When Naruto woke up again, he was momentarily disoriented by all of the white. He had to blink several times to clear the sudden spots out of his eyes and when he'd finally managed to successfully do so he was confused. He was in a hospital? What was he doing here? It didn't feel like he was injured. He moved around just to be sure and sure enough, no biting pain greeted him with the movement.
Naruto's forehead scrunched up as he tried to figure out the last thing he remembered. For a while he drew a blank, but then it all came back to him with startling clarity. He immediately jumped up and ran for the door, determined to find out just what had happened.
After tripping over some of the blankets that covered him, Naruto got a big surprise when he turned the handle and flung open the door, and was met with the sound of a blaring alarm.
Almost immediately, there were shouts and the sound of running. Naruto's eyes widened. Was he still kidnapped? They'd never take him alive!
Just as Naruto was about to bust out his best moves that were sure to make his opposition cower in fear, to his great shock it was Sasuke and Iruka who turned the corner.
"Naruto!" Iruka yelled as he rushed over, looking stern. "Just what do you think you're doing up? Get back in that bed this instant!"
Naruto's mouth dropped open. "Wait a second! What's going on?" he asked, thoroughly confused. "Last I remember, I was…" he trailed off, suddenly turning red as he remembered his little impromptu love confession.
Sasuke smirked at the look on his face, though his expression was strained. He explained, "You passed out, idiot. I had my doctor look at you after we got back from where you were being kept and it looks like it was from the stress. That being said, you haven't been cleared to get up yet, so get back in bed."
Naruto pouted. He didn't like being bossed around. Besides, he felt fine! He opened his mouth to argue, but Iruka sent a deadly glare in his direction, immediately silencing him. He gulped.
"Naruto, you will get back in that bed this instant! Until the doctor clears you, you are not to be up!" Iruka said sternly, grabbing Naruto by the ear and dragging him back inside the room. Naruto sputtered out a protest, but it was in vain. "Sasuke, I'm sorry, but could you finish talking to the doctor for me? I'll watch over Naruto."
Sasuke nodded in response and took off briskly down the hall, presumably to where the doctor was. Iruka slammed the door behind him, pressed a few numbers into a keypad Naruto hadn't noticed before, and the alarm stopped much to Naruto's relief.
After all but throwing Naruto back onto the bed where he was supposed to be, Iruka made himself comfortable on one of the bedside chairs. From the look on Iruka's face, Naruto knew he was in for it. He wasn't disappointed.
"How could you be so reckless, Naruto?" Iruka scolded, looking like he was barely holding himself back from whacking Naruto upside the head.
Naruto grinned sheepishly. "Um… Just to be clear, are we talking about me getting up or me getting kidnapped?"
"Both!" Iruka snapped, obviously irritated.
Naruto 'eep!'ed and cowered into his pillows.
"Lately it seems all you're doing is trying your best to worry me sick! Honestly, Naruto," Iruka folded his arms, "can you imagine what it felt like when Sasuke called me, telling me you'd disappeared?"
Naruto flinched. He hadn't meant to worry Iruka… Why did that bastard have to call him, anyway?
Iruka was on a roll. "And then when Kakashi called me, telling me they'd found you and to meet you here…! I come in to find Sasuke carrying you in, both of you practically covered in blood! I almost had a heart attack, Naruto!"
Though it embarrassed him, Naruto's heart beat just a little bit faster. "Sasuke was carrying me?" he asked, unable to stop himself.
"You were unconscious!" Iruka said fiercely, frowning deeply at Naruto. "We were all so worried about you! Sasuke would hardly let you go!"
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Naruto could hardly stop himself from getting embarrassed.
Finally, Iruka sighed and said, "Naruto, I know none of this was your fault—I know you didn't want to get kidnapped—but this has been a hard couple of days for everyone and we're all a little frazzled. I know you can't be feeling your best right now, either. So just… Please be more careful, Naruto? Please?" Iruka didn't know if he could take Naruto disappearing again. His nerves were shot to hell and even though Naruto was safe and sound, he could have gotten seriously injured! He very nearly did, from the sounds of things!
Naruto nodded. "I'm sorry for worrying you, Iruka-sensei," he said obediently.
Iruka shook his head, frustrated. "It wasn't your fault," he replied. "You were the victim. I just…" Iruka slumped into his seat.
Hesitantly, Naruto sat back up and reached over the edge of the bed to pat Iruka on the head. "It's okay, I'm fine now," he soothed.
