I did my best and made a really, really, really long chapters (5x longer than usual!) to make up a little for the very, very long waiting… I'm sorry!
Hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 41: The last laugh Part II
26th of March
Sakura blinked. "Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke looked down at the pink haired woman he stood beside. Her eyes had a fierce strong look. They were not angry, but certain… confident. "Sakura," he said in a smooth deep voice; greeting her.
Sakura waited until the dark eyes met her own green ones. Their arms touched as they were pushed against each other in the busy market place. "You already back from your mission?" she asked sounding somewhat surprised.
"Hm," Sasuke replied. His hand hovered over an old lady that was pushed against his right side, and he pointed to some tomatoes in the vegetable stand.
Sakura watched him until he had paid for the fruit, and his attention was back to her. "Heard anything from Naruto? He should be back soon, right?"
"He is," Sasuke said curtly.
Sakura looked up to Sasuke, her eyebrows together in a slight frown. "Well?" she asked impatiently.
Sasuke looked down at her, a small paper bag filled with red tomatoes clutched to his chest. His eyebrows rose for a slight second in something that seemed like confusion. "What?" he asked.
Sakura noticed how he tried to pry a young woman away from his side while they tried to walk forward, and thus she decided he had not heard her. She instead gripped the woman by the arm and pulled her (roughly) away from the raven.
Sasuke eyed her from the side, but did not comment on her behaviour. Instead he took a deep breath and waltzed through the crowd. Content that this had so much effect, since people quickly moved aside for his impressive figure, he showed a shadow of a grin on his face. Sakura, however, did not see this as she quickly followed in his wake, and had only a view of his back. It gave her a safe feeling.
"What were you doing here?" She suddenly heard his deep voice ask. He did not look around at her, but kept walking on. For a moment Sakura wondered if he was trying small talk.
"I came to get some ink and brushes for Sai," she answered.
Sasuke glanced over his shoulder. "Then what were you doing on that side of the market?" he asked after his eyes were back to look in front. "The stand is over there." He pointed to their left, apparently to some stands, because Sakura could not actually see any stands at all at the moment while they moved through the crowd.
"Well, I was on my way there, but I had no idea it would be this busy today. I wonder why."
Sasuke did not answer or guess, instead he suddenly stepped to the left, and Sakura would have lost him right then and there if it had not been for her ninja training. She quickly closed the gap that had grown between the two before anyone else could fill it. Finally Sasuke stopped, and she shuffled around him. She looked down at the stand filled with paper, ink, scrolls, pencils and other drawing utilities. While she stood in front of Sasuke, picking some good brushes, paper and ink, Sasuke looked around almost bored.
"So, what happened to Naruto's team? When did they get back?" Sakura asked while holding an unfolded scroll up to the light.
Sasuke looked down at her. "Oh, just this morning," he said and then paused.
It was a really long pause. Sakura actually started to think he would not speak again, so she asked again. "Well?" she pressed on, putting the scroll aside and picking up another one.
"Hm?" he asked, frowning.
Sakura frowned too. "Well, what happened? Did they pass the exams or not?" she asked pressingly. When Sasuke took a second too long to open his mouth she added, "the team! Honestly Sasuke-kun, what's wrong with you today?" She started to get agitated.
"Oh, they did fine I believe."
Sakura could hit him if she had more space to do so. Instead she asked the man behind the stand to get her the stuff she wanted a tad more harshly than she had intended. She gave the man who was bumping into her side an angry look, and he quickly cowered away.
"You did ask him how his team performed in the chuunin exams, right?" she asked, trying to suppress her annoyance, and instead tried to give the man in front of her a kind smile, while he handed her a bag and she him the money.
"'course," Sasuke said, "but I was slightly more interested in other things at the time," he smirked. Sakura narrowed her eyes, but said nothing. "We haven't seen each other for such a long time," he added as he started to make a new path through the crowd for them to pass.
"I know, Sasuke-kun, I know you missed him deeply-" Sasuke uncharacteristically giggled at this, "What?"
"Deeply," Sasuke snorted softly.
Sakura blinked and stared at Sasuke's back for a second before suddenly laughing along softly. She smacked him on the back. "I didn't mean it like that." Sasuke stumbled when her hand hit him, but beside that he didn't react.
Finally they landed in a side street, and left the crowd behind. Sakura stepped up beside Sasuke and watched how he ate a tomato. "Did you… ask him already?" she then asked softly.
Sasuke's eyebrows came together ever so slightly, and he looked down at Sakura's serious face. "Huh?"
Sakura then smiled gently at him, as if she had expected him to react like this. "I told you he will like it. You should just ask him."
"Him… what?" Sasuke asked confused. Sakura laid her hand on his lower arm, seeing his shoulder was too high. They stopped walking, and Sasuke looked down at the hand. "I…"
"I know it's not easy for you, but I'm sure you'll make Naruto very happy if you do," Sakura said with a gentle smile on her face. Her eyes almost seemed to sparkle. Sasuke did not answer; instead he looked a little taken aback. "Just do as we talked about," Sakura said, smiling.
When Sasuke noticed Sakura had let go of his arm, and was looking through the bag in her arms, he slowly nodded. "O…kay…" he said softly, still confused.
Sakura started walking again, and Sasuke followed her. "Do you have time tomorrow for some training together? I think I got the hang of that new genjutsu counter you taught me."
Sasuke looked to his other side. "Maybe not tomorrow," he replied.
Sakura nodded. "Okay." Suddenly she stopped him, again by a touch on his arm. He looked down at her. "Is everything alright? You're less talkative than usual," she asked worriedly.
Sasuke frowned. "Less?"
Sakura sniggered. "Yes, even less." Sasuke shrugged. "Did something happen between you and Naruto?" she asked tilting her head.
"No," Sasuke answered, though Sakura did not look convinced. Of course his answer hadn't sounded very convincing in the first place.
Her eyes narrowed. "You know you can tell me."
"Nothing bad happened, really," the raven said truthfully. Then the corners of his mouth formed a smirk.
Sakura seemed satisfied. "Fine, you keep it to yourself. I can fill in the blanks." She started walking again.
Sasuke waited a moment before he followed her. At the end of the street Sakura once again turned to Sasuke. "See you tonight at training."
"Hm," Sasuke nodded curtly.
The raven watched Sakura round a corner, and got another tomato from the brown paper bag in his arms.
"That was interesting. I wonder what they usually talk about when they are together." He took a bite from the red fruit.
Naruto grinned widely as he thought how he had managed to make Sakura think he was Sasuke.
She acts more differently around Sasuke than I thought, Naruto thought as he walked home. "I wonder what Sasuke is supposed to ask me." He looked up to the buildings to both his sides.
Sasuke stared at Naruto, who was almost the same height he was, and waited for the blond to speak. The raven was annoyed, and wanted to go home. He had just done another stupid D-rank mission along with Sakura and Naruto, and hoped he would soon be allowed to do more than these simple and mostly boring jobs. It had almost been a year since he had started doing the missions.
Not that he would ever complain; he knew it was a part of his punishment, and he had to admit that with Naruto joining him -and maybe even Sakura and Kakashi- it made the punishment more bearable.
"So? Why are we standing here?" he finally asked the uncharacteristically silent Naruto. He looked up to the oak tree they stood under. It was filled with tiny acorns. Behind it was a small bakery surrounded by dwellings. There was a small open place behind him, like a tiny square. He saw a droplet of water fall on the stones at his feet.
"Well," Naruto muttered softly. "I just thought…" He looked away from Sasuke.
It had only been three weeks since they had gone on their 'first date' to the Hokage monument. Naruto was still not very used to the idea of them liking each other, which made him react in very cute ways, like making him blush red more than necessary (in Sasuke's opinion). Not that he cared, because he liked Naruto acting in this way.
"Thought?" Sasuke asked. A couple of rain droplets made soft ticking sounds on the leaves of the oak tree.
To his surprise Naruto, with puffed cheeks, turned to look at him. "I don't want to go home yet," he said almost childishly, folding his arms.
This unsettled Sasuke a little. "Eh?"
Naruto shook his head. "Today's missions were over so quick. I don't have any missions of my own… baa-chan must have forgotten about me… And I don't know what to do now."
Thinking it was not unusual for Naruto to be bored and whiney over something like this, Sasuke leant against the tree to listen to Naruto's rambling. This could take a while.
It started to rain harder, and Naruto got closer to the trunk as well, leaning against it beside Sasuke.
"You mind standing here for a bit?" Naruto asked.
Surprised by the lack of words, Sasuke glanced to Naruto. "Hm," he shrugged.
They watched the small square as the stones got a dark colour, and people quickly moved away to get some shelter from the spring rain.
"I think Sakura-chan doesn't really like me," Naruto suddenly said.
"You only noticed now?" Sasuke joked.
Naruto glared at Sasuke. "I mean… since… you know…" His whiskered cheeks soon rivalled the Kyuubi's fur in colour. He turned his head away.
"Since… I kissed you?" Sasuke finished Naruto's sentence. His heart skipped a beat at the memory.*
Naruto did not answer, and was so silent that Sasuke started to wonder if he had gone deaf. "She's just… you know… being a girl."
Naruto turned his head back to Sasuke. "A girl?" he asked, and it almost sounded like he had never realised that she was.
"Yeah, they get all…" Sasuke waved his hand, "you know when…" He glanced at Naruto curtly before mumbling 'it's Sakura' and turning his head away.
Naruto was obviously amused by Sasuke's behaviour, and seemed to have forgotten his own problems rather rapidly. He watched the bluish black spikes, the cloth of the blue headband, and the round shape of Sasuke's ear. He had a tiny birthmark there, Naruto noticed. He was wearing his white long sleeved shirt, the dark pants and the blue cloth twisted around his waist, held together by a purple rope.
Suddenly Sasuke felt a finger prick in his side. "Na, Sasuke, why are you still wearing those clothes?"
Sasuke looked into Naruto's blue eyes. "Why are you still wearing those orange pants?"
Naruto pouted, his eyes narrowed in annoyance, and turned to look at the square. "I like orange," he muttered.
They listened to the sound of the rain falling, watching some people hiding under their umbrella as they went to the small bakery.
Suddenly Sasuke felt a soft touch against his hand. He looked down without moving his head, making it look like he had not noticed the touch. He felt Naruto's fingers brush against the side of his hand again.
Now he saw from the corners of his eyes how a soft red tint spread over Naruto's cheeks, making Sasuke smile ever so slightly. Still staring at the square he calmly waited for Naruto to finally complete his failing attempts. Fist he felt two fingers move between his loose fingers, carefully followed by more. He opened his hand ever so slightly, and welcomed Naruto's warm hand into his own.
Neither looked at the other; neither spoke. They just stood there, holding hands, while the rain kept falling.
Sasuke opened his eyes and smiled at the happy memory. He sat up and looked around. When he noticed the alarm clock, his eyes widened. "Eleven o'clock?!" He fisted the blanket in his hands. "What a waste of time."
He pushed the blanket aside and got dressed. Naruto's body sure liked to sleep in. He should try to get that over with tomorrow. An annoying feeling came from somewhere underneath him, and he looked down the blankets. This feeling was unusual to him, and he soon realised why. He had been lying on the red furry tail. Removing the tingling tail, hoping the numb feeling would lift soon, he got out of the bed, which seemed a bit higher than he was used to. He had to stretch further to get his feet to the floor.
He headed to the bathroom, and once he had finished his business and had gotten dressed, he stared into the mirror at Naruto's face. It was something he probably could never get used to. He didn't like looking at Naruto in the mirror. He wanted to look down at Naruto through his own dark eyes. It just wasn't right. He picked up a comb and carefully brushed the yellow spikes between the fluffy black ears.
When he got downstairs he found his son sitting on the couch enthusiastically watching television. "Morning," he said to the boy.
"Morning tou-chan," Akira smiled back. "Naruto went to the market," he informed his father, following the now blond with his eyes.
In the kitchen Sasuke rumbled through some cupboards, unable to decide what he wanted to eat. Every time he thought he knew what he wanted, Naruto's body rejected the idea. So eventually he settled on some plain cereal, and headed back to the living room. There he sat down on the couch beside Akira, who was now playing with his little bat friend.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed ever so slightly as he looked how the bat was tenderly biting on Akira's finger. The bat eyed him for a moment before giving him the familiar rejecting look, though it faltered rather quickly. Sasuke possessed now Naruto's tasty chakra, and Kou knew that.
"Will you bring me to school tomorrow?" Akira asked.
"Of course," Sasuke smiled. He felt how he had unconsciously started to curl and uncurl the fluffy red tail, and stopped.
Akira looked up with his teal eyes, and put his hands in his lap. "Is it strange? Does it hurt?" he asked curiously.
Sasuke looked to the side, down at his son. What should he answer? Could he be honest to an almost 6-year-old? "It doesn't hurt," he reassured the young boy.
Akira blinked. "I think it's strange," he said honestly, like kids could so often be. "You're tou-chan, but I see Naruto." He started to stroke the soft red tail. "Can kitsune change bodies with others?"
Sasuke blinked at his son. "No. I told you this happened because of a jutsu."
"Oh," Akira said, sounding disappointed. He glanced up to his father. "What is it like to be a kitsune?" he asked curiously. Sasuke was unable to answer, but Akira kept trying to catch his eye.
"I think it would be fun to be a fox," Akira said after a while. Sasuke still didn't answer. "I would walk around the forest and make friends with other animals, like the birds," the boy continued. "And I would play with the butterflies and chase after bunnies."
Sasuke frowned. "I would prefer being a cat rather than being a fox," he said honestly.
Akira blinked, as did Sasuke at his own words. Sasuke opened his mouth trying to correct what he had said, but the damage had been done.
"Tou-chan would like to be a cat?" Akira asked
Sasuke waved his left hand, which still missed a finger. "No, no, not like that, I-"
"I would lie in the sun all day and play with the fishies in the pond. Cats can do that right? Tou-chan? What would you do?"
Thinking he had already said too much, Sasuke wisely refrained from answering that question. He avoided it by cleverly changing the subject. "What would you like to eat for dinner?"
