announcing his name—something like Adam or Abraham. Another suburban kid with a biblical name.
"—We know quite a few of you haven't been taking this seriously and may have even broken several of our rules already." Naruto gulped, his mind reeling as they locked stares.
He knew. Naruto wasn't sure how he knew, but he knew. Did Sakura tattle on him? No, if she were going to do that from the get-go then she wouldn't have helped him. Kakashi? No, Naruto had already been through that thought loop and decided the cabin leader had just been cutting him some slack.
It was probably just his overactive-imagination again.
"But it's all right." Naruto hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath until the man looked away. "It's hard to pull out of this kind of lifestyle. It's addictive and when you're spirit is weakened, it's easy to give into temptation. We're all only human. After years of living in that kind of lifestyle and toxic environment, sometimes you end up wedging yourself into a groove so deep that only exorcism can pull you out."
An… exorcism? Naruto's brow furrowed to match his confused frown. What? Did people really still do that?
As whispers from the equally baffled campers began echoing throughout the chapel, the man on stage just coolly cleared his throat and waited until the noise died down.
Clearing his throat once more, he continued, "Now, this sort of thing, along with our other exercises, can be extremely personal. So whatever happens during your time here must remain between you and God. Talking about it with anyone besides involved counselors may affect or undo the healing process, and that's a risk we won't let any of you take.
"If we find out you've spoken about your therapy with anyone unauthorized, there will be punishment. It's that serious."
Naruto's blood went glacial as the counselor's speech managed to engender more tense whispers. He dreaded what the man was leading into.
"Excuse me?" The man shot a dark smile at the blonde girl standing next to Sakura that had spoken up.
"Um, yeah, Mr. Preacher Man?" The blonde began with her hands on her hips, her voice as well as her body exuding an aura of yeah-I-don't-think-so as Sakura elbowed her nervously, "I refuse to participate."
Naruto expected the man to get angry at the Preacher Man crack, tell her some nonsense about her being required to stay and maybe even threaten to call her parents, but he was nothing but calm as he simply smiled and answered, "All right then."
He led her over to the side near the other counselors and turned to the campers. "Who else would rather do an alternative activity?"
"I, also, would like to leave," Lee said.
"Yeah, me too," Chouji said as he shifted from foot to foot and eyed the intimidating room nervously.
"Man, get me outta here!" The boy with the red cheek tattoos started to rush forward like he'd just seen a ghost before caught himself, cleared his throat, and corrected himself in an aloof voice, "I mean… yeah, I guess I'm with you guys."
As more than half of the kids were led out of the room, Naruto couldn't help but frown. Not because they left, not because he wanted to leave with them (he was too curious about the whole "exorcism" thing to leave, and besides, Sasuke didn't walk out; he didn't want the bastard to think he was scared or some shit), but because why now?
Why now when they might've been able to say no to the Life Savers, the family meetings, or the False Image Workshop?
Was exorcism where they drew the line? (And if so, where did Naruto draw the line?) Were they just dipping their toe into the water to see what the camp was like first, or was it just because no one had ever tried to speak up before and no one wanted to be the first one to try? Or was it something else entirely—like guilt or obligations—that was keeping them quiet?
"Anybody else?" The counselor said as he motioned to the other counselors at the front of the room to close the door. "Once we start we won't stop."
No one else budged, yet Naruto could feel the tension in the air.
A smile slithered across the man's face as he chuckled at some of the more nervous faces. "Oh come on now, don't look so alarmed; just think of it as powerful group prayer. Keep in mind that the point of exorcism is healing. What we're offering is a clean slate to help begin your relationship with God—and later, a future spouse."
"Okay everybody, let's begin," a petite tan woman drowning in freckles announced as she began passing around the brass bowls filled with healing oil to the other counselors.
At first it seemed harmless enough, just an awkward, intense group prayer.
Everyone reacted to it differently. Some were angry, some were silent, some cried, some looked bored out of their minds, some participated in the prayers, and others fell to their knees, crying as they whispered apologies over and over again.
Like a hawk going after a wounded animal a counselor swooped down, clutching a fallen boy in one hand and a Bible in the other as he screeched about casting 'demons of homosexuality' out. That one swift movement was all it took for the dam to break, and the weight of where they were, what was happening, and why they were doing it hit Naruto so hard it nearly knocked him off his feet.