"I know you are," Iruka conceded, letting out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "I'm so thankful for that."
Naruto smiled at him and Iruka hesitantly grinned back.
After a long moment of silence, Naruto finally decided to break it with the question that had been bugging him since he'd been thrown back in bed. "Hey, what was with all of those alarms earlier? And I don't feel bad, so why am I in the hospital?" he asked.
For a moment, Iruka looked confused, but then understanding lit up his expression. "Oh, Naruto," he said, shaking his head, "you're not in the hospital, you're—"
The sound of buttons loudly being pressed and the door opening made Iruka pause, and he looked back just in time to see Sasuke walk inside in the room.
"…At Sasuke's house," he finished. Ever polite, Iruka smiled slightly and greeted, "Welcome back, Sasuke."
Naruto was gaping like a fish. He was at Sasuke's house? Since when? He didn't remember ever seeing this room.
"Thank you," Sasuke replied, and though he was talking to Iruka his eyes immediately landed on Naruto. "Iruka, could you leave us for a while? There are some things I'd like to discuss with Naruto alone."
Iruka let out an overly loud sigh as he stood, though he was smiling. "I guess that's okay. I should probably find Kakashi and make sure he isn't getting into any trouble, anyway." He started walking out the door, and just as the door was about to close he waved and said, "I'll be back later, you two."
When they were finally alone, Sasuke took the seat Iruka had just abandoned and Naruto fidgeted nervously into his pillows.
Not one for awkward silences and unable to take the questions swarming in his mind, Naruto blurted out, "Iruka said that this was your house. I don't remember this room."
Sasuke stared. "You've been here before. Don't you remember? The first time you came here, I had you wait in this room," he informed.
Naruto blinked. Sasuke had released the block on his memories, but sometimes things were still a little fuzzy. He wracked his brain and sure enough a brief flash of a strangely empty room appeared in his memories. "Oh!" Naruto exclaimed, eyes widening slightly as he remembered, but then he frowned. "But it was mostly empty last time I was here. Where did all of this stuff come from?"
"This is actually an observation room. I had some people bring all of the proper equipment here because I knew this was where I could best keep an eye on things. When you first came here, I stuck you in this room so I could listen on if you were going to reveal anything about why you'd been following me. Which," Sasuke smirked, "you did."
Naruto grimaced, remembering how he'd been foolishly talking to himself as he panicked. That hadn't been one of his smarter moves.
"But still," Naruto argued, "what's with all the security? You can't possibly think someone would be able to get past everything else and to this room just for me." He scoffed.
Sasuke shrugged. "It's always a possibility," he replied. "And besides, with that stunt you pulled at the ramen restaurant…" Suddenly, Sasuke looked ticked off. Gritting his teeth, he demanded to know, "Just what were you thinking, Naruto?"
Immediately, Naruto shrank and started fiddling with the edges of his bed sheets. Normally the last thing he would do was give in to Sasuke's anger, but he was all-too aware that this whole mess was entirely his fault. Sasuke and Kakashi could have gotten hurt—or worse—all because of him! "I…" Naruto cast his eyes downward.
This only angered Sasuke more. He was suddenly on his feet and right in Naruto's face, jerking his chin up. "Look at me!" he commanded, all of the frustration and worry and terror he had been feeling since Naruto had disappeared bubbling up to the surface. His eyes narrowed into slits. "You weren't thinking, were you?" he raged.
Suddenly, Naruto was angry. Just what did Sasuke know, anyway? Nothing! "Shut the fuck up, Sasuke!" he said, glaring right back at Sasuke. "I had my reasons, you ass! I knew you'd be overbearing like this and that's why I didn't tell you!"
Sasuke's hands clenched into fists and he looked like he wanted to punch something. "What kind of 'reasons,'" he scoffed condescendingly, "could have warranted you putting yourself into a situation where you got fucking kidnapped, Naruto? Huh?"
"See, I knew you'd be like this!" Naruto screeched, jerking his chin angrily out of Sasuke's grip and slapping his hand away. "You like to treat me like I can't take care of myself, but I can, Sasuke! I can!"
"Obviously not!" Sasuke yelled back, temper completely lost. "If you could take care of yourself, I wouldn't have had to come rescue you!"
"I could have gotten out of there all by myself! I didn't need your help! I was doing just fine on my own!"
"I beg to differ!"
Both Sasuke and Naruto jerked at the sudden voice and their heads swiveled towards the door. There stood Tenten, Shikamaru, and Neji. Tenten's foot was tapping ominously, and she looked annoyed. She was the one that had spoke.