Akira perked up. "I can choose?"
* I'm referring to the one-shot Kisu of course ;)
Tsunade turned another page of a dusty old book. She was in a small circular room. A tiny window shone some light on her with books covered tiny wooden desk. The sunlight showed how dusty the room itself was as small particles drifted in the air.
She had been in this room for an entire day, and she had kept telling herself that 'after she had finished looking through this book she would get out' for over three hours now.
With a deep sigh she turned the last page of yet another book, and put her hand over her face, rubbing her eyes. There had to be an answer how to switch Naruto and Sasuke back in one of these books. She was quite sure she had read something about it, even though it had been a very long time ago when she was still just a medical student herself.
As she closed the book, dust flew up all around her, not only from her surroundings, but also from the book itself. She stood up and lowered her hand. Perhaps she should have put someone else on this, but she was sure she was close to finding the answer. It was something she just had to do; that she needed to do. Her hand reached for the old doorknob and turned it. With a squeaking sound the old wooden door opened, and she stepped out of the old mouldy, but still pleasant smell of a room filled with old books, into the fresh air of the rest of the building.
Another deep sigh, and she locked the door before walking away.
Sasuke looked down on the drawing his son was making, and put a red pencil on the paper. He drew a couple of apples in the tree Akira had just made. He was sitting behind the small boy, who leaned over the round coffee table busy colouring. He was now busy drawing butterflies.
Sasuke, even though he had always liked Akira's drawings no matter what Naruto had said about them, had to admit that the afternoons Akira had spent with Sai during the last couple of weeks, had shown a very positive change in Akira's drawing. Sasuke hadn't thrown away a single drawing of Akira. He had even fished a few crumpled ones out of the trashcan. He could not even explain to himself why he had done so, but he safely kept them all in a drawer in the bedroom. He knew Naruto had seen him put some of the colourful papers away at some time, but had never said a word about it.
Sasuke put the red pencil away and got another pencil to draw a couple of flowers in the grass. Akira gave him directions about what colours he should use, and so Sasuke did.
At that moment Naruto came walking into the room. "Heya," he said. Sasuke and Akira looked up to him and saw him chuckle. As a result two eyebrows rose; one blond and one dark.
Naruto waved his hand in front of his face. "Oh, it was sooo funny," he laughed, and continued his explanation after noticing the questioning looks of the two colouring boys. "I ran into Sakura-chan on the market." Naruto walked over to the couch and sat down. He lifted the bag of tomatoes to Sasuke and Akira. "Want some?" Sasuke stared at the bag, not believing Naruto was eating tomatoes as if they were apples, and Akira shook his head politely. "She didn't even notice I wasn't you," Naruto laughed.
Sasuke frowned. "Really?"
Naruto nodded. "Of course it was not easy pretending to be you. I had no idea Sakura-chan was so different around you when you two are alone."
Sasuke looked up into Naruto's dark eyes. "Hm," he said shrugging, but it wasn't a very convincing shrug.
"She's more… less…" Naruto seemed to search for words, but could not find the right one as his long pause made clear.
"Not really," Sasuke said and turned back to his son, but Naruto stopped him by laying his hand on Sasuke's shoulder.
"What do you two talk about?" he asked.
Naruto narrowed his black eyes. He said nothing for quite some time, and Sasuke had already turned away when Naruto asked, "So what did you want to ask me?"
"Hm?" Sasuke looked up, frowning in confusion.
"Sakura said… you should ask me, so…"
Suddenly, Sasuke's blue eyes widened in realisation. "She told you?"
"More or less," Naruto answered casually, hoping it sounded like he had a fairly good idea what Sasuke was supposed to ask him, while in reality he didn't have a clue.
Suddenly Sasuke became red in the face. Small red blushes adorned his whiskered cheeks. He probably realised this, because he quickly turned away from Naruto. "So you… what did… you angry?" he mumbled.
Since Naruto did not know if Sasuke was supposed to ask him something he should be happy or angry about, Naruto decided to answer with silence. He had gotten accustomed rather quickly to this strange habit.
Due to the silence, Sasuke turned around, but saw no sign or emotion coming from Naruto through his own face; at least nothing that he could make sense of.
"I-" he started but stopped. Then he regained his normal self, and his face became near emotionless. "Hm."
This made Naruto smile. "I want you to ask me personally; I want to hear it from you," Naruto finally decided on saying.
Sasuke stared back. His expression was quite indecipherable, and Naruto was disappointed he could not read anything from his face at all. After a while Sasuke turned back to Akira, and Naruto started to feel the disappointment of not getting an answer.
"It's," Sasuke said softly, and for the first time Naruto felt this thing might be more important than he had ever thought possible. Again silence fell in which only Akira's pencils could be heard as they moved over the paper. Naruto started thinking of all kinds of possible subjects that could give Sasuke trouble talking about. Bad subjects came easier to mind, like diseases, having a depression and such, but Naruto was quite sure it wasn't any of that. Had he broken something, something precious? Was he about to make an important decision? He had found out a secret? Was it something life changing?
Before Naruto could think of any more reasons, Sasuke had turned back to Naruto. "You have no idea what it is about, do you?"
Naruto knew now that Sasuke had seen him thinking, and had of course drawn the right conclusion. Naruto bit his lip.
Sasuke nodded as if he understood something Naruto did not. "I see." He turned his head back to the table, and started to colour the trunk of the tree just as Akira had instructed. "You don't have to worry about it."
Naruto leant forward, hoping for more sentences to follow that would explain what Sasuke was talking about, but not even another word came. Knowing that Sasuke knew full well that he had only made Naruto even more curious, Naruto leant back against the couch and folded his arms. In turn Naruto knew Sasuke would not utter another word about the matter, no matter how hard Naruto would try. Naruto had his ways to persuade Sasuke, but some situations were just different. This was such a situation.
Brooding somewhat about this situation Naruto did not even notice Sasuke's uncomfortable shuffling and occasional glances in Naruto's direction.
Later that day Naruto went out into the garden to tend to it. He was relieved that watering the plants was still as satisfying as it had ever been. When he told Sasuke this, once the now blond had come to watch him, Sasuke said his liking of watering plants probably had nothing to do with the physical action, but with an underlying mental motivation.
Naruto frowned. "What do you try to say? That this is therapy for me?"
Sasuke shrugged. "I never said any such thing. I just said that you enjoy it more emotionally than physically."
Naruto thought this over while refilling the watering can. He couldn't exactly remember when his liking for watering plants had begun, but he knew it had been a long time ago.
Suddenly Sasuke gave a yelp of pain.
Naruto turned his head around quickly. "What's wrong?" He saw Sasuke clutching his left hand in his right.
Sasuke cursed and looked up to Naruto. "This really hurts." He held up the left hand, and Naruto saw how the last missing part of the hand was growing back. The smallest finger on his left hand was growing little by little.
"Wow, it kinda does look interesting when you can't feel the pain," Naruto said interested, studying the ordeal before him. This earned him an irritated look. "Right, sorry," he apologized and stepped up to Sasuke, laying his hand on the now blond's shoulder. "It's only a little bit that still needs to grow back, so it should be over soon."
"I had forgotten about the missing pinkie," Sasuke said. "You never said it hurt this much," he groaned.
"You're just not used to my body," Naruto told him.
"You're really sensitive," Sasuke complained.
"No I'm not! You could just admit that growing back body parts is painful… besides, it's only a pinkie; imagine what it felt like to grow a shoulder," Naruto huffed.
Sasuke obviously could not think of anything to say at the moment, and instead watched in amazement how the last bit of flesh formed around fresh new muscles. At last when the nail was back, painfully pricking through the new skin and covering the top of his fingertip, Sasuke sighed and let himself slide down the wall until he sat on the porch.
"You made me complete," Naruto smiled. "Literally."
Sasuke looked up to see Naruto bowing over him, looking down upon the left hand Sasuke was still holding in his right hand. "I always knew I would," he said softly.
After dinner Akira played outside with Kou for quite a while until the sun started to set. Sasuke finally went out into the dark to get his son and send him to bed. Naruto watched Sasuke pass by the couch with Akira on his back, and pulled his legs up to make a path for the two.
Once they were up the stairs Naruto stared at the bookcase. He blinked and everything changed somewhat. He could see clearer; it was as if every detail in the room was recorded in his brain. He reached for a leaf of the plant next to him and pulled it back before letting it go. He saw the movement of the plant as if in slow motion, but at the same time the time wasn't slowing down. His eyesight was just much sharper and he could follow everything with precision.
As focussed as he was on the plant however, he did not notice Sasuke coming back downstairs. He only noticed him when he felt a weight on the couch.
"Playing around?" Sasuke asked, smirking.
Naruto turned his head around to face Sasuke. "Why- no, not playing. It's…" Naruto pouted and turned his head away.
"Look this way," Sasuke said, and Naruto turned his head toward Sasuke. A hand was placed on his cheek and directed his head toward Sasuke's torso. "Watch." Sasuke started to mould some chakra, and Naruto saw the colours of his own chakra move through (what was now) Sasuke's body.
"Amazing," Naruto said. He saw how from the stomach, the place where the seal was, red chakra was combined with yellow. He immediately knew, without having any reference, that this was unique. The two colours swirled around each other before mixing and together created the orange chakra Naruto was so familiar with. Every Rasengan he made had the same colour.
Naruto looked up to Sasuke's eyes. "And you always kept that to yourself," he said smirking.
Sasuke shrugged. "I wouldn't even know where to start to explain it to you."
Naruto thought this over. It was indeed hard to put this experience into words, but he knew Sasuke could have done it if he had really wanted too. He also knew the problem with that would not have been the words, but Naruto. He was quite sure that whatever way Sasuke would have found to explain this to him, he would never have understood.
Naruto sat back and closed his eyes. "I think I could get used to this."
"You better not," Sasuke said. "We will switch back to our own bodies."
Naruto suddenly grinned. "But what if we wouldn't?" He turned his now black eyes to Sasuke. "Could you get used to living like this?" He leant forward, closer to Sasuke.
Sasuke didn't answer immediately, and Naruto knew that this very thought had been scaring Sasuke for a while now. "No offence, but I would never be able to be you for ever," Sasuke said quietly.
Naruto grinned. "Yeah, you're right, you wouldn't be able to pull off a convincing me," Naruto said.
Sasuke raised his eyes. "Hmpf."
Naruto turned back. "I'm serious. No one would believe you. I bet they would see through you before they see through me." Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "I mean… you can't even laugh outside this house," Naruto mocked, waving his hand.
"I know what you are trying to do," Sasuke said, turning away.
"Oh, I know," said Naruto, "but you also know I'm telling the truth. You wouldn't even be able to fool the neighbours."
"Like I want to."
"I wasn't talking about if you want to or not. I'm just saying… as a ninja… you lack in the department of fooling others."
"Naruto, you are only making a fool of yourself, please stop this."
Naruto shrugged. "Maybe, but now I know that there is at least one thing in this world that I am better at than you." Naruto smiled his famous foxy smile, even on Sasuke's face. Then he walked out of the room.
Sasuke huffed. Naruto would not get to him; it was too obvious a trap. He would not pretend to be Naruto around anyone. He was himself, and he would not help Naruto with his… pranks.
A couple of minutes later Naruto came back into the room with two cups of some warm chocolate milk. He put them on the table, and smiled strangely at Sasuke -a bit too polite- before he sat down next to him. Sasuke gave a short nod as thank you and continued reading his book. After a while he leant forward to get his chocolate milk. As he moved toward the cup, he could feel something was happening. He didn't know what, and he didn't even think Naruto moved, but somehow his mood or the atmosphere changed.
Seeing his own smirking face Sasuke lifted an eyebrow, and moved the cup up to his lips. Before he could take a sip, or even lift the cup closer than 10 centimetres to his face, Naruto stopped him with a pale hand.
"Whipped cream?" he asked in a deep voice. Sasuke saw something unusual shift behind the black eyes.
Sasuke's eyes slowly travelled to the can of cream in Naruto's right hand. "Sure," he said carefully. He watched Naruto smile and put some of the white cream on his drink. Naruto had his tongue out a little in concentration, which Sasuke thought looked strange on his own face. Then Naruto lowered his arm and the can, and smiled once more.
Sasuke hardly dared to drink or even move closer to his cup, because Naruto kept grinning at him. He tried to drink repeatedly, but after moving the cup away before it even touched his lips for the sixth time, Sasuke finally put it down. "What?"
Naruto's eyes widened as he looked into Sasuke's eyes. "Hm? You don't like it?" he asked innocently.
"I have no idea; I can't drink with you grinning like that."
Naruto's smile got wider. "Oh?"
"What did you do with it?" Sasuke asked.
Naruto's face fell. "Nothing… why would I… what could I have done with it?" He sounded seriously insulted and confused.
Sasuke raised an eyebrow. "Then why are you staring at me?"
"Come on, Sasuke, like I never stare at you."
Sasuke actually smiled at that, and lifted his cup again to let it finally touch his lips. He drank a little, and before he could lick his lips clean Naruto was doing it for him. Sasuke finally had an idea what Naruto had been waiting for.
Naruto sat back again and stared out in front of him innocently, like nothing had happened. Sasuke smirked and again drank some of the hot beverage. Once more Naruto was leaning over as soon as Sasuke had put enough space between the cup and his lips to move in between. This time Naruto did not pull back, and Sasuke put his cup down on the table before a stain might form.
The cup had barely touched the table when he felt his shirt (Naruto's only blue shirt) being lifted over his head. With one hand Naruto pushed him over and with the other reached for something. Sasuke looked up and noticed…
The whipped cream.
"Hm," he said before Naruto started to spray it over his torso. Naruto started to lick Sasuke's tanned skin, and played with the bellybutton before unbuttoning the black pants. He held up the can again and grinned at Sasuke before spraying some more on his chest, going lower and lower.
Sasuke watched Naruto's movements with interest, and was quite surprised when Naruto stopped and suddenly got up. He stepped away from the blond and walked out of the room, leaving an aroused Sasuke behind.
