A/N: All recognizable characters, locations, and concepts are the property of Masashi Kishimoto. No copyright infringement is intended.
The Big Reveal
Naruto had been back in the village for a few days, but as usual he was in demand. Everyone wanted to see him, talk to him, and every time Konohamaru asked if they could do something together Naruto was too busy. First it was meeting with Lady Tsunade, then it Kakashi-sensei, then it was some kind of training.
Tonight it was Sakura. When Naruto told him he "had plans" with her, Konohamaru's reply had been, "So what?" He didn't see why he couldn't tag along. Didn't Naruto see her enough already? What was the big deal? But the more Konohamaru had pressed the issue, the more Naruto had acted weird and insisted he wasn't a kid anymore. That they'd just have to hang out some other time. "Maybe tomorrow," he'd said.
Maybe tomorrow. Konohamaru folded his arms in petulant disgust. Nii-chan was hiding something. Something important. Was it a new technique? A new mission? Was there some kind of looming danger that Naruto thought he was too young to know about? Konohamaru made a raspberry solely for his own benefit. He wasn't a kid anymore either. He'd fought the Naraka Path of Pain all by himself, hadn't he? He was an important ninja in this village, and whatever was going on, he wasn't going to be left out.
He'd need a plan, though, and it would have to be a good plan. Konohamaru walked the side streets for a while, kicking a smooth rock through the dust as he considered his options. Some were great plans – truly inspired and worthy of a number one ninja – but they were just too complicated to execute without help, and he wanted to do this alone. With each skitter and tumble of the rock he systematically crossed everything off his mental list until he was left with one idea. Something so simple, yet so genius. It would definitely work...
Naruto had complained about being so busy since returning home that he hadn't even had time to go to Ichiraku yet. Meaning…the odds were pretty good that his so-called plans with Sakura would, at some point, include a visit to his favorite place. Konohamaru had made sure he arrived ahead with plenty of time to spare, getting into position and lying in wait where he could hear everything.
Yeah, it was true that the Kakuremino no Jutsu had tripped him up in the past – when he was a little boy – but since then he'd been training hard for a chance like this. A chance to prove everything he'd mastered so far. After all, a man destined to be the Seventh Hokage could pull off just about any move when he needed it, especially one as simple as the Cloak of Invisibility Technique. It was time to put it to the test.
And he was executing the technique flawlessly, he was sure of it. He'd been just outside the ramen bar for nearly an hour now, disguised as a fuel tank. The villagers who had walked by had given him no strange glances. Madam Shijimi's old cat, Tora, was loose again, and although it stopped for a second or two to check him out, it seemed to remember him by smell and streaked off as fast as it could run. Other than that there had been no investigations. He had even changed positions twice, moving away from the other tanks to see if he still blended in or was any more obvious, but no one had looked twice in his direction. Yep, definitely invisible.
It was the time of year when it was still warm but started to get dark earlier, so from his strategic hiding place it was impossible to see very far down either side of the street. Konohamaru actually heard Naruto's voice before he could see him. Naruto and Sakura were walking toward Ichiraku from the left, so the fuel tanks were the first things they would see. Right in front of them. Would he be noticed? Heart racing, he held his breath. It was the crucial moment...
He had gotten excited for nothing. The pair were deep in conversation as they slowly reached the front of the bar, and Naruto was looking only at Sakura – not paying the slightest attention to anything else. Nii-chan was being careless tonight. Not minding his surroundings. And as a skilled ninja would, Konohamaru took the opportunity to make other critical observations.
What he saw was kind of weird. Naruto and Sakura were purposely bumping into each other, shoulder against shoulder. They were laughing. They were both dressed in casual clothes, too, so whatever they were doing it probably wasn't official Konoha business. Weird.
Konohamaru scowled in disappointment. If it wasn't a mission, or business, and it was something they could laugh about, what was so important that he couldn't have tagged along?
Naruto and Sakura passed by him and went in, and a moment later there was a scraping sound of a bar stool, a hesitation, and then the scraping of another. Teuchi-san was making a fuss over Naruto, exclaiming that he hadn't seen his best customer in a while. Konohamaru knew that this distraction would be the best time to make a move. He wouldn't be able to find out whatever nii-chan was hiding if he couldn't hear all of their conversation, so he'd have to get closer.
Still confident in his invisibility, Konohamaru began to creep slowly and carefully around the corner. He had to duck low to make sure his hair cleared the bottom edge of the shop's banner, and then he inched just far enough inside to see their faces. Well, he could see Naruto's face. Although they were already really close together, Sakura was sitting in such a way that she faced Naruto more than the bar. That was kind of weird too...
After nearly thirty minutes, Konohamaru had resorted to impatiently shifting his weight from one foot to the other. They weren't talking about anything cool, just asking each other questions and talking about what they'd been doing since they last saw each other. It went on and on, and he was just about to give up and begin a careful reverse course when things suddenly got a little more interesting.
Naruto lifted his ramen bowl and drained it with a messy-sounding slurp, followed by a satisfied sigh. Once he had set the bowl back down on the bar, Sakura whacked him in the shoulder.
"You should mind your manners in front of a girl, Naruto," she said.
Konohamaru felt a pang of dread. Sakura's temper was the stuff of legend, and he'd had the bad luck to bear the brunt of it once or twice himself.
Naruto wiped his mouth with the back of his hand then, and grinned shamelessly when he was given another shove. "I can't help it," he said. "It's so good. I want more."
"You've had two orders already. You'll get a stomach ache, Naruto, and I won't fix it for you," Sakura warned.