Tenten put her hands on her hips. "Just what do you two think you're doing?" she demanded. "Naruto, you're supposed to be resting! Honestly, we come all the way out here to visit you, and the first thing we see is you two fighting!"
"Honestly…" Shikamaru mumbled to himself.
Sasuke lowered himself back onto his chair. He looked the perfect picture of relaxed, but Naruto knew him too well to buy it. Naruto knew Sasuke was probably silently simmering in his anger, but Naruto didn't feel like dealing with the bastard now that his friends were here.
"Sasuke started it!" Naruto immediately said, pointing an accusing finger at Sasuke.
Tenten stomped her foot. "And I'm going to end it! Lay back in that bed this instant, Naruto!"
Naruto frowned, a slight pout on his lips, but complied all the same. "I'm laying, I'm laying!"
"Good," Tenten replied, nodding briskly.
As Tenten, Neji, and Shikamaru walked over, Naruto asked, "What are you guys doing here, anyway? How did you…?" Naruto let the question hang, unsure of how to phrase it without sounding like an idiot. How had they gotten into the mansion? He didn't think any of them had even exchanged two words with Sasuke, save maybe Neji. And even then, Naruto was under the impression that the two of them didn't have the best relationship.
"We're here to visit you, of course," Tenten replied, elegantly lowering herself onto a chair. After Shikamaru and Neji followed suit, she continued, "We've been worried sick about you, you know! And even after we did to help rescue you, we've hardly gotten to see you at all." She pouted.
Naruto blinked, confused. "You helped rescue me, too?" he asked. He didn't remember seeing them. Had he really been so focused on Sasuke that he hadn't noticed his friends?
It was Neji who nodded. "Yes, Hatake-san called us when he found out where you were at. We came immediately," he said.
When Naruto continued to look confused, Shikamaru sighed and said, "You've always been such a troublesome person… While Sasuke and Kakashi went straight to the leader, we went about things the proper way," he sighed, "and went about subduing and arresting the lackeys with the help of Sasuke's men."
"We were mostly a distraction," Tenten piped up.
Neji nodded in confirmation. "After officers Tenten and Shikamaru showed their badges, most of the thugs there were too worried about the police already being involved to worry about anyone other than themselves, much less their superiors. While they were trying to get away, Uchiha-san took advantage of the confusion and went to get you and Hatake-san followed after him."
At this, everyone turned to look at Sasuke, but Sasuke just continued to glare determinedly at the wall.
"Needless to say, the jails are much more full tonight," Neji finally finished.
Naruto smiled. "Thank you, you guys," he said. "You didn't have to risk yourselves like that for me…" After all, that Gato guy had seemed pretty confident. It couldn't have been a small number of people that Tenten, Shikamaru, and Neji had had to go up against.
"Nonsense! That's what friends are for, right? And it's not like this is the first time we've had to save your ass," Tenten said confidently.
"Yes…" Neji said, looking strangely happy. "I was happy to help you, Naruto-san."
Shikamaru just leaned back into his seat, though his grin seemed a little wider.
The ringing of a cell phone cut off their moment. Sighing to himself, Shikamaru reached into his pocket and fished out his phone before flipping it open and reading the message he'd been sent. He frowned to himself before snapping it closed. "Looks like we have to go," he informed. "The boss wants us to report back immediately."
Tenten groaned. "Already? We just got here!"
Naruto frowned. "You guys have to leave so soon?" he asked sadly.
Shikamaru nodded. "We need to finish filling out reports about what happened. That was quite the mess you were in the middle of, Naruto," he said, rubbing his forehead distractedly. He could already feel the headache forming.
Naruto understood, though he didn't like it. It seemed like it had been forever since he got to talk with everyone. "Alright…" he said, resigned.
"We'll come back later, when we're finished with everything," Tenten reassured as she stood up.
Neji and Shikamaru also stood and Neji took a small step forward. "Naruto-san…" he started. He paused, all too aware of the other people in the room with them, but determined to continue. "I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me. That man… he's finally, finally…"
Naruto grinned. "No problem, Neji! I know this isn't going to bring back your father, but know that we'll always have your back! We won't let you face this kind of thing on your own!"
Neji smiled so sincerely it was almost heartbreaking. Finally, he nodded and the three of them left. Naruto was alone with Sasuke again.