All alone, covered in the white cream, Sasuke waited for Naruto to return, but he did not. "Naruto?" he growled softly.
Naruto stuck his head around the corner of the kitchen. "What is it, Sasu?" he asked in an overly sweet voice, which amazed Sasuke that he could do such a thing with Sasuke's deep voice.
"What are you doing?" Sasuke asked, trying to keep any emotion from his trembling voice.
"Nothing," Naruto said honestly. "Why?"
Sasuke was officially annoyed. "Really?" he asked.
"Really," Naruto repeated. "Why… oh, you were referring to the…" Naruto moved his hand around the corner and waved his finger over to Sasuke's body, "cream and such?"
Sasuke said nothing, he was sure the look on his face spoke many more words than any actual spoken words could.
"Ah, well, you know." Naruto took a step into the living room. "I started to wonder just now… would the real Sasuke do something like this? I mean, if I would try to be you, there is no way you would leave me lying there like this, right? You wouldn't be able to leave me there like that… It would be too tempting, too irresistible. But then I thought I'm not you."
"What?" Sasuke asked, frowning.
"If we would pretend to be each other," Naruto clarified. "Would you do something like this?" he asked and waved his hand over to Sasuke once more.
Sasuke just stared back, an eye twitching.
"I thought you wouldn't. Then I decided I should leave you like this, just for fun."
Sasuke closed his eyes. His eyebrow was twitching, his hands formed into fists, the red bushy tail sweeping against the side of the couch in an annoyed way. "Get…" he said through gritted teeth, "your ass…" Naruto grinned at him, "over here," he nearly yelled.
"No," Naruto said simply. Sasuke opened his eyes, and cast a dangerous look at Naruto. He would have dropped death right now if it wasn't for his immunity to his own blue eyes. "Unless…" Naruto trailed on softly.
"Don't be so stubborn," Sasuke said. "You wouldn't leave me lying here like this either."
"I just did, didn't I?" Naruto smirked, and Sasuke was well aware Naruto really could leave him lying here like this; leaving without a second thought. Hating his own weakness, Sasuke growled softly again.
"Okay, I'll pretend to be you," Sasuke said irritated, "and you can pretend to be me. Now clean me up." Naruto smiled and his dark eyes sparkled. "The proper way," Sasuke added growling.
Naruto jumped up in excitement, and walked over to where Sasuke was lying on the couch. "Promise? Then the bet is on?"
"Yes, yes, only if you do things right," Sasuke said, very annoyed and frustrated.
Naruto hunched down next to him. "Oh, don't worry about that." He bent his head over Sasuke and started licking.
Naruto nuzzled Sasuke's chest, and wrapped the sheets of their bed tightly around his still warm body. He brushed a damp lock of dark hair from his eyes and looked up to Sasuke, who leant against a small pile of pillows, looking up at the ceiling.
"You're not mad, are you?" The now raven asked.
Sasuke's blue eyes lowered onto Naruto. "You made up for everything," he said softly, his fox ears moving back. A small blush formed on his cheeks.
Naruto grinned stupidly, and laid his head down again, resting his cheek against Sasuke's chest. "It will be fun, I promise."
"I'm looking forward to living your life. I wonder if it is different than I think it is."
Sasuke looked out of the open window. "Hm, yes, interesting," he said softly. It really might be interesting to be Naruto for a while.
Naruto tightened his grip around Sasuke. "We'll see who gets found out first; you… or me," Naruto said. "To those who know we have switched bodies, we can tell we are back to normal."
"No," said Sasuke.
Naruto frowned and moved his head to look up to Sasuke's face. "You don't think you could fool my team?"
"I won't do this because of a prank. This is a bet." Sasuke crossed his arms, and gave Naruto a look that was very close to his usual 'you're-going-to-far, don't-exaggerate' look.
The look was too convincing for Naruto to go against it. "Fine," he said reluctantly. From experience he knew it was useless to oppose this look. "Fine… but you will still train them. If Sakura or Kakashi comes looking for me… they will immediately know something isn't right."
Sasuke considered this. It actually took him quite a while to answer, and Naruto knew why. He was still against all this as a prank; he needed to be sure it was just a bet about skills, not to amuse Naruto. Of course Sasuke knew Naruto would consider this a prank no matter what Sasuke decided, but Naruto didn't feel like pointing this out. "It's all or nothing. You want to know what my life is like? You will have to train then," he decided on saying instead.
"Alright," Sasuke finally said. Then he grinned. "You'll lose this bet too." He closed his eyes, and moved the fox tail around Naruto's middle.
"I'm in your body now," Naruto said, "remember? And Sasuke never loses to Naruto." Then he frowned. "I can't believe I actually said that…" Confounded he stared out into the dark. "Why did I say that?" he asked softly. Then shook his head. "Stupid body of Sasuke…" Then he sighed.
"But I can't stay mad at it for too long either…" Naruto muttered. "I hate you but I love you too. I guess it will always be like that."
Naruto sighed at the filled bowl of ramen with it's wonderful odours spreading into the air, it's delicious contents perfectly balanced in the bowl, and moaned softly. "Why…. Why the ramen… anything but the ramen…" he almost whispered.
Sasuke frowned while he looked down at the bowl of ramen and then to Naruto. "You're not going to cry now, are you? You will have lost the bet after just one day." He smirked.
His lip quivered for a moment, but when Teuchi turned around to his visitors, Naruto showed a straight face.
In Teuchi's eyes, he saw Naruto grin and Sasuke silently sulk over the fact that he had been dragged into the ramen stand once more.
"I'm so glad we're back. I missed you so much," the blond said, he picked up his bowl and hugged it. "Love of my life."
The raven lifted an eyebrow. "Haha, Naruto," Teuchi said. "Don't exaggerate; though I do appreciate the compliment." He winked at the blond, whom he thought was Naruto.
Naruto turned back to his own ramen, and took a sip after a 'hn' had left his lips.
"Ah, don't worry Sasuke-kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun," Sasuke said to his own body, "You'll always be my number one." He lowered the bowl and gave Naruto a one armed hug.
Teuchi laughed once more along with Naruto before turning back to his kitchen.
Naruto pushed Sasuke's arm off his shoulder. "I don't act like that…" he muttered softly.
Sasuke smirked. "I don't see Teuchi being suspicious of me at all," Sasuke whispered back, and slurped the last bit of ramen from the bowl. "Hmmm," he said aloud, making sure both Naruto and Teuchi heard him finish his food.
Naruto's eye twitched, followed by a jealous and envious look at Sasuke. He took another sip of his own ramen with a bitter look on his face. "Usuratonkachi," he said softly.
This only earned him a smirk from the blond.
"You will pay for this," he whispered so softly, even Sasuke could barely hear it.
Trying to keep from crying over his lost love of ramen, Naruto finished his own bowl before the two set off.
"You will enjoy spending time with my team," Naruto said after a while, hoping to get back at Sasuke soon.
Sasuke said nothing.
"I'll be off to a boring ANBU meeting. I can't believe I'm a member now." Naruto grinned, apparently having recovered from his de-ramening confrontation. "Say hello to my team." He bent over to Sasuke, kissed him on the cheek, gave him a grin, and took off into the other direction.
Sasuke, still not used to the fact that he needed to stand tip-toe to reach Naruto, frowned and started walking again. He folded his arms. He still wasn't entirely sure if it had been a good thing that Naruto had… convinced him (more like tricked him – how had he done that?) into accepting the bet.
He stepped onto the green grass of training ground 3. He looked around before heading to the wooden posts. There, Ryomaru was already waiting. He was fiddling with his new red sweater. Sasuke walked up to him and leant against the most right post. Ryomaru looked up, said his greeting and looked down again, only to look up with wide dark eyes. "Sasuke-sama?" he asked in disbelief.
Sasuke nodded, and immediately Ryomaru closed up, unable to speak. It wasn't until Eri and Kenji came to the training ground that words would be spoken again.
"Ohayo Sasuke-sama. Where's Naruto-sensei?" Eri asked, looking around. "Unless…" she looked up to Naruto's form and stood on her toes to examine his face through narrowed green eyes.
"No, we haven't switched back yet," Sasuke said and straightened up, unfolding his crossed arms.
"I thought so," Eri said softly.
Kenji's eyes suddenly widened. "Are you going to train us today?" he asked excitedly.
All three students looked up with bright faces. Sasuke nodded.
"What are we going to do?" Eri asked enthusiastically.
Sasuke looked out over the wide field. "You three can start by giving me 20 laps around the field."
"Yes, Sasuke-sama," the three said in unison and jogged away.
"It's sensei on the field," he said, preferring to be called sensei rather than sama.
Sasuke let them do some other warming-up exercises before he told them what he had planned for the day. "I'm going to teach you a new formation."
"Really? What kind of formation?" Eri asked exited, even though she was a bit exhausted by Sasuke's warming-up.
"One I thought up especially for this team." Some exited murmurs sounded, but Sasuke held up his hands. "I based it on a formation team 7 uses."
Next he started to explain the formation, how it worked, when it could be used, what kind of situation it was devised for, when they shouldn't use it, and even how they could use the formation if they had a replacement. It took about an hour for Sasuke to finish his very thorough explanation.
Eri blinked lazily before Sasuke clapped his hands together, indicating for the three to step onto the field. Eri looked up startled. Kenji had, of course, hung to Sasuke's lips, memorizing every word, and Ryomaru had politely listened without falling asleep.
Soon the trio would figure out Sasuke was not only thorough with his explanation, but as well when it came to their positions and movements. Ryomaru wondered, whilst timing his jutsu with Kenji, if Sasuke had been like this on their previous trainings. It wasn't until noon had passed when he figured out why Sasuke had gone in such depth about this training session.
"Hurry, Eri-chan, if you don't do it right, we won't finish this training today, and will not be able to do the formation," Kenji told a slightly irritated Eri.
"Then you can try being a bit more flexible!" Eri yelled back.
Sasuke silenced them with just a look. "Don't worry, I'll be training you the rest of the week."
Mouths fell open. "Really? Why?" Eri asked.
"Hn," Sasuke said, looking away. "Just worry about the formation."
An hour later Naruto landed on the middle of the wooden posts and hunched down on it, his head hanging. "Now I know why I'm not an ANBU. Meetings are boring. For a while I was quite sure I would die."
Sasuke, who had been leaning against the most right pole, narrowed his eyes in a disapproving way. "You did pay attention, didn't you?"
Naruto abruptly lifted his head. "Of course! That's what you would do, but still…" He rubbed his temples. "Too much info~," he whined.
Sasuke rolled his eyes before turning to Naruto's team. "You can stop," he shouted out over the field, and the trio immediately did so. Panting they walked over to the two adults, and sat down on the grass.
"What did you make them do?" Naruto wondered out loud, looking down over his students.
"Best… training… ever," Kenji said between breaths.
Naruto lifted his thin black eyebrows, but said nothing. He watched the trio sit down by the wooden posts. "Eh, Sasuke, can we have a talk?" He pointed over his shoulder.
Sasuke started walking to some bushes, and Naruto jumped off the poles, following him. "You eh… what are you teaching them?" Naruto asked slightly concerned when he looked over Sasuke's head to see his team lying almost K.O. on the ground.
"A new formation."
Naruto stared down at Sasuke. "A new formation?" he repeated slowly.
Sasuke nodded and folded his arms over his chest. "A new formation," he stated once more.
Naruto wasn't sure how to continue, and thus he went for the easy way out. "Okay," he said smiling, and walked away. If this was too difficult or to taxing on his team, Sasuke would find out sooner or later.
Sasuke stopped Naruto by putting his tail in front of Naruto's stomach. "Why?"
Naruto turned back to Sasuke. Oh, how much he missed looking up to Sasuke's face instead of down at his own. "No reason, just curious."
Sasuke narrowed his blue eyes. "Hn."
Naruto grinned at him. "Oh, I had a question…" Sasuke's eyes narrowed even further.
"Tonight, could you-" Naruto suddenly stopped, and looked over Sasuke's shoulder. Sasuke had already turned around to look at the three people coming onto the training field. Naruto turned to his team when he recognized the three Grass ninja.
"Eeeeeh? Ru-ru…" Eri stuttered at the sight of their rivals from the chuunin exams.
"Oh my," Kenji said, "Eri-chan, look, it's your boyfriend. What's his name?"
Two of the three grass shinobi stayed near the edge of the training ground, but one came forward and walked over to Eri, Kenji and Ryomaru.
"Eri-chan," Ruki greeted, and nodded to the other two.
"Ruki… What are you doing here?" Eri asked, turning somewhat red in the face.
"We had a mission, and when we were here I wanted to see you again," Ruki said, only a smile visible through the mask.
"Well… it's… it's nice to see you again," Eri said, smiling shyly.
Kenji started to laugh loudly, and Eri turned an angry face to him. "Kenji, shut it!"
"I'm sorry, Eri-chan, but seeing you with your boyfriend-"
"Boyfriend?" Ruki asked.
Kenji and Eri turned to Ruki; Eri blushing madly, shaking her head. Kenji smirked. "Not?" he asked.
Ruki shook his head. "Well, that's impossible I'm afraid."
The smirk on Kenji's face fell, and Eri seemed a bit… disappointed? "What do you mean?" Kenji asked.
Ruki turned to Eri. "You like me?" the Grass ninja asked.
Eri, by now completely red in the face, bit her lip. "N-no," she said. Before Kenji could laugh at her, she punched him in the gut, and he doubled over.
"Ahw, that's so sweet," Ruki said, and stepped closer to Eri. Eri almost took a step back when she saw Ruki raise a hand, and pull of the mask.
Eri's mouth fell open, as did Ryomaru's. Kenji stared wide-eyed.
"You're a girl?" Eri asked stunned.
Ruki smiled. A girl with short dark hair and cobalt blue eyes stared back at Eri's green eyes. "You didn't notice at all?" Ruki asked, grinning.
