Author's Note: Second chapter, finally. Thanks for all the reviews - I appreciate them a lot.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Chapter 2 – The Storm
After dinner I met Temari, the woman who threatened Naruto to stay away from me, or so he claimed. She and a woman named Tenten were the only female crewmembers aboard. While Temari served as the navigator, a brilliant reader of the winds, Tenten was something of an expert in weaponry, which I found surprising. They were two women performing tasks that had always been attributed to men – what courage and determination both had.
While not trained in any type of medical arts, Temari had been dubbed my "nurse" of sorts, and she was currently stabbing her finger at my eye to see if it was healing.
"Uh, you know it doesn't heal faster when you put pressure on it like that," I told her, my tone dry.
Her eyes snapped to mine. "Are you sure?"
She eyed me speculatively and then shrugged. "If you say so. Naruto said you were a trained medic, so I'll take your word for it." She stared at me for a moment, and I shifted uncomfortably. She was so intense; it almost felt like her eyes could see straight through me. "I apologize if my husband startled you."
I frowned. The only male I had seen on the ship other than Naruto was Konohomaru, and I was pretty sure she wasn't married to an eleven year old. I couldn't explain the sudden, painful tightening of my stomach when I asked, "Wh-who are you talking about?"
She leaned back into her chair. "Shikamaru. I left him in the room to look after you while I went to stretch my legs for a moment. I hate sitting still for too long; it makes me very tense. In hindsight, I should have remembered to at least put a nightgown on you before I left him in there with you."
My brow quirked in response.
A smile ghosted her lips. "Oh, don't worry about him staring. It's troublesome enough for him to be involved with one woman, so the chance of him even looking at you for more than a minute is beyond remote. He probably just sat there going over strategies for chess."
My stomach had unclenched when she;d uttered the unfamiliar name, and I didn't analyze why her not being married to Naruto was such an overwhelming relief.
"I had to remove your clothes the night before when Naruto brought you onto the ship from that ridiculous bar fight. They were stained with ale and beer and reeked like nothing I've ever smelt before." She scrunched her nose. "I tossed them overboard, so you'll have to borrow something from me or Tenten."
"…at least there were only three men up on deck when you ran out there naked. It wasn't the whole crew."
My eyes widened and I choked.
"Naruto was on you so fast I'm not sure anyone even got a good look." Temari glanced at me and frowned. "Are you okay? You look a little…red."
It felt like my face was about to burn off from the embarrassment. At the time, I could have cared less that I was naked – escape was more important than any sort of vanity. However, now that I knew I was in friendly hands, mortification enveloped me, and I felt like sinking into the floorboards.
"You said Naruto was there?"
I buried my head into my hands and groaned. "What horrible luck."
I swear I heard Temari chuckle softly, but when I looked up, her expression was schooled into one of seriousness. The humiliation felt more acute then, and I suddenly changed the subject to give myself more time to cope with the horrible fact that I had waltzed about the ship naked.
"Where…exactly are we heading?"
"Port Lostrao. It's about 50 kilometers down the coast from the port we picked you up from. Before he had to jump in and rescue you, Naruto said he overheard two drunken morons say something about The Black Snake re-supplying there within the next few days."
I felt like rolling my eyes. Of course when I needed information I had to shake my butt and bat my eyes. All Naruto had to do was stand against the wall and pretend to be drunk. It wasn't fair.
I sighed. "Hopefully they weren't just blabbing false information they were fed. I can't tell you how many dead ends I've encountered over the last few years."
One side of Temari's mouth quirked. "Naruto said the same." She was silent for a moment before saying, "How long have you two known each other?"
"It seems like forever."
As if on queue, the door burst open and Naruto stumbled in, a tray of food supported by one arm and a pitcher of water held by the opposite hand. His gaze darted to Temari and a wide smile split his face. "Ah, Temari. Good morning."
"It's evening, actually. Has been for a while," she replied dryly.
"Yes, yes. That's exactly what I said." He glanced down at the tray he held with his arm, and set it down on the table. "Want anything?"
Temari stood and shook her head. "I've already eaten. Good night, Captain."
Naruto had shoved half of a sandwich into his mouth so his reply came out an incoherent muffle. Temari shut the door quietly behind her.
I got up from the bed and padded over to Naruto's heaping tray of food. "Trying to feed a small army?"
He swallowed and swilled water from the pitcher. I shoved a glass into his chest as he replied, "You always did steal my food, so I figured I'd bring extra."