Still pissed off at Sasuke, Naruto glared and rolled onto his side so he was looking at a wall instead of Sasuke. Stupid, stupid Sasuke…
Naruto wasn't quite sure how long the two of them had sat there in silence when Sasuke's sigh broke the quiet, but it had been a while. Still, Naruto stubbornly refused to look over at him.
It was only when the bed dipped and Naruto felt fingers gently touching his hair did he look, more out of reflex than anything. He hated how his heart skipped a beat when he met Sasuke's eyes.
"Naruto," Sasuke began, his voice surprising Naruto with how hesitant it sounded. "Did you mean what you said?"
And even though Sasuke didn't elaborate, Naruto instinctually knew what he was talking about. He tried to fight away his embarrassment, but it was impossible as he recalled his earlier confession to Sasuke. Though he was tempted to lie just to spite Sasuke, he couldn't bring himself to do so. "Yeah, I did," Naruto said finally.
Then Sasuke smiled and Naruto remembered why he loved the jerk.
Sasuke leaned down the same moment Naruto reached up, and they kissed.
Neji was sitting in a café, sipping absentmindedly at his drink as he stared out the window. He'd been helping Tenten and Shikamaru fill out their paperwork as best as he could, but he'd ended up needing a break. Everything had been going by so fast lately, and his mind was still trying to process some things.
Ultimately, he was content. There was still the stinging sensation in his heart that he knew wouldn't go away no matter how many years passed, but the person who was responsible for his father's death was now behind bars and couldn't hurt anyone else. At the beginning, he had truly thought things were impossible and now he was so, so glad he hadn't given up despite that. But he still missed his father so much…
Neji was snapped out of his musings when someone suddenly sat down at his table. Neji, surprised—he hadn't sensed anyone coming up to him at all!—looked up and saw Gaara Sabaku sitting across from him. Neji's mouth dropped open a little. What was he doing here?
When it became obvious that Gaara wasn't going to say anything, Neji decided to conversationally ask, "Hello, Sabaku-san. What brings you here?"
But still, Gaara only continued to stare.
Neji felt a little more uncertain, but continued on regardless. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"Rely on me," Gaara said simply.
Neji's eyes widened a little in shock. While he truthfully did have a bit of a thing for Gaara and they had talked several times, Neji didn't think they were anything more than acquaintances. So what was with the sudden familiarity?
Neji raised an eyebrow, his skepticism showing clearly on his face. "Sabaku-san, I don't think that's—"
"In the future, I want to be the one to help you," Gaara interrupted, deciding not to mention how he'd tried to help from the shadows this time around. He hadn't been able to do much earlier, and now he wanted to be the helper. His earlier ineffectualness frustrated him to no end.
"Sabaku-san, we hardly know each other," Neji argued.
Gaara cocked his head to the side, uncomprehending. He thought they knew each other very well.
Neji shook his head. "I appreciate your concern, but I'll be fine," he said, nodding.
But then Gaara took his hand, and Neji looked him in the eyes. Then, out of nowhere, Neji was struck by the rightness of the situation—like he was meant to be here, right now, listing to Gaara say these things.
"I want you to be able to rely on me," Gaara said again.
And slowly, Neji nodded.
"FREEDOM!" Naruto yelled as he all but jumped out of Sasuke's car, picnic basket in hand. Sasuke looked exasperated, but followed Naruto as he started running all the same.
Today was the first day Naruto had been outside since everything happened and he intended to make the most of it. He had gotten a hold of nearly everyone he knew and they were meeting together to talk, have fun, and eat. They were running a little late, though, because Naruto had accidentally blown up some curry when he'd been trying to cook in the kitchen. He'd never been much of a chef.
"Naruto! Sasuke! There you two are!" Iruka greeted happily when they appeared, out of breath, at the designated meeting place.
"You're late!" Sakura scolded, momentarily pausing in her act of laying out the food everyone had brought to cross her arms in annoyance.
Tenten waved at them from her spot beside Shikamaru, though she was too busy conversing with Lee and Kakashi to properly greet him.
Before Naruto could respond to any of this, a loud cry of "BOSS!" was heard and Naruto was abruptly tackled to the ground by an overenthusiastic Konohamaru. They both started laughing as a play fight was quickly started, both of them tackling each other and rolling in the grass.
And, on the hill that Konohamaru had insisted they visit when they first met him, Sasuke looked out at the view. It was just starting to get dark, and from where they were they had the perfect view of the city as the sun went down and it started lighting up.
And Sasuke smiled.
"There you are, Itachi!"