Eri had turned speechless, her eyes still wide and mouth slightly opened. Ruki leant forward and kissed Eri on the cheek. "Hope to see you again sometime. Ja na." Ruki waved goodbye, and walked off to her team.
It was a smart move of Kenji not to say anything at the moment. Ryomaru, blushing, turned away and obviously didn't know what to do. Eri stood rooted to the spot.
Naruto elbowed Sasuke. "Will you look at that," he said.
Sasuke pushed the elbow aside. "Hn."
Naruto folded his arms over his chest, and looked down on his two teammates. He frowned and huffed.
Sakura smiled and stared at the tall raven in front of her. "What are you so frustrated about, Sasuke-kun? You're the one who didn't mind training me?" She looked over to the object of Naruto's (but what she thought was Sasuke's) stare. "You can still be with Naruto tonight, you just have to share with me," she turned back to Sasuke and grinned devilishly.
"Hn." He turned his black eyes away from the other two, and instead directed them at a small, near mirror image of his current self. Akira smiled at him, and Naruto winked at the small boy. Earlier on, Akira had promised he would play along with their pretence if he could come along with the two of them to the training ground.
"Ne, Sasuke, don't you want to do this? Then why did you drag me over here for?" Sasuke said, frowning. He crossed his arms and pouted.
It was quite the truth that Naruto had dragged Sasuke with him to the training ground. Naruto had no idea how to teach Sakura anything about genjutsu. He had managed to make Akira convince Sasuke to come along; which had been easier than he had thought.
"Hmm, you're right," he smirked. "Alright." He turned back to the other two. "Let's give Akira a show." He smiled at the young boy, who looked up excitedly. Naruto stepped forward and loosened the muscles in his neck.
"Let's continue where we left off. Naruto would be an ideal subject." Sakura turned toward Sasuke, who held his face in fake surprise. "We were developing a new genjutsu that could be cast by two ninja's at the same time," Sakura told him. While she thought she explained this to Naruto, she was actually telling the only person on the field that already knew about this. It was a good thing that she had her back to the tall raven, because Naruto's eyebrows had lifted when he heard what the two had been training for.
"And why am I such a good subject then?" Sasuke asked, knowing Naruto was wondering this right now. However, he did not ask Sakura this for Naruto's sake, but because he did not want to lose their bet.
"Because casting a genjutsu isn't that easy, and this way we can figure out if it is more powerful than any other genjutsu we can cast."
In the meantime Naruto was starting to freak out. He had no idea if he was able to cast even a normal genjutsu, let alone one of Sasuke's level. To top it off, he had no idea about this genjutsu Sasuke and Sakura had been training for. With slight panic showing on his face he bit his lip, and thought deep of a time he had seen Sasuke perform a genjutsu. This morning he had been trying to cast a genjutsu on an innocent passer-by, and eventually he thought he might have been able to do so, but he had not been able to confirm this. He needed a plan. "Sakura," he called to Sakura with Sasuke's deep voice. Sakura turned around to face him. "Show him what we'll do."
Sakura nodded and turned back to Sasuke. She hadn't seen the look Sasuke had sent to Naruto while she turned her head, because when she faced Sasuke he showed a questioning look on the whiskered face. "You can just stay still over here. It would be easier if we can first test this on a stationary subject." Sasuke nodded. "Sasuke-kun and I will form the hand signs saru, tora, mi, ushi and uma-" Naruto was so relieved Sakura had taken his instruction this literally, "-and cast a genjutsu upon you. The tricky part is that we not only have to do this at the same time, but also with the same amount of chakra and intensity."
Sasuke nodded, knowing this full well. He just wanted to see how Naruto would get out of this situation without showing Sakura he wasn't the Uchiha she thought he was. "Right, just show me," he said impatiently.
Sakura nodded and turned back to Naruto, walking over to him. Sasuke saw Naruto perform the hand signs, and was surprised to see he was actually able to cast a genjutsu, even though it wasn't to Sasuke's standard. It wasn't at all synchronized with Sakura's, and Sakura wasn't blind, so she noticed all of this too. "Uhm, Sasuke-kun?" she asked, glancing up at Naruto.
Naruto showed with great restraint no emotion on his face, and looked over to Sakura coolly. "Hn."
Sakura said nothing, and brought up her hands once more, hoping Sasuke had just… made a mistake? She looked over to the blond, and saw he had not even noticed much of a genjutsu being cast upon him. He had easily lifted it.
Naruto closed his eyes and concentrated as hard as he could on all the 'genjutsu lessons' Sasuke had ever given him, but this only frustrated him even more. He did not remember much after all. So he tried a different approach. This was not his own body, but Sasuke's, which was used to performing genjutsus. This meant that he could do so too, as long as he could make this body remember how to do so.
Again he and Sakura performed the hand signs, and both cast their genjutsu upon Sasuke. Sasuke was surprised this time, and actually fell for the genjutsu for a moment. Naruto had done it, he had no idea how, but Naruto had cast quite the decent genjutsu. Sakura and the pretending Sasuke were still not synchronized, but he had reached almost the right standard.
Sasuke lifted the genjutsu, and saw Sakura talk to Naruto. She told the raven something about the chakra level she was using.
They continued their work the entire evening. Not once did the two synchronize, but they had come quite close so. Sasuke frowned after he had to dispel yet another illusion. He looked over to his son, who stood watching the trio happily from the side-line. It was about bedtime for the young man, but he couldn't say anything. He knew Naruto wouldn't mind if Akira stayed up a bit longer than normal.
"Sakura, what if I just copy-"
"No, I told you I need to be able to sync with you as well. What if you couldn't see me?"
"But just for now, on the training ground we could try. We haven't been able to pull this off correctly even once. Let's first focus on that," Naruto pressed on.
Sakura shook her head. "No, I think it's more important if we can feel each other instead-"
"Ho wo, what did I just hear?" Sasuke said.
Sakura and Naruto turned to the blond. "What?" Sakura asked. Naruto blinked.
"Feel each other?" Sasuke asked.
Sakura frowned. "Honestly, Naruto, you know we were talking about this jutsu."
"I think Naruto is getting frustrated he's not been able to show Akira-ku-" he quickly stopped himself from adding a full kun before continuing his sentence as if nothing was wrong, hoping no one would notice, " any cool moves," Naruto said to Sasuke.
Sasuke frowned, and puffed his cheeks very convincingly. Naruto had to admit he hadn't thought Sasuke would be able to show this much emotion on one day. "Ah, moo, let's go home. I thought this might be fun, but it's incredibly boring," Sasuke whined.
Naruto wondered if he really sounded like that, and when he glanced over to Sakura, he saw she believed it, because she didn't respond in any other way than by shaking her head. Naruto then looked over to Akira, and saw him yawn. Once the small boy noticed someone was watching him, he tried to hide his tiredness.
"We should go home," Naruto said. "Akira should get to bed." He turned his head back to the others. Then he added, "It's already way too late," after he had realized Sasuke had narrowed his eyes at this statement as if he wanted to say 'you finally noticed?'.
"No, tou-" Akira yawned once more, "-chan, I'm not tired…" Realising the yawn had ruined his credibility, his small shoulders slumped.
Naruto smiled, making sure no one noticed, before he walked over to Akira, and lifted him up. "Time for bed, young man."
Akira put his arms around Naruto's broad shoulders. "I don't want to, tou-chan," he said softly. Akira turned out to be a natural at acting.
Sakura smiled when she saw the two ravens interact, and turned to Naruto. "Those two are just the cutest, aren't they?"
Sasuke looked up to Sakura's green eyes. "Yeah," he said before turning to watch the two as well, "yeah, indeed."
Sakura leant against Sasuke's shoulder. "Don't worry; he loves you just as much." She pulled at his fox ears.
"I know, Sakura-chan… Please stop that," he said a tad annoyed when she kept pulling and moving the ears.
"You normally don't complain that much," she said before letting go. "Are you still angry we only casted genjustus upon you all evening? Or because we didn't cast a nice genjutsu upon you?" She elbowed him and grinned.
Sasuke frowned. "Let's go home," he said and started walking away.
"I'm sorry, Naruto," Sakura said catching up to him.
They followed the two ravens while Akira sleepily talked to Naruto, who still pretended to be Sasuke.
"It's great to see how much they have grown together," Sakura told the blond beside her softly.
Sasuke looked up at her, and then turned to look at Naruto and Akira. Suddenly he smiled. He had been growing closer to Akira.
Sakura looked away from the blond, and pointed at a side road. "Ah, I need to go this way." She turned on her heels and waved goodbye. "See you."
"Bye," Sasuke waved goodbye. He turned back to look at what was usually his own back and Akira smiling over Naruto's shoulder.
"You're lucky today," Sasuke said.
Akira smiled. "Right?"
They arrived at their house, and Naruto carried Akira up to his bedroom; Sasuke following behind them.
"Tou-chan, can I come more often?" Akira asked through half-lidded eyes, while Naruto pulled his pyjama shirt over his head. Akira looked up to Naruto. "Can I?"
Naruto blinked. "I'm okay with it," he grinned.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "What? No-"
"Yay!" Akira jumped up and embraced Naruto. "Thank you tou-chan."
Naruto felt the boy's small arms around his neck, and slowly turned around to face Sasuke, who seemed to have been frozen over. "Eh, Akira-kun… I'm Naruto, remember?"
With a soft yelp Akira let go of Naruto. "What?" He looked over to Sasuke.
Then Naruto started to laugh loudly. "Haha, we played our parts so well that you forgot?"
Akira started to fiddle with his shirt, not daring to look up at the two adults. "No… I… maybe?"
Naruto laughed some more, and reached out for the small raven boy. "Don't worry," he said, pulling Akira closer, "You were sleepy."
Akira bit his lip, and peered over Naruto's shoulder to his real father. Sasuke stared at the boy, who thought his father might be angry and cringed. Then Sasuke smiled slightly. Akira returned it before he yawned.
"Maybe it really is too late for you," Naruto said, lifting the boy onto the bed. He kissed Akira on the cheek and walked away. "Night."
Akira waited for Sasuke to come closer, and was glad to see he hunched down beside his bed, his arms resting on the mattress. "You had fun tonight?"
Akira nodded. "I did!"
"Well, I'm not planning on letting you stay up this late again, but…" He looked into the teal hopeful eyes, "I might bring you along to training more often."
Akira leant over to Sasuke and kissed him on the cheek.
Naruto flattened himself against a wooden panel dividing him from some very alert guards. Of course he wasn't so much interested in the guards, as in what they were guarding; the reason of his mission.
Naruto straightened his white mask, and took a silent deep breath. His mission was clear, and more importantly for him, easy to remember. He noticed a dark lock of hair fall onto the floor as it slipped down his mask. Without putting the lock of hair away he crawled forward as softly as he could. Sasuke's body, as tall as it was, was surprisingly agile and quiet. He positioned himself above the centre of guards underneath him. He could see their chakra signals through small slits in the ceiling, and waited for something to happen.
Twenty-seven seconds left. Naruto closed his red eyes while clutching a kunai in his left hand. He could understand what attracted Sasuke to becoming an ANBU. The adrenaline cursing through his veins was like crazy, nervous breaking, but at the same time addictive.
Twenty-one seconds left. Naruto was starting to fear the pounding of his heart would start to vibrate the panels he lay upon. He was quite certain that the guards would notice if dust started falling down upon their shoulders. It was a good thing the standard ANBU uniform had gloves, because it almost felt like he was lying on a carpet instead of wood; such a thick layer of dust had gathered. His nailed glove made a circle in the layer of dust.
Just ten more seconds. Naruto grinned as he thought of the surprised faces the guards would carry in a couple of seconds. A ceiling would not be the first time to be a ninja's hiding place, but the layout of this huge building, and the combination with the very, very tight security made it near impossible for someone to get to this place. Of course impossible did not exist in Naruto's vocabulary, so he had succeeded to end up in this typical, almost movie like, situation. The guards would not expect him to be here.
Three. Two. One.
Naruto looked around when nothing happened. His eyes moved left and right behind the mask, and he frowned. Had he made a mistake? Maybe he hadn't counted correctly, or his calculation-
Some guards walked to the door to see what was going on as a second explosion sounded.
As his cue was given, Naruto pushed himself up in the cramped space, and pushed down at the ceiling while his back hit a wooden beam. The wooden ceiling panel, as old as it was, easily gave way and fell down. Gracefully, in one smooth movement, Naruto slipped off the falling panel and softly laded beside the broken panel. In the confusion of dust and wood falling down, Naruto finished his mission.
The kunai in his left hand had gone; it was still hanging in the ceiling with a thin wire attached to it so that he would easily find his way back up. Thus he slipped out his katana with his left hand grasping over his right shoulder. The dust had not even had the chance to be pulled down by gravity before Naruto had done his job, and was already crawling back into the cramped space of the ceiling.
The soft thud of a body hitting the ground was the only indication for the guards that they were too late. A deep, clean cut sprayed the still pumping blood through the man's throat onto the walls and ceiling. The guards screamed and shouted in a state of near panic while the dust had not even settled down.
The tall body of Sasuke swiftly lowered through a small hole in the wall, landing without a sound in the shadows of a nearby room. There he gathered some chakra in his hand before putting the palm of it against a scroll he had rolled out earlier. The end of the scroll could not be seen, as it had been completely unrolled and went around a corner. When his hand touched the kanji symbol of fire at the beginning of the scroll, a reaction of explosions erupted all around him. He made a run for it.
He had to stop two times and hide in the shadows to not be noticed. One of two times he had nearly been discovered, but even in Sasuke's body, Naruto hadn't lost his touch of luck.
Not even three minutes later the cold air hit his mask and bare upper arms, and he quickly sought for the natural concealment in the surrounding flora. He summoned two small hawks and let them fly around unnoticeable. Quietly he knelt under a boulder where he had made some shelter for himself not even three hours ago. Hidden from view by stone and plants, Naruto lay still and kept quiet.
The small woman that looked more like a high school girl paced in front of him. "Sasuke, normally I wouldn't have given you this mission, not alone, but I have no other choice. Considering you're the best I have, I am certain you will be able to succeed even without back-up." The girlish woman had an uncharacteristically deep and croaked voice as if she had been smoking since she was born.