"Come on, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, rubbing his belly. He patted his old toad wallet with his other hand. "Gama-chan says there's always room for more. Please?"
Yes, it seemed that nii-chan was being very careless tonight. Konohamaru braced himself for the possibility that in the next few seconds Naruto could be thrashed within an inch of his life.
"Here then." Sakura picked the swirled kamaboko out of her bowl and offered it to him. "I've saved the best for you," she said.
Her voice suddenly sounded kind of like the girls in his Oiroke no Jutsu. Sexy. More like a purr than the sound old Tora could make. Konohamaru was confused, and then, in complete shock, he stared as Naruto ate the surimi right from her chopsticks.
In that instant it finally began to sink in why he hadn't been invited along tonight. Nii-chan liked Sakura. Really liked her. The boyfriend/girlfriend kind of liking. And the way she was acting, sitting so close to him and everything, Sakura liked him too. But it didn't make any sense, did it? She was always hitting him. Always yelling at him. Did that really mean she liked him?
There didn't seem to be any other explanation for what he was seeing. Even Teuchi-san turned away and stayed busy cooking and washing dishes so the couple could feel alone. Sakura was leaning forward against Naruto, while his hand slid around her waist and came to rest right on the bare skin between her shirt and her skirt. And… although he couldn't be one hundred percent positive from that angle, Konohamaru was pretty sure they had just… kissed.
Kissed! Nii-chan and Sakura!
She was whispering something to Naruto now, and his eyes looked strange – sort of glazed as if she had put him under a spell. Konohamaru had never seen nii-chan like this, and somewhere, in the back of his mind, he started to feel guilty for being there and witnessing private… stuff. And yet he burned with curiosity. What was Sakura saying to him?
Konohamaru took a careful step forward, then another, creeping away from the wall in stealth mode. He maintained a safe enough distance so they wouldn't hear him breathing or anything, and just as he bent forward to listen he heard a stomping sound and his scarf tightened suddenly around his throat.
In mere seconds his eyes were bulging, he was choking – probably to death – and everything began a fast fade to black. The cloak that had been hiding him slipped away and he fell, pain filling his head as he hit the ground. The last thing he saw was the outline of Moegi, her small hands on her hips and her foot planted firmly on the trailing end of his scarf. His technique hadn't been perfect after all.
When Konohamaru came to his senses, Moegi was the first thing he saw again.
"You idiot!" she yelled. "What did you think you were doing?" Each word was like a hammer smashing his head.
"I… well… um…" Konohamaru mumbled.
He touched the swelling bump on the back of his head and found blood. From somewhere above and behind him, Konohamaru heard Naruto say his name in a half-concerned, half-amused tone.
"Couldn't you see they want to be alone?" said Moegi.
"Yeah, I could see that. I did see that," Konohamaru said grudgingly, unable to form a better response. He sat up and immediately regretted it, closing his eyes until the pain eased a bit.
"You knew they wanted to be alone and yet you were spying on them anyway?" Moegi demanded.
He looked up at her and blinked several times. Two pretty faces flushed with anger, two pairs of hands set indignantly on hips. Konohamaru thought he was seeing double until he figured out that Sakura had moved to stand behind Moegi. There could be big trouble.
"Are you going to sit there all night or what? I need to have a look at that."
Moegi scowled and pointed at his head, but nevertheless offered him a hand. He gave her the one that wasn't bloody. But it was a trick. Konohamaru had just managed to get somewhat steady on his feet when Moegi socked him another good one right in the chest.
"How could you be so stupid and childish?" Moegi yelled.
Waves of pain radiated from the knot on his head. He staggered backward toward Naruto, but ultimately kept his balance. Moegi had been hitting him a lot these days, so he was getting better at it.
"Well?" Moegi wasn't going to give up until she had an explanation.
"Listen," Konohamaru began, glancing first at Naruto and Sakura. "I didn't mean to – I mean, I didn't know you guys were—" It was so embarrassing. "That you were… you know. I thought there was some kind of secret and—" He sighed. "Sorry."
Naruto smiled easily and said, "Forget it." Sakura was less impressed by the apology, and seemed about to say something until nii-chan laid a calming hand on her arm, slowly sliding it down until he was holding her hand. Naruto grinned shamelessly again. "It's not a secret."
"Yeah, I get that now," Konohamaru said. "Really. I'm sorry."
That seemed to cool Moegi's righteous indignation a little, and she stepped behind him to have a look at the mess he'd made of his head. He felt the warm, soothing sensation of her chakra as it began to heal the injury. It was better immediately, and after a minute or so the pain was completely gone.
Moegi's hands had moved to his arms, as if she might still be considering holding him hostage, and she peered at him over his shoulder. "Don't you have anything better to do with your time than snoop into other people's private lives?"
The pink in her cheeks was actually cute when the furious fire was gone from her eyes.
Weird. Getting hit in the head must have knocked an idea into it. Always yelling, always hitting. It was the same thing: Moegi treated him the same way Sakura treated Naruto. Well, except for the kissing part. Konohamaru took a good look at Naruto and Sakura as they stood there. Together. If such a girl made nii-chan happy...
He turned back to Moegi then, and tried not to stare as if he were noticing her for the first time. "Yeah, let's go," Konohamaru said suddenly, thinking it would be safest not to smile like an idiot. "More than two is a crowd."
Konohamaru gave Naruto a final glance. Nii-chan was still grinning and his free hand was at his side, subtly signaling a thumbs up.
Nope, they weren't kids anymore.