Itachi looked up from where he was lounging peacefully, a magazine in his hands, to stare at Kisame. The other prisoners shuffled around them and went about their business, creating a wide birth around the two. Some of them had tried to mess with Itachi when he had first arrived and it hadn't worked out well for them.
Itachi didn't even bother putting his magazine down. "What are you doing here, Kisame?" he asked. Last he checked, Kisame was still a free man, so why was he wearing prison clothes?
"I figured you could use some company, so I assaulted some men in front of a crowd of shoppers," Kisame revealed with a grin.
Itachi looked back down at his magazine. "You didn't have to do that. I'm fine on my own," he said, flipping a page.
"Too late to get rid of me now!" Kisame said, flopping into a chair beside Itachi. "Besides, I thought you might be happy to know that your plan for your brother worked."
For once, Itachi looked mildly surprised. He looked back up, arching an eyebrow. "Already?" he asked.
Kisame nodded. "The very same night I brought the kid there, your brother came and took everyone out."
Itachi looked mildly contemplative. "I didn't think he'd find the location of the building so fast," he admitted.
"Yeah, well, he is your little brother," Kisame said with a shrug. "I can't be too surprised. It looks like things turned out even better than you thought they would."
"Yeah! People can't stop talking about the way Sasuke decimated that group. I don't think anyone is going to be messing with him any time soon. Your brother should be fine." Kisame grinned as he revealed the news and it looked the tiniest bit malicious. He could hardly believe some of the fools, wanting to challenge an Uchiha. If you asked him, it was good that they were talking; that they were afraid.
Itachi nodded to himself. This was good. He knew if he left Sasuke alone, then Sasuke would become a major target and his foolish little brother hadn't done anything to help that. Itachi knew about the rival groups that would be acting up now that he was gone, and he'd hoped Sasuke would be able to take care of it on his own. But instead Sasuke had hesitated and refused to take any action, so Itachi had decided to force his hand.
By kidnapping Naruto and handing him over to one of the more ambitious groups, he had effectively put a target on the group's head, and his brother had done just as he had hoped he would. Now those fools would know not to mess with Sasuke just because Itachi was away. His brother would be fine.
"I appreciate your help with everything, Kisame," Itachi said, and he meant it. His brother's safety meant the world to him.
Kisame brushed the words away with the wave of his hand. "Don't worry about it."
They sat in companionable silence for a while, and despite where they were at they couldn't feel more at ease. Finally, Kisame shifted and Itachi's eyes were drawn to him, silently questioning.
"I…" Kisame sighed, shaking his head. "Listen, I know you were wanting to take a vacation or whatever the hell this is, but I have some bad news. I didn't come here just to keep you company."
Itachi nodded. He'd been expecting that. "Pain needs me?" he guessed.
"Yeah," Kisame confirmed. "For the next part of his plan, he needs everyone. Deidara's also here, and we're about to bust you out from the inside."
Itachi's eyes closed, though the action did nothing to stop the headache that was forming. "Deidara?" he repeated.
"Yep," Kisame said with a wince.
"Then I suppose things are about to get really loud."
"You'd better believe they are."
Suddenly, a loud, ear-splitting boom rang out, and the building shook. Immediately, there was yelling and running, but it was interrupted by yet another boom and insane laughter.
Sometimes Itachi hated his life.
"Well, that's our cue!" Kisame somehow managed to say over all of the sudden noise. Itachi nodded, and then they were gone.
A/N: Aaaaand, that's a wrap! That's it, the end of Mustering Happiness. ^^ I hope you all enjoyed it!
I tried to tie up all the loose ends with this final chapter, and I think I managed to do so. Pffft, does anyone even remember the Gaara/Neji romance I hinted at in the very first chapter? Haha.
As you can see, there's definite potential for a sequel, but I'm not entirely sure I'm going to write it. I have a vague idea of what happens next, but I figure this is a good place to wrap things up. Plus, I'm kind of tired of this story. I've been working on it for so long… x.x
I do have two other stories I'm planning on writing, though! The first is a SasuNaru one, and the second is a Yu-Gi-Oh puzzleshipping fanfiction. x3 Please watch for them! I don't know how long it will take me to write them, but they shall be out eventually.
To tell you the truth, I'm a little sad this fanfiction is over. I've been writing it for a little over a year now, and so much has happened in that year… It's a little weird to think about where I was at when I started this.
Thank you all for sticking with me throughout this story! I really appreciated everyone's support. =D