Naruto nodded and waited for more information to come. "Hai."
The woman handed him a picture. "This man is Umiyama Ginju. His assassination has been requested. As you know this isn't the first time someone has asked for this. Many shinobi have tried to kill this man, but as to this day none have succeeded nor lived to tell the tale." She ripped the picture out of his hands again; only Sasuke's keen eyesight had saved Naruto from asking to see the picture once more.
She handed him a brown folder. "This is all the information we and our client have about Ginju's home." Naruto felt the paper weight in his hands. "It's not much, but what we have is stunningly accurate, and probably more than anyone has ever gathered. I want you to form a plan; a way to get in and out without anyone knowing what has happened. No one can know who was behind the murder; and none of his ten personal guards will live to see another day."
The grave deep voice of this surprisingly cheerily dressed woman made her words hit Naruto even harder than he could ever had thought they would. Naruto could finally understand why she had such a high rank. She was cut out for this job.
"And one more thing, Sasuke, I want that file destroyed before you leave your house."
Night had fallen before Naruto dared to start moving. Silently -especially for someone that had become stiff from lack of movement- he crept from under the bolder, and filled the hole he had made with dead leaves. Before he set out, he jumped up into the tree that was hovering high above the bolder he had just been hiding under, and checked for any unusual movements around the wooden fortress.
The two hawks returned to him, and told him which places he should avoid. Naruto nodded. "Great job guys," he said quietly.
The smaller of the two stared almost angrily at him with its permanent cool look. A tiny dark green haori was draped around his wings. "I also counted eleven bodies," he said, "just as you had told me."
Naruto grinned behind his mask. "Great. I'll make sure you'll be rewarded once I'm back in the village."
The two birds nodded and disappeared. Naruto turned around and made for a safe return home. He felt the weight, more the physiologic weight than the physical weight, of the katana attached to his right shoulder.
Naruto leant away from all the papers scattered around him, and closed his eyes. He was tired, and longed for a soft bed. A gentle touch on his shoulder made him look up.
Deep blue eyes looked down upon him. "Everything alright?" Sasuke asked softly.
Naruto smiled. "Great."
"How was training with Sakura?" Sasuke sat down next to him.
"She still hasn't found us out yet, even though I'm quite sure she saw me when I tried to make a Rasengan," Naruto said.
Sasuke cast a glance over the papers. "ANBU mission," he said.
Naruto nodded. "I've formed a plan, but…"
Sasuke picked up one of the papers with the missions details. Naruto let him read it since it officially was his mission. "I see," Sasuke said after a while. "What do you've got planned?"
Naruto was relieved he had not needed to ask Sasuke to look things over, but that he had offered his opinion instead. Naruto told him his plan; how he wanted to enter the building, how he would create a distraction, what the assassination would be like, and how he had planned to get out and back home again. All the while he pointed at the few papers with information he had.
"And?" he finally asked. "Does Uchiha Sasuke think it's a decent plan?" Naruto asked, looking down at Sasuke, who sat beside him.
Slowly Sasuke turned his head to look up into Naruto's face. "It's brilliant."
Naruto yawned behind his mask, and closed the cape he wore around his cold body. He normally wasn't used to being cold, but he had been in Sasuke's body for quite a while now, and Naruto (though not liking it) had adapted to it. At least now he understood why Sasuke needed his touch so badly.
He shuffled a bit closer to the stem of the tree before wrapping his arms around his torso. He looked up at the sky through the round holes in his bird shaped mask. Being an ANBU was like having two lives. On the one hand you were a shinobi, but on the other hand it was much more than that. There was much more secrecy involved than in your typical three-man cell group. Naruto had to admit that being an ANBU seemed exciting, but he also saw how his dream of becoming Hokage was not in this direction.
His eyes fell on the asymmetrical moon lighting the earth. 'It's brilliant,' echoed through his head and he smiled. "It was, wasn't it, Sasuke?"
Sasuke looked down at the scroll lying in front of him. Green eyes stared at him, waiting for him to speak. His arms folded, Sasuke pouted, something he had come quite used to these last weeks.
"I don't know Sakura-chan," he said, looking up to the pink-haired woman.
Sakura raised her elegant eyebrows. "Why, because Sasuke-kun is on an ANBU mission?" She folded her arms as well. "I told you even Tsunade-shishou offered to take Akira-kun in for a couple of days."
Sasuke felt something swell up inside his heart when she told him this once more. It was some form of pride and even joy. "I know, but Sasuke…" he said, knowing full well he would not have any problems with this arrangement at all, but felt like Naruto might be afraid he would.
He had lived with Naruto for so long now, had observed him over the years, and thought he had known the blond inside and out. Having switched bodies, he had found out he knew the outside perfectly, but the inside less than he would have liked. It had been more difficult to pretend being Naruto than he could have thought. He was sure Naruto had the same feelings about being him. How did Naruto come to certain conclusions? Sasuke had never known, and even now he still didn't, but slowly he had come to understand what drove Naruto, and had gained some insight in his way of thinking. Naruto was still, and would always be, the unpredictable ninja he was. This was what made Naruto so special, and something he now realised, he valued greatly about the Uzumaki.
"Hm, well, I guess it is a mission with just Sakura-chan, so…" he said, glancing up at her and grinning.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "No, Kakashi-sensei will be coming along as well."
Sasuke lowered his fox ears ever so slightly. "Ah, too bad." He grinned again. "We haven't been on a lot of missions together lately," he said.
"Then what did we do last week?" Sakura frowned. "Had a mini vacation?"
Sasuke closed his eyes and grinned sheepishly. "Right, I had forgotten about that."
Sakura shook her head while taking the scroll from his hand. "Very well."
Sasuke tilted his head. "Ne, Sakura-chan," he asked, but waited before continuing until she looked him in the eyes. He slowly moved his tail from left to right even without realising.
"Yes?" Sakura asked, wondering what Naruto wanted. She patiently waited for the blond to proceed.
"Have you… and Sasuke…"
Sakura's looked up in alert, she hid it well, but Sasuke wasn't Naruto, but he was certain even Naruto would have noticed the quick change of looks. "Have you two… been talking about something?" He stared at her. He was curious how much she had told Naruto the day they had met on the market, and perhaps after that. He knew Naruto didn't really know anything, but he also didn't know what she had said. He was curious… no, not curious, he needed to know her reaction.
Sakura laughed softly, and waved her hand. "Like what? You think we are keeping secrets from you?"
Sasuke shrugged. "I don't know, but I can feel there's something going on."
Sakura hid her slight panic very well. Sasuke knew she would never tell Naruto anything, she had promised him. She had even proposed it herself; most was her idea. "Hm, don't worry Naruto. Of course we talk about things I don't discuss with you, but the same goes the other way," she said.
Sasuke felt his eyebrows rise in surprise. Luckily Sakura would not confuse his look. "Really? Like what?" he asked automatically. Then he realised if she would answer, she would not tell him what she and Naruto talked about, but what she talked about with him.
"Well, we have… conversations…" Sakura said, looking away while a finger twisted one of her locks around.
"About…?" Sasuke asked, wondering what she would tell Naruto.
"Stuff; stuff you wouldn't want to talk about," she answered smartly.
Inwardly Sasuke grinned. Sex. He narrowed his eyes and pulled a face. "Ah, like books," he said.
Sakura took the excuse with both hands. "Yes."
Sasuke nodded, and was glad Sakura indeed kept their conversations private. He knew she wouldn't blab things around, but he had never been sure what she told Naruto. He turned away, ready to take off.
"But Naruto," Sakura said, stopping Sasuke. He looked around over his shoulder. "Don't worry. I appreciate the talks with Sasuke-kun, but I do ours too." Sasuke tilted his head and said nothing, unsure how to react. "We are a team after all, and I'm glad both of you confide in me even though it's not necessary."
Sasuke nodded, and the corner of his mouth curled up. "Yes, I feel the same way."
Sakura smiled. Then she walked up to him, and put her hand on his shoulder. "Let's have a drink together later tonight."
"Of course," Sasuke said, and they parted ways.
As he walked back home, to where Akira was, he wondered what the two talked about when they were alone together. He realised Naruto did tell him a lot, an awful lot, when it came to the conversations he'd had with others. However, as Sasuke went through his memories about the conversations Naruto had with Sakura, he couldn't really come up with much beside chit-chat (or what he considered chit-chat).
He opened the front door as a sudden realisation hit him. Did they have a usual meeting place? Before he could think this over, Akira was standing beside him. "What did Sakura no oba-chan say?" he asked friendly.
"It's a mission," Sasuke answered and took off his sandals. "Tsunade-sama has offered to let you stay over while Naruto and I are both gone."
"Really?" Akira asked. Sasuke straightened up, and looked down at his son's face. He nodded.
Slowly, carefully a smile started to form on the young boy's face. "I can… stay over at the Hokage's house?" he asked in a very small voice.
Suddenly Sasuke smiled. "Yes, she would be happy to have you over."
It was obvious Akira had trouble to grasp the entire impact of this news. He tried to contain his excitement, while at the same time his eyes nervously moved around the small hall. "I…" he said softly.
Sasuke lowered onto his haunches, and put his hand on the raven-haired boy's head. "You don't like that?" he asked, whilst knowing the answer. He waited for Akira to respond.
The boy looked up, his teal green eyes meeting sapphire blue. They widened, and Sasuke felt a little like he had his Sharingan back when he saw right in front of him how things happened exactly as he had expected to. Small fists grabbed his orange shirt, and the boy shivered ever so slightly before saying in quite the steady voice: "I do!"
Sasuke laughed and hugged the boy. He placed his hand on the back of Akira's head, and pressed it softly against his chest. He felt how Akira's hands moved around his waist to return the embrace, even though he was sure the boy was a bit surprised. Sasuke lightly laid his cheek lightly on the boys head. "You're very special."
His tail swept back and forth in annoyance. His ears lay flat against his should be yellow hair. A deep frown stared at the taller man opposite him, who smirked.
"It's not funny," Naruto said as he tried to get some of the mud off his body.
Sasuke showed little remorse while he watched the blond trying to make an attempt at cleaning his orange clothes and green jounin vest. After a short while he stepped forward and removed some grass from Naruto's blond spikes and fox ears. "It was an accident," he said suddenly.
Naruto looked up at those words that might possibly be the closest he would get to an apology. "You pushed me," Naruto sneered.
"Accidentally," Sasuke reassured.
Naruto narrowed his blue eyes further. "It was not," he said stubbornly, and pushed Sasuke's hand away from his ear. He turned around and strode off, leaving Sasuke behind with a tied up ninja.
"Is he…" the brown haired ninja asked slowly from behind Sasuke, "your boyfriend?" He cocked an eyebrow.
Sasuke turned to the shinobi sitting on the muddy ground behind him, and roughly caught his collar. Without answering he unceremoniously hoisted the ninja over his shoulder, and followed Naruto.
"Haha, you are in trouble now," the ninja said, and Sasuke considered dropping him. "I know you pushed him on purpose," he continued as if he didn't care he was slung over a tall ninja's shoulder, and most likely to be brought to a prison.
"Shut up," Sasuke grunted softly, not feeling like talking at the moment. He hoisted the man in a better position, hoping the hustling around would make him stop talking.
In front of the raven, a couple of meters between them, Naruto was still brushing off the slowly hardening mud combined with some grass, grumbling as he did so. His muddy tail still made jerky movements out of anger.
"Taking your anger out on me won't make you feel better," the ninja on Sasuke's shoulder said.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes. Maybe he should knock this guy out first; he didn't care that the mission said to bring this guy home uninjured.
"And you even stepped on that strange dog tail of him," the shinobi continued to annoy Sasuke. "That did look painful. Of course I don't know for sure, never seen a guy with a tail before."
Did the mission say anything about mental damage? Maybe a genjutsu would make this man stop talking.
"I know that was accidental, but you didn't even apologize?" The man shook his head. "And he just smiled at you. Is he an idiot? Maybe he did trip over his own feet before he fell into that mud pool. He doesn't look too bright anyway."
Sasuke grunted. "I'm sure you noticed the fox ears," he said in a low voice, trying to keep his growing irritation in check. "He can hear everything you're saying."
"Really?" The brunet was quiet for a while. "Ah, well, got nothing to lose anyway," and he continued badmouthing Naruto and Sasuke. "Are you two really together? It just seems so unlikely. You two don't fit together at all," he finally said.
The only good thing was that with that said, the brunet kept quiet from then on. No matter the mission, Sasuke had been at the verge of shoving his kunai up this man's a-
"Was it left or right?" Naruto asked, abruptly bringing Sasuke out of his thoughts. He wasn't facing Sasuke while he asked this.
Sasuke looked at the fork in the road. "Left."
They walked on in silence for about ten minutes before they reached a small house hidden in a stone wall. Sasuke followed Naruto to a room guarded by two Konoha ANBU. "We got him," Naruto said, pointing over his shoulder.
One of the two ANBU inspected the man, who was now all of a sudden quite nervous once he saw the masked man leaning over him. "Alright," the ANBU man said softly. He straightened up again. "I'll finish this," he said in a scary voice, holding his arms out to Sasuke, indicating he should hand him the man.
"No, wait, wait," the shinobi started struggling, "I didn't mean what I said earlier, don't kill me!"
"Oh, shut up," Sasuke said, lowering the man to the ground. "They won't kill you."
Still not very convinced, the man was dragged by the ANBU into another room. "Wait!" was the last thing that came from him.
"Ha," the other ANBU laughed. "He will wish we killed him once he faces his mother," and he loughed louder.
However, the laughter of the ANBU quickly became a mere uncertain chuckle as he noticed the mood of the two shinobi in front of him. Naruto, always cheery in the man's memory, frowned angrily. His face, still with some mud here and there, was turned away from the tall raven Uchiha, who did not seem all too happy himself.
The ANBU swallowed. "Well," he said, hoping he didn't upset them any further by just talking, "thanks for your work."