I sent him a withering glare as I snagged a half-sandwich and took a bite. It wasn't until I began to chew and the wonderful flavor of the bread and meat hit my tongue that I realized exactly how hungry I was. I savored that sandwich. Naruto was already on his second when I reached for the other half of mine on the tray.
"So will I be allowed on deck tomorrow? Being cooped up in your cabin for a day is about as boring as watching paint dry."
He put down his water glass and pursed his lips. "Feeling dizzy?"
"Not since yesterday."
"Still have a headache?"
"Not so much."
"Eye still hurt?"
I raised a brow. "The pain doesn't go away instantly." I motioned to the bruise on his left cheek – my present from yesterday. "How does that feel?"
"I feel nothing," he told with a quick grin and then took a large bite from his third sandwich.
"Don't make me hurt you again."
He sighed dramatically. "Fine. However, the second you feel like you might tumble overboard or faint into a heap on the deck, come back here."
I felt like stomping on his foot. Hard. "You make me sound like I'm about to fall to pieces any moment."
"Where did you go last night, anyways? This is your cabin, right? Did you sleep on deck?"
"I stole someone's hammock while they were on shift. I figured you'd prefer to sleep alone."
"Where are you staying tonight?" I asked, suddenly curious.
He looked at me innocently. "Here. I have a hammock over in the far corner, so you can still take my bed. I promise not to snore too loudly, and I absolutely do not sleep walk anymore, so you don't have to worry about me drifting about the room restlessly in the middle of the night."
I laughed. "I completely forgot you used to do that. Remember the time you cuddled up with Sasuke, and he gave you a black eye that lasted for two weeks?"
The look he gave me was priceless, and I punched him lightly on the shoulder. "Don't look so scandalized. I believe you when you say you've stopped. As long as you can stay quiet and keep cuddling off the agenda, I foresee no problems."
We were silent for a moment as we both ate. I leaned back against the table and after I swallowed, I said, "So what are you?"
Naruto stared blankly at me. "Uh…human?"
"No, stupid. I meant so what does your ship do? Who employs you or whatever."
"I'm a privateer," he answered succinctly.
I had to smile at that. "So then you have a permit from the king to be a pirate?"
He scoffed. "I am not a pirate. I have a conscious."
"So all privateers are fair, reasonable sailors."
"Didn't say that," he said with his mouth full.
I elbowed him in the stomach, and he almost choked. "Have some manners."
He merely rubbed a hand over his belly and then reached for his water glass. "I've been given permission by the king to pursue The Black Snake and if the opportunity arises, I can take him out. Once and for all."
I watched as he took a long swill of water. "How did you get him to give you whatever you wanted?"
"I convinced him that it would be better to hunt Orochimaru down rather than wait on the sidelines and wait for the pirate to make a move that could be deadly for a lot of people." Naruto sighed. "I've been less than successful so far. However, now that I've found you, we can both put our heads together and try to figure out this puzzle."
I watched him as he finished off his final sandwich. When he was done, he ran a hand absently through his hair, and said, "I have to make a final round before turning in, so don't be alarmed when I return in an hour or so."
He laid a hand on my shoulder and then left.
Later that night as I lay in bed, listening to gentle sway of the waves outside the ship, my lips curved into a slow smile when he stepped quietly back in the room. He tried to move silently through the room keeping any disruptions to a minimum, but with the messiness of the cabin, it was hard to walk more than ten feet without tripping over something. He only stumbled twice and cursed once.
When he was in the opposite corner where the hammock hung, I heard him remove some clothing, and then sink onto the hanging ropes. Within three minutes, the sound of his light snores joined the soft crash of the waves and surprisingly, combined, the two together were a wonderful lullaby.
The previous few occasions that I had been on a ship, I had never really taken the time to admire the beauty of the ocean. This time, however, it was hard to keep my eyes away from the waves, especially when I tried to imagine the ocean from Naruto's point of view. His enthusiasm was unavoidable, and it was starting to run off on me.
"So when do you think we'll arrive at Port Lostrao?" I asked my friend as I leaned against the railing of the ship's upper deck.
My gaze slid from the water to him. His eyes were locked on the sailor adjusting the rigging high on the ship's sails.
It took him a moment before he tore his gaze away to look at me. "A few days, no more. Hopefully, the wind will keep strong and we'll be able to keep at this strong pace."
