Naru: Just get on with it.
Mekon-chan: … In my defense, school was hard and I was without internet for a while.
Shika: We don't care. Just get on with it.
Mekon-chan: Okay, Mr. Pushy. :[
**Just FYI, I went back and edited all the past chapters to better quality. I wanted them to match my now improved-over-the-years writing skills. You're welcome. ;)
I lifted her into my arms so she settled comfortably there, her head falling limply against my chest. With trembling hands, I put two fingers to her neck, fearful of the possibility that there would be no thrumming of blood under my fingertips.
"She's still alive…" I announced in relief. The slight, slow pulsing that lay under her skin was so soft that I was barely able to feel it, but it was there none the less.
Neji nodded, having already noticed her heart's continued beating with his Byakugan. He kneeled beside me, studying her chakra pathways intently with his all-seeing eyes. After a moment his eyes widened the slightest bit, but it was enough to cause me alarm.
"What is it?" I asked, stroking Naru's blond fringe away from her face mindlessly. Her cheeks had lost their familiar healthy flush, and I wouldn't let myself even think that her temperature was dropping.
"Her chakra has patches of red in it," He gave me a short, significant look, "But it looks like it's not working to heal her."
I dropped my eyes to Naru again, smothering my panic behind a forced calm. I couldn't see any scratches, cuts or bruises on her anywhere.
I touched her cheek softly, searching for a reaction. "Naru, wake up!"
She didn't move, not even the slightest twitch.
My thoughts whirled frantically, trying to find a reason why she would be so unresponsive. She didn't look injured at all, and Neji would have said something if it was some sort of internal damage.
"Wait, there!" Neji said urgently, "There's a fluid being pumped to her brain. The red chakra isn't able to affect it."
"Pumped from where?"
The Hyuuga followed the trail from her brain cavity down her neck and finally ending at her arm. I lifted her arm and gently turned it towards Neji and I. My breath caught momentarily at the sight of a sloppy puncture hole. There was a blue residue surrounding it, but I dared not touch it.
I replaced her arm to her side, my hands shaking once more.
"No time for an antidote…" I muttered despairingly, "It's already in her bloodstream…"
However, my eyebrows scrunched together in confusion, "But it's not traveling throughout her body…
"Is it?" I turned to Neji in confirmation.
He shook his head, "No, it's almost a straight path from her arm to her head. Odd…"
I looked down into her face, wishing I could see her smiling blue eyes. It was hard to concentrate with her like this.
"Yes… Odd way for a poison to act… Unless…
"Unless!" I exclaimed, "It may not be a poison after all. There have been rumors of an injection that traps the mind specifically. It is untested, and little is known about it… But there is still hope…"
There was still hope.
"What do we do then?" Neji asked, not taking his eyes off Naru's limp form, "You said it was untested."
"Then we will have to test it," I said grimly.
I sat huddled in apon myself. I wished there was a corner to this place so I could reside there, but I could not find an up or down, let alone walls.
It was deadly silent, the only sound being my shallow breathing.
I was alone here.
I suddenly wanted to yell and scream, something, anything, to break the torturing silence. I wanted to light something on fire, just so there would be a flicker of light to banish this unnatural dark.
But my anger quickly faded away, leaving only sadness and loneliness behind again.
"Where are you, Shikamaru…?"
I thought hard about what to do. Looking at Naru's emotionless, pale face didn't help, but I held her closer to my chest none the less.
The injection hovered around her brain, likely incasing her mind. It was targeted specifically for that point. If I had to guess, Itachi would have been the likeliest to have invented it.
Just thinking the man's name ignited rage in me. He did this. He caused this.
Then, I froze. Itachi. Uchiha Itachi. Master of Genjutsu.
"That's it! If my hunch is correct and Itachi invented this serum, it should be Genjutsu based."
Neji glanced sharply at me, "Are you sure?"
I nodded firmly, "Yes."
Neji gave me a calculating look, but didn't question further, "If that is true, she has to stop her chakra flow. I doubt simply forcing our chakra into her system would break the 'Genjutsu'."
I nodded in agreement. I wished it could be that simple, but it was likely we would have to try this the hard way.
"But how will we be able to reach her…?" I asked myself quietly, frustrated. I brushed my hand across her whiskered cheek again.
The ceiling shook with the force of impact. I clutched Naru tighter, looking to Neji for an explanation.
"The tunnels brought us under the field where the others are fighting," He explained tensely.
I nodded, but did not relax my grip on my beloved.
I looked down at her, concern and a bit of relief surely washing over my face. But at the sight of her new expression, the relief was swiped away and frustration and panic again taking its place.
The blonde Uzumaki's fists had clenched, taking a tight hold onto the closest thing to them: my vest. Her brow crinkled and her shoulders hunched, but what concerned me most was the gritting of her teeth and the look of pain on her face.