The two men turned around, and again with some distance between them they left the hidden house. Naruto led the way once more, while Sasuke watched his stiff back all the way until Naruto stopped and started to set camp for the night. Silently the two worked beside each other. Sasuke once opened his mouth to say something and try to make Naruto smile, but was faced with two furious blue eyes that even had vertical slits.
For some reason Sasuke did not feel like lightening the mood anymore since then. He stubbornly turned his back to Naruto, and pulled his thin blanket up, missing Naruto's warmth from the bottom of his heart.
After Sasuke had finally fallen asleep, Naruto got some water and tried to wash his face, but all they had was a small water bottle that was already half empty. His dirty fox ears twitching in annoyance Naruto threw the empty bottle aside. An angry snarl escaped his lips before he leant against a bolder, and fell asleep surprisingly fast.
When he woke up the sun had just started its ascent into the sky. Lazily he opened his eyes and looked around, wondering what had made him wake up this early. Thinking it might have been a bug after all, Naruto pulled his collar higher up, and closed his eyes again. Then suddenly he heard Sasuke mutter in his sleep.
Naruto opened his eyes again and glanced over to the raven, who still seemed to be fast asleep. His face was calm and clearly visible above the blanket. Naruto lowered his head again, ready to get some more sleep, when Sasuke muttered something again. "Ku," was all Naruto heard. Ignoring Sasuke, Naruto tried to fall asleep again, but Sasuke kept repeating a single word in his sleep while his cheeks slowly turned red.
Naruto was about ready to throw the empty water bottle at Sasuke to make him shut up when he realised what Sasuke was saying. Narrowing his eyes he heaved the bottle higher, but right then Sasuke woke up all of a sudden. Naruto threw the bottle at Sasuke, hitting him in the side softly (it had long lost its velocity when it reached Sasuke) and turned his back to the raven.
The raven blinked and looked around. Sitting up, he realised why he'd woken up. He looked over to Naruto to ask for his assistance with his small problem under the blanket, when all he got to see of Naruto was the back of his jounin vest and a fluffy, muddy tail sweeping the floor resentfully. Wondering if Naruto was still angry even after a night of sleep (which was highly unusual), he finally had to face the fact that Naruto would not help him this time. He softly sighed in sadness while his lower region screamed for Naruto's touch.
Naruto walked up to the Hokage tower, grinning. He had just brought Akira to a friend's place and felt like paying Tsunade a visit. He climbed the stairs, and listened at the door to see if she had any visitors. When no sound but that of a scratching pencil met his ears, he brushed his fist against the wood before opening the doors. Tsunade looked up. She had not even been able to let him in, and frowned at the raven haired man.
"You still have to knock," she told him.
"I did, sort of." Naruto grinned like only he could, which made Tsunade laugh.
"Have you ever told Sasuke to smile more?" she asked him.
"Hundreds of times," Naruto said while he sat down on the corner of her desk. "And sometimes he even listens to me."
Tsunade stared at the papers he sat on, but said nothing of it. "I must admit it suits you better though," she admitted.
Naruto moved his eyebrows up and down. "Right?" he said happily. "Any news on that?" he asked, looking down at the light blonde woman.
Tsunade considered him for a while, as if she was scanning him. "How do you feel?" she asked him instead.
Naruto lifted a single eyebrow before answering. "Quite alright actually."
Tsunade nodded. "I thought so," she said, and then she shook her head. "No, I haven't found the answer yet, but I'm waiting for a response from the stone country," she told him.
"Stone?" Naruto asked, frowning.
Tsunade nodded and picked up some files, making a neat pile of them. Naruto followed the papers, and every time they hit the desk he blinked. Tsunade stopped and put the files on a pile beside her desk. Only then she answered. "The Sasaki clan has a similar jutsu to that of the woman that switched the two of you."
"Hm," Naruto nodded. "I see." He looked down on the next file which she opened and started to read. He watched her read it, then sign the papers before he turned away to the window. He watched the Hokage mountain for a while. "Need any help?" he asked without looking away from the massive stone faces.
Naruto heard her pen stop writing, and felt her eyes upon his side. "You could read and approve those reports," she said, pointing to another pile of papers.
Naruto followed her finger and stood up. He walked around her desk and made a Bunshin. It performed a simple seal before it transformed into a chair. He sat down on it, and reached over Tsunade's work to get a pencil. He started to read the files.
After a while they both looked up when someone knocked on the wooden doors. Shizune entered with a tray on which she carried tea. "Naruto-kun, I saw you get in," she said, putting the tea down.
Naruto grinned. "Thanks."
Shizune smiled at him. "I only realised it wasn't Sasuke-kun when I started to wonder why ever he would be in here this long."
Naruto laughed. "I must admit I sometimes start to feel like I'm actually Sasuke," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head.
Tsunade's face showed a brief sign of concern before she raised a thin, short eyebrow. "So you two are still at it then?"
Naruto turned to her. "Why, we haven't been found out yet," he said grinning. "It's fun fooling people."
Tsunade shook her head. "So that's why Sasuke went on that mission instead of you."
Naruto smiled. "Sasuke will have a difficult time to pretend he knows old man Gato, while he has never met him before in his life."
Shizune giggled. "You did tell him you know Gato?"
Naruto shook his head, "Sakura-chan already did so. Sasuke did come to me after that to ask me who he was. Of course I didn't tell him everything."
"They should have finished that mission a couple of days ago," Shizune said.
Naruto shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so."
"And they're not back yet," Shizune went on.
"That's because they were in the same area of another mission, so I sent Kakashi a messenger bird," Tsunade said without looking away from the paper she was reading.
"Oh. He could have told me that, that teme." Naruto pouted.
"It was an emergency mission," Tsunade informed.
Naruto sighed. "Now he'll be away even longer," he said, letting his shoulders slump sadly.
"Don't worry Uzumaki," Tsunade said, "You'll survive."
Naruto glared at her from the corners of his eyes. "You never know, maybe I will die," he said softly.
Tsunade reached a hand out to his shoulder, blindly searching for it before she patted it; her eyes still fixed on her work. Without any hint of sympathy she said, "Of course you will survive, you've been separated before, and for a much longer time."
Naruto pursed his lips. "Well… that cheers me up," he said monotonously, looking through half closed eyes.
"Great, then you can continue your work," Tsunade told him.
Naruto blinked at her. "My work?" He shook his head, and turned back to the report he had been reading from a ninja with a very bad handwriting.
Shizune smiled and left the two alone, getting to her own work.
It wasn't for about two hours later that Naruto reached the bottom of the pile of reports. He signed the last one after he'd read it, and put all the files away in a cabinet.
"You could help me get through this heap of ANBU missions," Tsunade said before Naruto closed the drawer of the metal cabinet.
"Sure." Naruto went back to the desk, and picked up the first scroll he could grab. "I heard Nezumi-san got injured," he said.
Tsunade looked up to Naruto, but did not ask how he knew that the rat masked woman had been wounded on her last mission. "She did not make it," Tsunade said sadly.
"Oh," Naruto said shocked. "I had no idea it was that serious."
Tsunade shook her head, but said nothing.
After a while she again turned to him. He was bending over a neatly written form. A frown was on his face, and she noticed he was reading parts twice before continuing. Tsunade immediately knew who had filled in the form, but said nothing. This man liked to be a bit cryptic.
"I need a file from the large cabinet," she said.
Naruto, glad he could put the difficult to decipher form aside, stood up quickly. He opened the double doors to the waiting room, whilst grinning at Tsunade. "Don't worry, I'll find it before you can say- Sasuke?"
Naruto had turned his head into the next room, and saw 'himself' sitting on a chair with a red cloth wrapped around his right hand. Sakura was sitting next to Sasuke, fussing about the hand, which the now blond tried to keep away from her. Kakashi stood lazily leaning against the wall, reading one of his beloved books; pretending like he wasn't interested in what was happening between his students.
They all looked up to Naruto when he opened the doors, and a few frowns were shown once his finished sentence hung in the air.
"What happened?" Naruto demanded from Sasuke, stepping towards him. Sasuke shrugged as if he didn't care that a bloody cloth was wrapped around his hand. Naruto sat down on his haunches, and took the hand in his own. Sasuke winced.
"What happened?" he demanded once more, looking up at Sasuke with both anger and concern on his face.
"Nothing-" Sasuke started, but Sakura slapped him on the shoulder before he could say any more than that.
"Nothing? Nothing? You call losing fingers nothing?" she asked angrily. "I suppose after growing back an arm-"
"WHAT?!" Naruto yelled angrily, turning back to Sasuke. "You lost… one of my fingers?!" he asked, looking down at the bloody red fabric.
It was safe to say that this caused for some confusion in the room. Eyebrows were lifted once more, and Kakashi's cover of pretending to read his book was blown. Sakura narrowed her eyes and leant away from Sasuke, holding up her hands. "Wait, wait a second. What's going on here?"
"It was a choice between losing two fingers or letting the enemy escape-"
"Two? So you decided to let the finger be cut off, just like that?" Naruto started, interrupting Sasuke.
"-or," Sasuke pressed on, "letting the kunoichi escape," he repeated loudly to over-voice Naruto's protests, "with the kidnapped girl, knowing she would be tortured."
Naruto closed his mouth, unable to come up with a retort. "Fine, fine, just…" He lowered his eyes to the red cloth once more. "Please tell me Sakura-chan was able to re-attach them?" he almost pleaded. Sasuke suddenly avoided Naruto's eyes. "You didn't let her cut them off because you thought they would grow back?" Sasuke still didn't meet his dark eyes. "Do you know how painful it is to grow them back? And what if they don't?"
"Do you mean…?" Sakura asked again, her index fingers pointing to each team member before she switched, pointed to the other, her arms crossing.
Sasuke ignored her, and pushed Naruto away. "It will be fine, I'm the one feeling the pain right now, so you-"
"That's so beside the point!" Naruto told Sasuke.
"STOP!" Sakura yelled, standing up. Her hair obscured her eyes as she looked down, bur her balled fists indicated she was angry. "You two… somehow… switched bodies?"
Naruto bit his lip, and glanced over to Sasuke. "Uh…"
"Dobe," Sasuke muttered.
"What?" Naruto asked Sasuke indignantly, and grabbed his sweater roughly, pulling Sasuke up. "Teme, you are the one that-" Naruto stopped when a hand caught his ear painfully. "Itai, itai, Sakura-chan," he whined, letting go of Sasuke's orange shirt. A groan coming from Sasuke told that Sakura had his ear in a death grip as well.
"How… long…" Sakura asked through gritted teeth, sounding quite angry, "have you… been switched?"
Naruto moved his hands up in defence. "Sakura-chan, please, it was…" Naruto straightened up more until he was free of Sakura's grip. Rubbing his painful ear, Naruto pointed at Sasuke. "It was his fault! He got us in this situation!"
Sasuke huffed, crossing his arms before wincing and letting his injured hand lower into his lap. Sakura had let go of him too, and was staring down at him. "Tell me what happened! And how long ago?!" Sakura demanded, her hands resting on her hips.
Sasuke and Naruto exchanged looks. "You lost, you tell her," Naruto told Sasuke stubbornly.
"I lost? You were the one yelling I hurt your body," Sasuke answered.
"You just cut off some of my fingers, teme! Of course I'm worried! You are hurt!" Naruto almost shouted. Sasuke's voice was very impressive once it sounded angry.
Perhaps it was because of this that Sasuke did not immediately answer. He narrowed his eyes in a very Sasuke-like way and huffed. "Fine!" he said, and turned away from Naruto to Sakura, who was a bit startled by the sudden outbursts of the two, and confused seeing the wrong character in each person. "During the chuunin exams I was-"
"That was a month ago!" Sakura said shocked.
Sasuke continued as if he hadn't been interrupted. "-on an ANBU mission where a kunoichi cast her jutsu on me."
"Can you believe that the teme let himself get hit by-"
"Shut up, dobe," Sasuke said, not facing him. "It was a body switching jutsu," he went on.
"And we switched," Naruto finished simply.
Both Sakura and Kakashi seemed quite surprised by what they had just heard and seen; a Sasuke acting Naruto-ish, and a Naruto acting Sasuke-ish. It was a rather strange image, one not easily comprehended.
"Why haven't you two switched back yet?" Sakura asked.
"The kunoichi was killed, but her jutsu is still active," Sasuke said coolly, having regained the control over his emotions again. "Tsunade has been looking for ways to make us change back ever since."
"And all this time," Kakashi spoke, "the two of you have been pretending to be the other?" His one visible eye lazily scanned the two.
"Well, not at first, not on purpose," Naruto said, "but everybody just assumed… and then…" Naruto grinned foxily, a grin not belonging on Sasuke's face.
"Hontooni," Sakura said, shaking her head. "I can expect something like this from Naruto, but Sasuke-kun too?"
Sasuke did not answer, instead looking away from his female teammate.
It was quiet for some time in which Sakura was going over the past month, and what she had done and said to Sasuke and Naruto, whilst believing they were themselves.
Sakura slowly rose to her feet, feeling a sharp pain in her side. She removed the kunai, and started healing herself while looking around to find Kakashi. He came walking towards her, putting his hitai-ate back over his red eye.
"You okay, sensei?" Sakura asked.
Kakashi nodded. "I'm fine."
"Where's Naruto?" Sakura asked.
"He followed them," Kakashi said, "but I lost sight of them after she put up that smoke screen."
"Naruto must have used senin-mode to follow her," Sakura said, and Kakashi nodded in agree. "I hope he gets to her in time. That girl looked very scared."
Together they started to follow the trail the ninjas had left behind. Some kunai here, a shuriken there, footprints, a missed jutsu; it was quite easy actually, until…
Sakura looked around. "I have no idea where they went next," Sakura said, scanning for any sign of a trail.
Kakashi was hunching down to study a mark on the ground. "This isn't like Naruto," he said, referring to the absence of a trail. "It's like he used a different tactic from here on."
After a while they did not need to find a trail; there came the blond carrying a little black haired girl on his back, and dragging the unconscious kunoichi behind him.