The heavy wind that he spoke of was rough and just then I had to tuck an errand strand of hair behind my ear to keep it from flying in my eyes. Naruto seemed to enjoy the way the wind played against him, pressing his shirt against his skin and forcefully tossing his blond hair about.
He eyed me for a second, and catching my train of thought, he grinned. "It feels fantastic, eh?"
My lips curved sardonically. "Sure, if you like that kind of thing."
As he tilted his head to side slightly, he reached out a hand and poked at my short pink locks, his expression losing some of his amusement. "When'd you cut your hair?"
Self-consciously, I reached up to touch a hand to my shoulder-length hair. "A year ago."
"I almost didn't recognize you at the bar, what with that barmaid costume, and your new hair. My contact told me that a pink-haired girl had been spotted in the area." He raised an eyebrow. "Thank goodness you can't change the color. Same old pink. I might have had even more trouble then," he said with a quick, easy smile.
I sighed and reached over to grab the red bandana sticking out of the breast-pocket of Naruto's shirt. He watched as I folded it into a neat triangle and then tied it around my head to partially conceal and restrain my hair.
"I have more of those if you end up losing that one," he told me as he leaned his side against the railing.
"Why do think I'll lose it?"
"I don't. At least not on purpose." He ran an absent hand through his wind-swept hair. "But in case you fall overboard, seeing as how you've still not acquired your sea legs, and you're sporting a black eye the size of the ship, you never know what might happen. And, uh, don't lean too far over the railing."
I stomped on his foot as hard as I could and felt great satisfaction when he grimaced. "I am not a weak idiot, you…idiot," I finished lamely, hating the blush that climbed up my cheeks at the resulting smile on Naruto's face.
"I'm just kidding. You look sturdy enough. Though you could eat some more. If this wind got any stronger you might not be able to stand up."
"Says the man who wolfed down all the food before I even finished one sandwich. How am I supposed to eat more when you devour it all?"
"We'll just get Cook to make more."
"So you can eat even more? How about you just not eat as much and conserve supplies. I bet you guys go through food like lightning."
The resulting look on Naruto's face told me he'd rather climb up the rigging naked in freezing weather before sacrificing his daily feast.
"You're such a baby."
"I need my strength."
I rolled by eyes at him and turned back to the water. The sun was high up in the sky, and the cloud cover at the moment was minimal allowing the sunlight to glint off the waves.
"I was thinking," Naruto began with uncharacteristic hesitancy, "would you like to be the ship's medic? Our last doctor signed off a few ports ago, and I'm sorely in need of someone to patch up the crew."
I slid a sly glance to him. "Are you asking me to a member of your crew? Permanently?"
"Of course. I can't have you wandering about getting into trouble without me. We used to be a team."
I studied him for a moment, and what I felt then was astonishing. I hadn't realized how much I missed belonging to place, and connected to people who were important to me. I had lost touch with my roots, but here with Naruto I could reestablish not only our friendship, but start a new chapter in a life that only a few days ago had been a bleak, bottomless hope. Naruto was giving me a new beginning.
The smile that I gave him was one from deep within me, and I could tell it caught him off guard. "I think I can do that. I can be your medic. Are there any perks, though?"
He squinted as if deep in thought. "Your own room?"
"Which one? Where?"
"The unused one at the end of the lower deck's hall. That room you woke up and ran away from."
"Ah, of course." I crossed my arms over my chest. "I accept!"
The smile that spread over his lips was slow and almost lazy.
We were both trapped then – eyes locked on each other, staring and staring. Something almost intimate passed between us, but I was so wrapped up in the new feeling of belonging that I could only smile at him, my heart beginning to race unexpectedly. The amusement in Naruto's gaze almost seemed like a cover for something else – something deeper that I couldn't quite make out. His expression shifted the smallest amount, and then he broke his gaze away from my probing one, severing our wordless exchange. I felt immediately bereft for some reason, and I started to ask him what was on his mind, but was interrupted by the second woman on Naruto's crew.
"Captain, Lee's spotted a building storm to the south of us."
Naruto's gaze went immediately to Tenten. Without saying anything, he moved to the south side of the upper deck and looked out at the sky. I was amazed at how Temari appeared almost magically at his side, her eyes also riveted to the burgeoning, black clouds that I swore hadn't been there minutes ago.
Naruto sparred Temari a quick glance before returning his eyes to the sky. "Do you think the wind's strong enough to keep us ahead or will it overcome us?"
Temari was silent for a moment, her study of the black mass intent. "It's too hard to tell definitively. If we can manage to stay ahead of it and not lose ground to it within the next fifteen minutes give or take a few, I'd say our chances are good in outrunning it."