An exorcism. He felt the bile in his throat before his mind even registered that he was nauseated.
The counselors drifted down the line like underwater swimmers. Naruto was even beginning to feel the weight of the water in his lungs. Heavy. Suffocating. The sound of the rain slapping against the ceiling only seemed to intensify it.
He didn't want to believe that there were demons inside him—but fuck, he could feel them. They weren't the pointy horned little demons that liked to exchange souls for useless things or sit on shoulders and make snarky comments at pretentious miniature angels.
Instead they were all of the negative feelings he couldn't seem to shake: the guilt, grief, fear, anger, and most of all, shame. Personal demons.
He'd swallowed them down, countering them with layers of blinding determination and optimism. But when he was away from everything, alone in the stillness, he swore he could feel them twisting in the pit of his stomach.
Over time he'd learned to accept the fact that he had them (and hey, who didn't have issues?). But he wasn't ready to face them. Not now. Not when he had to keep his cool in front of essentially the entire camp even though he could already feel himself starting to unravel bit by bit.
Not when he was beginning to wonder just how big and horrible they really were if people were willing to go to such extreme measures to extinguish them.
As the counselors doused him with another round of healing oil, he realized he was trembling. His suddenly jellified legs were wobbling like they would buckle any moment under the weight of the cannonball lodged in the pit of his stomach. Locking his limbs, he attempted to gather his composure, but they continued to shake to the point that he feared he would collapse.
Maybe part of him already had.
Somewhere in-between the incoherent shouts from the staff and wails of his fellow campers, he found himself doing something he hadn't done in years: He closed his eyes and began to pray.
God. God. GOD… his mind was stuck on repeat as he tried to scrap up the right words to say, even though that name seemed to have a certain weight attached to it that still felt too heavy to lift.
Um, hey God, it's me, Naruto. Remember me? Big fan. Good job creating the universe and writing a bestseller 'n stuff.
Was he saying a prayer or writing a fan letter? He groaned mentally. Naruto had never been particularly skilled when it came to asking for help, especially from God.
Heh, sorry, I guess I'm a bit rusty at this whole talking-to-you thing. It's been a while. Uh, and well… listen; I'm trying really hard not to be angry with you right now, even though I think you're being a jerk. I don't understand why this is happening, or why it's making me react like this, but I don't want to—I can't break down right now. Not here. Not like this...
Before he could even say 'amen,' the back of a familiarly cold hand ghosted across his fingertips. Chancing a quick glance behind him, he saw Sasuke's memorable spiky black hair and quickly grasped Sasuke's hand, hiding their interlocked fingers behind his thigh.
There was nothing soft or gentle about it. Bones, paling knuckles, and bitter feelings shifted painfully under their fingertips, and the tender skin between each finger stretched and stung. At that moment though, none of it really mattered.
Iruka had said that these negative thoughts were like a poison, but they felt more like quicksand to Naruto. Even though his knees were still knocking together, the pain from the hand crushing his own gave his mind something to focus on—something to keep him from sinking completely.
The room blurred and swayed around him like a feverish illusion. He couldn't tell if minutes or hours had passed when the haunting echoes of prayer began to die down and all that was left was the thick silence after a battle.
Shaken but still standing, Naruto finally released his grip on Sasuke's hand.
As they scurried out of the church, sprinting as if they ran fast enough they would be able to dart between the raindrops, Naruto stooped and looked up at the eyes at the front of the chapel. He knew it was ridiculous, but the way that the rain slide off the roof and onto the side of the building…
Naruto could have sworn they were crying.
A/N: So the question on everyone's lips/typing fingers is probably, "HAY BIKE, WHERE YA BEEN?" (Either that or, "WTF is this story and why is it on my alerts/favorites?"). Well I've been everywhere, really. Aside from my circus of a personal life, this chapter undoubtedly took me the longest to write because of all of the research involved. You wouldn't believe how long it took me to find descriptions and videos about what conversion therapy exorcisms look/feel like and how many different variations there are of them. WHEW. But it's done, and now I can't wait to continue this baby since it's obviously starting to get more interesting now. :D
Also, just know I don't plan on discontinuing this story, even if my updates sometimes come sporadically. If life gets too crazy and I DO actually end up stopping it, I promise to let everyone know. So try not to panic if I go A.W.O.L. again.