"Naruto! How is she?" Sakura asked, running up to them.
Sakura wanted to get the girl from the blond's back, but the girl did not want to let go, and since she was upset about the whole situation that had just occurred, Sakura let her stay close to the blue-eyed ninja.
It was only then, when she turned her eyes to meet the blue eyes of the blond that she noticed he looked a little pale. "Are you alright?" she asked worriedly.
Sasuke dropped the body of the kunoichi to the ground, and lifted a bloodied hand. "Not really," he said.
"Oh my… Naruto, your fingers!" Sakura grabbed hold of the hand, and immediately started first aid on him. "Where did it happen… I mean, are they still intact?"
Kakashi came to stand beside them, and looked down at Sasuke. "You should sit down," he said calmly.
As if he had been waiting for that, Sasuke fell to his knees. He had lost quite some blood, and even with rapid healing, blood loss wasn't a good thing. He had been dragging the kunoichi with his injured hand.
Sasuke shook his head. "They're gone."
Sakura closed her eyes and continued the healing of Sasuke's hand. "Why didn't you-"
"Sakura," Sasuke suddenly said, sounding a bit off, "she's safe," was all he said before he closed his eyes, feeling dizzy.
Sakura stared at the lowered fox ears, the dirty yellow spikes, his pale whiskered cheeks, the healing split lip and cuts adorning his body, to the arms of the little girl around his neck. For a split second the blond reminded her of Sasuke for some reason.
Kakashi talked quietly to the little girl, and once Sakura finished all she could do at the moment for Sasuke right now and had bandaged his hand, the girl let go of Sasuke and slowly moved to Kakashi. The silver haired ninja lifted her up and put his hand on the back of her head. "We'll take you home now." She nodded, tears still streaming down her cheeks.
Kakashi looked over to his students, making sure Sakura had Naruto's back, before turning around and walking away. Sakura helped Sasuke stand up, and was glad to see some colour was coming back to his face.
"Thanks, Sakura," he said, "chan," he added as if in an afterthought.
Sakura just thought he was still a bit weak from the blood loss, so she didn't think anything of it at that time. Sasuke swayed a little, and Sakura steadied him, letting him lean on her shoulder.
Sasuke was surprised that even when he put all of his weight on her, she had no trouble moving on, before he remembered Naruto was quite light weighted. After a while he started to walk on his own again, feeling the slight dizziness subside.
They brought the girl back home, which was kind of an emotional ordeal. Once they had said their goodbyes to the reunited family the three went looking for an inn to stay the night, no one felt like camping outside. Sakura dried her eyes while they walked down a stone road. "That was so…" she said softly. "I'm so happy everything turned out right for them."
Sasuke glanced at Sakura, and noticed she had been affected more than he had thought. "We… we could get something to drink?" he suggested, not minding the numbing effect of alcohol in his system; his hand still ached quite a bit.
Sakura nodded, and they entered a small local bar. They sat down at the bar and ordered some sake. Sasuke soon would come to realize there would not be much of a numbing effect now that he was inside Naruto's body. Luckily they had only ordered one bottle of sake to share, so when Sakura finally finished her small saucer of sake, she looked around before she said, "I do feel somewhat better now." She smiled.
"I think I'm able to get some sleep now," Kakashi said, standing up. They entered the first inn they found, and got two rooms. Before Sasuke could follow Kakashi into their room, Sakura stopped him, and took him into her one person bedroom.
"If you don't mind," she said after she closed the door behind them.
"Uhm…" Sasuke said, actually not minding lying down on the soft comfortable bed waiting for him.
Sakura sat down on her bed and removed her gloves. Sasuke sat down next to her, waiting for her to start talking.
"Does it still hurt?" Sakura asked, taking Sasuke's hand.
Sasuke shrugged, but once the warm pink glow surrounded his missing fingers, a weak smile appeared on his face. "What did you want to talk about, Sakura-chan?" he asked. He doubted she just wanted to heal his hand.
Sakura waited a while before she answered. "I don't know. I just didn't felt like going to sleep yet."
"Hm," Sasuke automatically answered, though feeling somewhat drowsy himself.
Sakura turned her head to him, and frowned for a second. "Are you not afraid of what Sasuke-kun might say when he finds out you lost a couple of fingers?" she asked.
"Oh," Sasuke said softly, imagining how he would have reacted if Naruto had come home like this. He would be concerned at first, which would be followed by anger that Naruto had let this happen, and then try to turn this into an excuse to- "Nah, only good things come from wounds," he said when he came to a conclusion.
Sakura frowned at him. "What?" she asked stunned.
"Oh, he'll be worried and angry at first," Sasuke quickly said. "He… he can be so possessive," he added.
Sakura seemed to agree as she grinned. Then suddenly she took his tail in her hand. She started to play with it. Sasuke's blue eyes moved over to her, asking her without words what she was doing. "You know, Naruto," she said with a sheepish smile. Sasuke looked into her bright green eyes. "We never-"
"So…" she finally said softly, breaking the silence, "last week, when I told Sasuke-kun," she pointed to Naruto, "what Sai and I had done the night before…" She stared at Naruto intently. "I was talking to Naruto instead," she concluded. Kakashi's eyebrow rose.
Naruto sighed. "Oh believe me; that was really… really uncomfortable." Red crept up his cheeks, as he looked away. "I had no idea you and Sasuke had talks like this…" He closed his eyes. "Or that you had nights like that," he muttered softly. Kakashi's eye narrowed.
"And thus, when I told Naruto…" Sakura went on, looking down at the sitting blond, "yesterday evening… that… and we…" Sakura's fisted hand started to shake while she closed her eyes in anger.
Sasuke was eerily quiet, and both Kakashi and Naruto curiously looked over to the two. "Told me what? I mean, what did you tell Sasuke? What did you do?" Naruto asked.
Before Naruto had time to react, Sakura had hit him on the head. "Itai, itai, Sakura-chan, what was that for?" he said, rubbing his head, pouting. "It was Sasuke, not me!" He pointed at Sasuke.
Sasuke turned his head to Naruto, opening his mouth to say something, but got an equally painful blow to the head. "Chh," he said, wincing.
"Baka-tachi!" Sakura folded her arms and stormed off, unable to even utter another word.
"What happened?" Naruto asked Sasuke, his curiosity had only grown after Sakura's actions. Kakashi looked down at the blond too, who kept eerily quiet. "Well?"
Sasuke suddenly stood up and walked over to Tsunade's office. He opened the wooden door with his good hand, and walked in without saying a word.
Naruto turned to Kakashi, who shrugged. "Ne, Kakashi-sensei," Naruto said, stepping closer to his teacher, "what happened on this mission?"
Kakashi motioned for Naruto to follow him into Tsunade's office, so Naruto did. Once inside, Kakashi closed the door. Tsunade was staring at Sasuke's hand, but said nothing.
"The mission was a success," Kakashi said, "both of them." Then he told the Hokage (and Naruto) what had happened during their mission, and Sasuke added the part in which he had followed the kidnapped girl.
"And then he lost my fingers," Naruto said, holding up Sasuke's hand to Tsunade. "Can you believe that?"
Sasuke jerked the hand out of Naruto's grasp, and held it protectively against his chest. "Stop moving it around," he said. This meant it still hurt.
Naruto sighed and looked down at the hand, but did not continue his tirade, though his jaw was clenched tight.
Tsunade finally dismissed them, and Naruto, who no longer felt like helping Tsunade, walked alongside Sasuke back to their home.
"Are you okay?" Naruto finally asked Sasuke, not liking the silence. Kakashi wasn't of much use either, since he was back to his reading once more; waiting for the duo to start the inevitable conversation that was about to come.
Sasuke turned his head to Naruto, glanced at Kakashi for a moment before nodding. "It's alright."
Naruto stopped Sasuke with a hand on the blond's shoulder. Kakashi continued his walk home, though quite slowly. "Sasuke, I know it hurts," Naruto said calmly. "And even though I don't like it…" His face was torn between disapproval, concern and forgiveness. "I understand why you let it happen," he finished. "But that doesn't mean I approve it," he said a bit harsher, just to make sure Sasuke knew he hadn't quite forgiven him yet.
"Hn," was all Sasuke could say. In silence they continued home, Naruto not even looking at Sasuke until they were inside and the blond sat on the couch, peeling the bloodied cloth off his injured hand.
"Why didn't Sakura-chan bandage it?" Naruto asked, sitting down next to Sasuke.
"She did, but the wound opened again just before we arrived in the tower, because she wanted to hit me on the head, and I held my hand up in defence."
"Ah," Naruto said, looking at the injured hand. Then he gasped. When Sasuke had said he had lost two fingers, Naruto had automatically assumed it had been the smallest two; not the index and the middle finger. He cried softly at this, which made Sasuke look up.
"I know, it's really… annoying to miss the index finger," Sasuke said, opening and closing the injured hand slowly.
"Annoying? Annoying?" Naruto asked, taking the hand in his own. "How will you-"
At that moment the doors went open, and Iruka came walking in via the garden. "Ah, hello, I thought I heard… Sasuke," he said sounding a tad confused.
Naruto glanced down at Sasuke, who narrowed his eyes and fell back into the couch. "I don't care about this bet anymore," he said.
Naruto pulled up his nose. "But it's fun to be you around Iruka-sensei," he said softly.
Iruka narrowed his eyes and craned his neck a little, trying to hear what the two were discussing. "Is everything alright?" he asked unsure.
"Great," Naruto answered. "Come, on, please?" he pleaded to Sasuke.
"No, I'm not doing it anymore," Sasuke said, shaking his head.
Even more confused now, Iruka started to think he better leave, and come back at a better time.
"I'll…" Naruto looked up to Iruka before whispering, "I'll make it up to you later. You can do whatever you want with me."
Sasuke shook his head. "It's just not as much fun anymore like this," he answered, gesturing to their bodies being reversed.
"Oh, it's not that bad," Naruto said.
"I never said it was bad; I just prefer being back to normal again." He frowned.
Naruto bit his lip. "You eh… I'll…" he glanced up to Iruka again before bending over to Sasuke's ear, holding his hand up, and started whispering.
Sasuke's expression turned from a frown to an emotionless look, into a small grin, back to no emotion, and then a satisfied smirk.
Iruka just stood there, feeling highly uncomfortable being left out of the conversation; though he wasn't sure if he wanted to be a part of it either. "I'll just… I'll just come back later," he said, pointing back to the door through which he had entered.
"No, wait just a second," Naruto said.
Iruka frowned at the raven haired man. If someone would want him out of the house at such a time, it would be Sasuke, but now he asked him to stay? Iruka slowly took a step closer to the door, but kept listening to the quiet conversation on the couch.
"Will you do it?" Naruto asked Sasuke, who seemed to be in thought.
It was then that Iruka noticed the wounded hand covered in dried up blood. "Oh my, what happened, Naruto?" he stepped toward Sasuke, and looked down at the wounded hand. "Did this happen on your last mission?"
Sasuke and Naruto exchanged looks, Naruto silently asking Sasuke to play along.
"Yes, yesterday," Sasuke said, though still not sure if he would do it, he just give an honest answer.
"Wow, that looks really… bad," Iruka said softly, sounding concerned. "You think… it will grow back?" He looked up worriedly into Sasuke's blue eyes. Sasuke could practically sense the concern flow over him from the brown haired man. He bit his lip. He had really not minded Naruto's plan up until now, pretending to be Naruto was… insightful, but now he didn't feel right lying anymore to this man that was like family to Naruto. The situation was completely different now that he was injured.
"Iruka," he said, and Naruto widened his eyes at the lack of 'sensei' in that word, "I'm not Naruto."
Iruka looked up confused. Then his expression changed to a frown, suspicion, and then his eyes narrowed. "It's not a funny joke, Naruto," he said.
"I'm Sasuke," Sasuke said, hoping he showed this on his face.
Iruka seemed to get a bit annoyed. "If this is to distract me from your injuries, which seem very serious, I don't-"
"I'm not Naruto," Sasuke repeated, and hit Naruto in the side with his elbow. "Tell him." The look in his eyes told Naruto he better listen.
"Sure, sure," Naruto said, waving his hand. "As long as you know what you just threw away." Naruto turned to Iruka. "Iruka-sensei, it's true. I'm Naruto and that's the teme."
Sasuke cast a frown at Naruto.
"What do you mean?" Iruka said, looking from the one to the other confused. "This is not a Henge," he said. "It's not a funny joke," he added seriously.
Naruto shook his head. "I know, and I'm a little bit sorry that I didn't tell you sooner." Naruto glanced down at Sasuke before standing up. "At the chuunin exams we got… switched," he explained, pacing around the room. "Ever since then we have been in each other's bodies." He stopped moving around and faced Iruka. "We just pretended to be each other until now," he said, grinning.
And it was that foxy grin that convinced Iruka. "What?!" He turned his head from Sasuke to Naruto, or actually from Naruto to Sasuke, so now it appeared. "All this time…" He stood up. "This was your idea, wasn't it?" he asked the real Naruto.
Naruto smiled guiltily. "Well, it maybe was my idea, but-"
Iruka caught his ear painfully. "Iruka-sensei!?" Naruto said in alarm. "You too?" he added softly.
"Naruto, I do not appreciate this," he said seriously. "You better come up with a good apology next time we meet." He let Naruto go and turned around. "You too, Sasuke," he added before walking off.
Now Naruto felt bad. "Wait, Iruka-sensei!" He followed the pony tailed man out of the house into the garden. He reached for his arm, and stopped the older man. "I'm really, really sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
Iruka had not turned to face him yet. "I hope you realise what you did."
Naruto lowered his head. "Well… I have to admit it was really fun," Iruka pulled at his arm, "but I can see what you mean," Naruto finished.
Iruka turned around, not seeming to be all that angry as he had sounded. "You two were really convincing," he said, and then he added, "But…"
Naruto leaned in closer, "But?" he repeated. Sasuke appeared on the porch and sat down on it.
"But I already knew you two weren't yourselves."