Naruto nodded. "We'll prepare for the worst."
The crew had slowly stopped their work, their gazes turning to Naruto as he formulated his plan. When he spoke, his voice was strong and it carried far.
"Everyone secure any lose materials and ready yourself for a possible storm. We've got a little while before it could affect us, but I want everyone prepared. No excuses. Let's go!"
There was a scurry of action on deck, and I watched in amazement as the crew moved about the ship, taking on their tasks with excellent proficiency. Naruto came up next to me and I tensed, inherently knowing what he was going to tell me to do.
"No," I told him quickly before he could even utter a word. "I will not hide in your cabin."
"How are you supposed to help people if you're dead?"
"Why do you automatically think I'm going to die?" My lips quirked smugly and I crossed my arms over my chest. "Last I heard, you're the one who had trouble staying on a ship during a storm."
"The whole ship capsized because of a tidal wave. I had to abandon or I really would have drowned."
"You still ended up in the water."
"And I lived because I know how to swim."
My eyes widened. "Well, so can I!"
The look he gave me made me burn with anger.
"You can barely manage to stay above the water in the best of times," he told me.
"Well, that was years ago. I've had time to…well, practice since then a little bit."
I could tell just by looking at him he was trying to smother his amusement, his lips twitching ever so slightly. "In between leaving home, scouring the countryside, and fending for yourself, you managed to fit swimming lessons in?"
"I'm not running to your cabin and hiding out."
Thirty minutes later, though, I was eating my words as I stood in the room Naruto had just said was mine, clutching the bed as the ship rocked violently to the left and then whipped almost instantaneously to the right.
The storm had moved faster than even Temari had anticipated and swooped down upon the ship like a sinister demon. A piece of the rigging had fallen from high above on the ship, crashing down onto the deck with considerable force, taking a sailor named Kiba with it. His leg has suffered a clean break and , thankfully, hadn't shattered. Even I couldn't piece together a shattered bone.
My new cabin was now doubling as an infirmary. Kiba lay on the bed, his face a mask of pain, sweat running down his temples. He moaned low in his throat as the ship tilted, making him roll into the high wooden side of the bed. The thin wood kept him from tumbling from the bed and onto the floor, and further exacerbating his injury. My hands gripped the edge of that wood, and I fell to my knees as the ship abruptly jerked.
"I'm going to have to this as quickly as possible," I gasped out as I pulled myself to my feet, "I know this may sound like a ridiculous request in a situation like this, but I need you to hold still as much as you can."
He squeezed his eyes shut and moaned.
"If I don't splint your leg correctly, it will heal improperly."
"I understand," he replied through tight lips.
I smoothed my hands down the skin on either side of his left calf, my touch diagnosing, yet soft. With quick pressure, I righted his leg and tried to ignore Kiba's pained choke. With the violent shuddering of the ship working against me, I gritted my teeth as I pressed the two slim pieces of wood against either side of Kiba's lower leg and then wrapped rope rapidly around them, my movements as controlled and efficient as I could make them.
I tied the rope firmly and checked the stability of the splint. Satisfied that it would hold, I turned my gaze to my patient's face.
He stared back at me, some relief present in his eyes. "Done?"
"For now." I sighed. "There isn't any morphine on the ship, so I don't have anything to deaden the pain."
The ship suddenly pitched forward fiercely, and I gritted my teeth as my grip tightened on the side of the bed. I barely managed to keep my footing.
"I expected as much," Kiba muttered softly, his eyes closed. "Even with the old Doc, we never had enough medical supplies."
My eyes hardened. "Well, that will most surely change."
Kiba cracked open one eye and somehow found the energy to smile.
"Don't be angry with the Captain. He has a hard enough time getting us stocked with the proper amount of food. That why Neji's his second in command. He at least helps circumvent any of Captain's shortcomings."
"I'm still giving Naruto a piece of my mind," I replied, my lips set in a grim line.
If he forgot, then at least this Neji should have at least remembered to stock medical supplies."
If anything, Kiba's smile widened. "You forget. Our time at port was cut short because of your rescue. The second Captain got you on board, we weighed anchor and left in the dead of night."
I humped, mildly appeased. "He's still reckless."
Kiba swallowed and closed his eyes once more. "Can't argue with that."