"Naru!" I yelled, not caring in the slightest any more how out of character I was acting, "It's time to wake up now, please!"
The ceiling shook overhead once more, but I paid no attention. Her expression cleared, if only for a millisecond, before resuming the pained look. Neji sucked in a sharp breath, leaning in a bit closer.
"Talk to her again," He commanded sharply, "She might be able to hear you."
I barely spared him a fleeting glance.
"Naru, Naru! Can you hear me?" I shook her shoulder, prying one of her hands from my vest to hold in my own "Troublesome girl, squeeze my hand if you can hear me!"
I held my breath hopefully, waiting as she seemed to struggle with herself.
Then, only slightly, the delicate hand clutched in my own constricted.
The anger and frustration and sadness were all gone. Even the loneliness had vanished in the face of this.
Pain. Pain so much like I had endured before this darkness. How long had it been since then? Days, minutes, seconds? I couldn't understand time anymore.
I wanted to scream badly. To kick and yell and pull at my hair…
But I couldn't. Not here.
But most of all: I wanted my Shika to be here.
He always knew what to say when I was upset, or what I needed when I was stressed. He always knew when I needed him to just be there.
But he wasn't here now.
I jumped at the sound of my name being shouted. It cut through the silence like a kunai, making me freeze and tense. The pain seemed to take a back seat as my name echoed eerily into silence once more.
What the heck was that?
"It's time to wake up now, please!"
There was a hint more desperation in his- for it was a man -voice as he shouted once more.
Who was that?
I gasped as a new, fresh wall of pain hit me. I couldn't concentrate correctly on the voice. I wanted to hear it again. It was so familiar, and comforting.
"Naru, Naru! Can you hear me?"
The pain stopped as the man's voice drifted into nothingness again. I stood up, almost wishing I could chase after the sound.
"Yes! I can hear you!" I yelled into the darkness. But the noise I made seemed to halt in the air in front of me, refusing to go any farther.
"Troublesome girl, squeeze my hand if you can hear me!"
Troublesome… Troublesome… Troublesome…
I almost collapsed with the combination of pain and relief. He was there! He came for me!
Then, the second part of his sentence computed. Squeeze his hand?
I concentrated with all my might, trying to find where my physical body was.
Squeeze his hand… Squeeze his hand…
"Oh, thank goodness…" I heard him say, relief evident in his voice.
I opened my eyes to the black abyss again. Had I done it?
"It's going to be okay," He said next, "You're going to be okay, Naru."
I heard a small, strangled and smothered half-sob. My heart ached. I wanted to see him. I had been in this place much too long.
"Naru, it's very important that you cut off your chakra," Shikamaru explained, struggling to remain in control of himself, "It should get you out of there. Can you do that?"
I opened my mouth to respond, then closed it again, knowing he couldn't hear me.
I concentrated again, searching for my physical body. But it was more difficult this time. Every second longer I searched, the more pain loaded on my consciousness. I caught a glimpse of my chakra network before I was drawn to my knees.
"I-I can't…" I whimpered, "I can't do it, Shika…"
"I know it hurts…" I heard him whisper distantly, "But I need you to come back to me…"
I knew he hadn't heard me, but had rather seen my pain, had felt it.
I pushed past the barriers with all my might, ignoring the waves of agony. I focused on seeing Shikamaru's face again. Just a bit closer…
Like I had flipped a switch, I shut down my chakra pathways momentarily, turning off the waves of pain at the same time. The only difference was my chakra flooding back, while the stinging didn't.
I gasped for air as all sounds rushed back into my ears. I felt my physical body again, and most of all I felt the warm, familiar man clutching me close to him for dear life.
"Naru… My Naru…"
I creaked open my eyes as he pulled back to look me in the face, momentarily being blinded by the light.
He was looking at me with such concern, such relief. His eyes were slightly reddened, and he looked exhausted.
I smiled slightly at him, "Hey, handsome."
He gave a chocked half-laugh, sending me his familiar lazy smile. I grinned brightly in response.
"Hey, beautiful…" He responded, placing a brief, but sweet kiss on my lips, "I think it's time to go home."
I sighed contentedly and closed my eyes as he stood, cradling me in his arms, "Yeah, I think so, dattebayo…"
Shika and Naru: …
Mekon-chan: I'm rather sad now.
Shika: Why? I think it was a good ending.
Mekon-chan: Yes, I feel rather proud of it… But *sob* now my first multi-chapter fic is over!
Naru: *Cries with Mekon-chan*
Shika: *Sighs, but is secretly sad too*
Mekon-chan: Goodbye everybody! I had fun with this, and thank you all for staying with me! Remember: STAY YOUTHFUL!