I watched him as he braced himself, his arms tensed as the ship rocked in an exaggerated swing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. His face, deathly pale, was as pulled together as he could manage though the fact that he was in immense pain was evident on the tightness of his mouth.
Talking to him about how stupid Naruto was wasn't helping him in the least. I sighed, slid down to the floor and leaned my weight against the bed, my hands still firmly attached to it – my anchor.
"Just try to rest," I told him.
I thought I heard him snort under his breath, but he murmured, "I'll try."
I sat there on the floor for a while, losing myself in the harsh roll of the ship on the enraged waves. Thankfully, the shelves were barren so no loose belongings rolled back and forth across the floor of the room, following the ship's movements. I had never experienced a storm on a ship before, and it seemed almost anticlimactic to be holed up in a room, closeted from immediate danger, knowing that everyone else on deck was facing brutal wind, pelting rain, and vicious waves. I closed my eyes and imagined Naruto moving about the deck, struggling against the weather as he tried to get the crew and the ship through the storm safely.
My heart thumped heavily in my chest and I clenched my teeth. There could be more injured people vainly fighting the storm, falling, and losing themselves to the relentless pounding of the waves.
My eyes snapped open and I darted a quick glance to Kiba. His eyes were still closed and his breath came in short, rapid bursts.
His eyes opened and shifted to me.
"I have to see if anyone else needs medical attention."
The corner of his mouth quirked. "What are you waiting for?"
"I'll be back."
"I promise not to move," he quipped before his expression sobered, and he said, "Good luck."
He watched as I stood, and then moved as steadily as possible to the doorway.
The second I opened the door, the wind hit me with such force it shoved me backwards into the doorjamb and slung the door back, slamming it back into the wall of the hall. I groped for the doorknob and gritted my teeth as I struggled to close the door again. I held my breath as I leaned my whole weight against the heavy door, and exhaled with relief when I successfully secured it. But this was the least of my worries.
Water poured down the steps about ten feet away from me, washing down the hall and then sloshing back forward to those same steps as the ship bucked. My hands grabbed the railing that ran the length of the hallway, and I used it as a lifeline as I struggled to the steps. When I reached the steps, I could feel the rain stabbing down, pelting my face and body with great force.
The steps were tricky. I almost had to crawl up them to prevent myself from falling down. The wood was incredibly slick and my grip on the railing was getting weaker and weaker as I neared my destination.
My breath caught when I reached the top. It was a blind chaos, worse than what I could have even imagined. The rain was such a thick sheet, it was almost impossible to see even several feet in front of me. Within seconds, I completely soaked to the skin. It felt like I was being stuck by thousands of little needles, and the sensation was even more pronounced on the bare skin of my face and arms.
I gasped against the onslaught and had to force myself to concentrate, to squint against the unrelenting downpour and find Naruto. I knew that if anyone was injured or incapacitated, he would know – somehow he just would.
But most importantly, I had to see him with my own eyes, see that he was okay and banish this irrational, yet encompassing fear that gripped me. The unrelenting nervousness churning in my belly was too powerful to suppress, and I could feel the slow panic building in me.
I sucked in a deep breath, trying to suppress those feelings, hide them, smother them. They would hinder me, not help - I had no time for such feelings. I needed to don a mask of indifference and wall away my illogical dread.
I needed to relax, but the mere thought of trying to relax seemed ridiculous as I watched a wave spill over the railing and crash across the deck of the ship. I swallowed and closed my eyes as I attempted to steady my unraveling nerves.
The roar of the storm wrapped around me, and I couldn't help myself as I shuddered. I sucked in a deep, steadying breath and leaned back against the wall, closing in on myself. I willed away the irrational fear, the unsteady shiver of my body, and the thread of uncertainty that gripped me so firmly. I clenched my hands tightly, focusing on the physical instead of the mental, concentrating on the way that fingernails cut into the skin of my palms. It seemed to help, slowly pulling my mind outwards, allowing me to focus on the task at hand.
I opened my eyes and instead of feeling terrified by the weather's rage, I looked past the blistering wind and curtain of rain, hunting for him.
I took a step forward, then another, and another. Slowly, steadily, I made my way away from that wall. I kept my eyes glued to a certain post just a few feet away from me, and told myself to make it there. If I just could make it that spot, I would be alright. When I reached that spot, then I'd think about what to do next.
However, the storm had a different idea.
A particularly brutal sweep of wind hit the side of the ship with such force it caused it to shudder and pitch abruptly to the side. Without anything to hold onto or grab for balance, I was thrown onto the deck so hard I saw spots swim before my gaze. Gasping for breath, I tried to recover, to steady myself as the ship dipped the opposite way, causing me to slid across the deck. I dug my fingernails into the wood, but couldn't find a good hold. I clenched my teeth so hard that it hurt, and grappled for anything to latch onto and halt my steady slip toward the railing of the ship.
And then suddenly something strong grabbed my wrist and yanked so hard it felt like my arm should have been dislocated. I cried out in a mixture of surprise and shock as I slammed into a chest so warm and solid that I instinctively gripped for balance. He moved as quickly as possible, pulling me and half carrying me away. At that point I was so disoriented, I couldn't recognize up, down, left or right.
I buried my face in the muscle of the man's shoulder and didn't realize until I felt his hands on my face, touching my cheeks, lifting my chin, running across my brow that the rain wasn't slicing into me anymore, and the wind wasn't screaming around my body, tearing at my clothes. The stillness was eerie when I could still hear the furious roar of the beast.
My gaze lifted and I stared straight into Naruto's eyes. He looked concerned, angry, relieved, and pleased all rolled into one. He was breathing heavily, his body completely soaked – his clothes plastered to his body, and his hair dripping rivulets of water.
"Are you okay?" he asked, his voice hoarse from yelling over the storm at his men.
"Y-yes," I said with an involuntary shiver. "I wanted to see if anyone was hurt, or if they n-needed any he-help."
His hand stilled on my cheek, and I automatically leaned against the support.
"You were supposed to stay in the cabin." His tone was slightly accusatory.
I snorted, relieved to feel the shudders subsiding, giving way to a peculiar warmth that originated from the place Naruto's hand rested.
"I'm not going to sit idly by while something of this magnitude could be taking lives."
While his lips remained in a straight line, I swore a smile curved in the bright blue of his eyes. "For future reference, your patients will be brought to you as soon as possible. Do you think I'd just let them wriggle on the deck?"
"You have so much to worry about, one less thing – at least I thought – would help."
I watched as he took a step back, moving to the steps that water still gushed down, leaving me standing in the middle of the hallway.
"You're a new recruit. New recruits don't belong topside."
"That's a lame excuse."
His lips curved.
I started toward him, fully intending to go back up those stairs. His leaned to the side, placing a hand on the wall and barring me from the storm. He looked amused when his eyes met mine and held. "Are you trying to get me killed?"
Affronted, I glared at him. "Of course not!"
"You have no idea how to handle that wind, and if you step one foot on deck again, you'll just slip right toward that railing."
I hated to admit that he was right. His eyes told me he knew exactly what I was thinking, and it pleased him immensely.
"You never had strong sea legs," he murmured.
"That was a tiny dinghy you had a kid, not a ship. One flip of a wave would toss the thing around!"
He leaned forward, and I could suddenly feel the heat of his breath. I was mortified to feel heat steal up neck and settle on my cheeks, staining them a light red. I automatically took several steps back.
Naruto raised his brows and send me a quizzical stare. "Once you get your sea legs, I'd be happy to let you enjoy the storm."
"You enjoy it?" I asked, taken aback,
He grinned. "The chaos, the wrath, the -"
"…it's all brilliant."
"And the injuries?"
"I've never lost anyone. Today was the first time anyone's gotten seriously injured."
"Storms are unpredictable," I retorted.
He took a step up the stairs, though he kept his back to the storm and his eyes on me. "It's all your fault."
Immediately infuriated, I responded, "I didn't call the storm to the ship."
He was at the top of the stairs then.
"I know." He ran a hand through his disheveled hair and sent me a rueful smile. "You're just distracting," he said, and then disappeared into the storm.
I stood there for a while, my eyes narrowed as I stared at the empty spot where he had stood moments ago. I remembered the playful exuberance he'd had as a child – the deceptive innocence, his ingrained simplicity, the ability to look at every problem as solvable. He still had all of that, but now it was intensified and matured.
He was also a better Captain than I would have ever thought – minus of course his ability to stock medical supplies on the ship. I sighed and crossed my arms over my chest. I wondered then how much longer the storm would last. Ten minutes? Two hours? Longer?
Standing in the middle of the windy hallway, soaked to the skin wasn't wise. I longed to be able to help up on the deck, and be more than just the simple doctor. However, Naruto was right. Once I learned more about the ship, the operations, and other important factors of being a crewmember, Naruto wouldn't be able to keep me away. I smiled at that thought as I went back into my cabin.