Naruto stared at Iruka. "Huh?"
"I noticed a couple of weeks ago. 'You' just didn't seem quite… and then 'Sasuke', in other words you, came by and my suspicion was confirmed."
"What? Really? You knew… and still you got angry?"
"Of course I did! I had to ask Tsunade-sama what was going on between the two of you!"
Naruto swallowed guiltily. "Then why didn't you tell us?"
"I wanted to figure out how long you two would keep this up."
Naruto lowered his head. "That means…" he looked up smirking. "Sasuke lost!" he said, pointing to a surprised Sasuke.
"Excuse me?" Sasuke asked, not believing (just like Iruka) that Naruto was thinking about that.
Iruka slapped Naruto on the back of the head. "You both lost; I only realised when I saw you together."
Naruto rubbed the back of his head. "Wait, but if you knew we had switched, and still pretended not to know… that means you're even better at this than we are." Naruto leant in closer to his sensei. "And you are mad at us?"
Iruka narrowed his eyes. "Don't try to turn this around, Naruto."
"You want something to drink?" Sasuke suddenly asked, standing up again.
Iruka looked over to Sasuke. "Tea please." He followed the blond into the house. Naruto, still pouting, grudgingly followed as well.
After Iruka had left, Sasuke and Naruto sat down on the porch in the warm spring sun. Naruto was bandaging Sasuke's injured hand carefully.
"Ne, Sasuke?" he asked, trying to make a knot in the bandage to keep it in place.
"Hn?" Sasuke answered.
"What did Sakura-chan tell you?" Naruto looked up at Sasuke without lifting his head. "She was kind of… put off."
Sasuke did not answer immediately, remembering their conversation.
"You know, Naruto," Sakura said with a sheepish smile. Sasuke looked into her bright green eyes. "We never-" Sakura smiled awkwardly.
"Never?" Sasuke asked.
"We never decently finished that talk we had a while ago," Sakura said. "I feel like we still need to straighten things out about that conversation."
"What conversation?" Sasuke asked confused.
"When you told me about that little argument you had with Sasuke-kun," Sakura clarified.
"Argument?" Sasuke asked. He had a lot of arguments with Naruto, it was normal, so Sasuke had no idea what she was talking about. "Which one?" he asked.
Sakura let go of the soft tail. "The one where you and Sasuke-kun had gone on some mission to get a ninja that had run away. The conversation we had once you returned home, and furiously came to me, telling me what an ass Sasuke-kun had been."
Sasuke narrowed his eyes, but hid his annoyance by pretending to think. "You mean that mission where…" he looked up at Sakura. He needed to keep pretending he was Naruto, "… the teme pushed me in the mud?"
Sakura nodded. "Though that was not really the issue, now was it?"
Sasuke kept quiet, and kept frowning, hoping Sakura would continue. He had no idea what Naruto would have been even more upset about. He couldn't remember anything else that could have angered the blond.
Sakura rightly saw the confusion in the blue eyes and shook her head. "Seriously, Naruto, you already forgot? Then it couldn't have been that important after all."
Sasuke waited for her to say more before reacting. He only closed his eyes and grinned sheepishly. Sakura sighed. "You told me he…" Sakura then suddenly got a little red in the face, which surprised Sasuke, "that Sasuke-kun had been muttering my name in his sleep the next morning, before waking up… excited," she finished softly.
"What?" Sasuke asked indignantly. Sakura frowned at his reaction. "I mean… why do you need to remind me?" His mind raced over what had happened on that mission. He had accidentally stepped on Naruto's tail, but Naruto had not minded. Later he had pushed Naruto into the mud on purpose before capturing the brown haired ninja. They had taken him to the ANBU, finishing their mission. They had slept outside, and all Sasuke remembered about that night was that it had been a cold one without Naruto warming him up, and being disappointed Naruto had still been mad when he woke up. Naruto had been distant enough to ignore Sasuke's situation, pretending not to notice Sasuke was hard. But he hadn't been dreaming before that, had he? And he absolutely couldn't think of a reason calling Sakura's name in his sleep.
Sakura tilted her head a little. "Because you were on such a rampage I was hardly able to bring in a word to calm you down."
Sasuke was surprised Naruto had been keeping this from him, while apparently being this upset about it. "Well then," Sasuke said, folding his arms, "what did you want to say about it then?"
Sakura turned to Naruto. "I'm sure you misunderstood."
"Of course," Sasuke said
"I mean," Sakura continued, "the two things couldn't have been connected at all, though I must admit I would be highly flattered if-"
"What?" Sasuke asked sharply.
Sakura waved her hand. "Calm down Naruto, you know I love Sai. I'm all over Sasuke-kun, but…" she giggled which made Sasuke narrow his eyes. "Well, I can't deny that he will always have… a special place in my heart, you know that."
"So what did you want to say?" Sasuke pressed on, not feeling like having this conversation with Sakura at all.
"Ah, right," Sakura said. "Don't be mad at Sasuke-kun for it, and I'm not defending him," she added. "I'm just saying… we all sometimes have fantasies about… other people…" She turned her eyes away.
"What?" Sasuke asked for a third time that evening.
Sakura waved her hands defensively. "I'm just saying we sometimes wonder about things we would like to have-"
"Sasuke doesn't want-" Sasuke started, feeling like he needed to straighten something out.
"-or don't have," Sakura continued stubbornly, "even though we don't necessarily really wish for it. We are just curious, that's all," she finished.
"What do you mean by that?" Sasuke asked her. And then his eyes widened in suspicion. "Wait, you mean… You're not going to tell me you-"
"No," Sakura said, sounding quite unconvincing.
Sasuke stared at her with an open mouth. All the conversations he had had with her about their sex lives, and now she was telling him, though she thought he was Naruto… "You dream about…?" he slowly asked.
Sakura looked away guiltily. "Not anymore," she said softly.
"Not anymore?" Sasuke repeated.
"No, honestly," Sakura said, turning back to Sasuke. "I swear I don't dream about Sasuke-kun anymore," she told Naruto truthfully. "At least not in that way," she added softly.
Sasuke felt his ear twitch. "You… used to get off…" his voice, Naruto's voice, drifted off in the air eerily.
Sakura looked up with fear in her eyes. "Let's go to bed," she said abruptly and stood up. "I can see you're tired, and your hand can still use some healing." She pushed the blond off her bed and out of her room, all with a creepy fake smile on her face. It reminded Sasuke somewhat of Sai. "Night," she said, and closed the door behind him.
Sasuke stood in front of the door for a while, as if expecting it would open again. He was in fact in thought about what Sakura had just told him. He could see she would not ever have told him this if she had known he had not been Naruto but Sasuke.
Slowly he turned around and walked to his own bedroom, finding Kakashi fast asleep in the bed opposite of his own.
Sasuke looked up into dark eyes, looking curiously at him in anticipation of his answer. He wondered for a moment what to tell Naruto. "It was confidential," he finally said.
"Eh?!" Naruto whined. "Confidential? Between her and me! She thought she was telling me!" Naruto pointed out.
"I was you at that time," Sasuke told Naruto simply.
"You were not. You were pretending to be me," Naruto retorted.
"But it's better if it stayed between the two of us," Sasuke said.
"No, you have to tell me, it was meant for me," Naruto whined. He shuffled closer against Sasuke, holding his injured hand between them. "Please? For me?"
Sasuke blinked before turning his head away. "Apparently you have been mad at me, coming storming furiously into Sakura's house."
Naruto shrugged. "Ah, that's nothing. It happens occasionally. Sometimes you really can be quite a di-"
"But," Sasuke said loudly, not appreciating the insult, "you never told me about it."
Naruto shrugged. "I get angry at you all the time," he said, waving it off like it was nothing, "and sometimes I get a bit pissed off, and need to steam off a little at Sakura's. I usually don't even remember what I was angry about the very next day."
Sasuke narrowed his eyes at Naruto's simplicity. If only he could let go of things like that sometimes…
"So, you will need to be more specific," Naruto said. "What was I angry about?"
Sasuke kept silent for quite a while, not feeling like sharing his entire conversation he'd had with Sakura with his boyfriend. "Apparently… you heard me call Sakura's name in my sleep?" he finally asked. He looked up to Naruto.
"I did?" Naruto asked, frowning. "Like I care," he said, sounding indifferently.
Sasuke stared blankly at the now tall raven. "Really?" he asked. "You don't even remember?"
"Okay, fine, go on," Naruto said impatiently. "What else? What happened?"
"It was on that mission where I pushed you in the mud," Sasuke said.
Naruto gasped. "I knew it!" He turned at Sasuke and shoved him aside easily. "I knew you had pushed me!"
Sasuke shook his head. "That's beside the point, dobe" he said.
Naruto frowned. "Hmpf, sure, sure." He folded his arms. "Yeah, I remember that day," he said.
"So?" Sasuke asked. "You remember being mad at me?"
Naruto nodded. "You pushed me into the mud, of course I was angry."
"And about the muttering?" Naruto seemed to think. "I woke up with an erection," Sasuke continued.
Naruto shook his head. "I really can't remember," he said. He turned to Sasuke, "and I usually don't forget about those," he smirked.
Sasuke shook his head. If the usuratonkachi couldn't remember that, then he would not need to know about anything else Sakura and Sasuke had talked about. "Right," Sasuke answered.
Naruto closed the door behind him, and removed the wet coat from his cold form. The dripping cloth was thrown aside, along with his sandals, and he walked into the living room. There he found Sasuke reading a book. His right hand was wrapped in a white bandage.
"Akira-kun already asleep?" Naruto asked, and walked over to Sasuke.
However, before he could touch Sasuke the now blond had looked up and noticed his wet form. "Stop." Naruto immediately stopped in his tracks. "Go change, I don't want you to catch a cold… to have my body get sick."
"You're one to talk," Naruto muttered, narrowing his eyes. Then he held up his hands. "I forgot how quickly you get ill…" He stuck out his tongue to tease Sasuke further.
"Not everyone has special healing powers," Sasuke said seriously, looking back at his book. Naruto automatically looked down at the bandage; the missing fingers had already grown back until the first joint.
Naruto shrugged and turned around. "You're not coming to see me get changed?" Naruto asked.
"Why should I? It's my body…"
Naruto considered this for a moment before agreeing. "Right." He quickly went up the stairs, got changed and went back downstairs.
He sat down on the couch beside Sasuke.
"How was your shogi game with Shikamaru?" Sasuke asked, not looking away from his reading.
"I almost won, I tell you," Naruto said, "If only a bit more of luck was involved in the game." He rubbed the back of his head and squinted his eyes, grinning sheepishly.
"You want some tea?" Sasuke asked.
"Hn," Naruto nodded. Next he started telling what had happened in their game.
Sasuke got up and went to the kitchen to get some tea. He could still hear Naruto talk as clearly as when he was sitting next to him. Strangely he had become quite accustomed to the new ears these past couple of weeks. It made up a little bit for his (much) missed Sharingan. He had no idea that it would do so much to him to not be able to use it. Not necessarily because he needed it so much, but more because he was so used to it. At every moment, at any time something happened, he could activate them. And now he couldn't… he didn't have them. It felt like he had lost a bit of his identity with it (aside from his whole body).
He picked up the two steaming glasses and walked into the living room where Naruto was still talking. Even though he was Naruto, in Sasuke's body he sounded slightly less enthusiastic then he usually would. A bit less cheery, and a bit more down-to-earth actually.
Sasuke put down the glasses, and sat down next to Naruto.
"Yeah, and then I walked into Tsunade and she told m-" Naruto suddenly stopped, staring at Sasuke, who looked up with raised eyebrows.
"What?" he asked.
"You… haven't been eating enough meat, have you?" Naruto asked. "You know you should take better care of my body!"
Sasuke frowned. "Hn."
Naruto leant over to Sasuke before placing his hands on both sides of Sasuke's face. His thumbs moved over the elongated canines in the corners of Sasuke's mouth. "You really don't want to lose your mind to the Kyuubi," he said seriously.
Sasuke pushed Naruto's hands away, but then Naruto grabbed his right hand, and looked at the closed wound of the missing fingers. "Really," Naruto said.
Sasuke got the point and left to get some food. After Sasuke had finished his plate Naruto shuffled closer to him, and put his arm around Sasuke's shoulders. "We'll be back to normal soon. Tsunade told me she figured out how."
Sasuke looked up. "She did?"
Naruto nodded. "Yup, she told me just now."
Sasuke immediately stood up. "What are we waiting for then?" Sasuke looked down to Naruto, to his own onyx eyes, and wondered why he wasn't coming.
Naruto shyly looked away. "I just thought about… you know… We will never be in this situation again, not really."
Sasuke thought he knew where this was heading, and did not object to the idea at all. "So…?" he asked, turning his body to Naruto, narrowing his eyes, though there was a smirk on his face.
"Well… you know… I told Tsunade will be at her office first thing in the morning."
Sasuke's smirk widened, it had a very fox-like quality. He pulled Naruto into a standing position. "What were you planning… to fill the evening with?" he said slowly, taking a step closer to Naruto.
Naruto also took a step closer to Sasuke. "If you feel like it…" he said, "I just thought we could…"
"Could?" Sasuke asked. They were now face to face. Sasuke went to stand on his toes, closing the last few centimetres.
"Could head to our bedroom… maybe after…"
Sasuke smirked, kissed Naruto a few times and then asked, "I think I like that… After, you say?"
Naruto smiled, felt how Sasuke kissed his neck. "After we first have sex in the living room." His hands gripped Sasuke tightly around the waist. A soft purring was the answer he was glad to hear. "This will be the last time we role-play," he spoke softly in one of the fluffy fox ears near to his nose. The response was a hand sliding under his shirt down his pants.
The next morning Sasuke and Naruto stood in front of Tsunade's desk. Naruto grinned like Sasuke never had before. "So, what are we waiting for?" he asked, rubbing his hands together.
"Sakura and Kakashi," Tsunade answered.
"Huh, why?" Naruto asked, seeing no reason for those two to be here.
"Because I asked them, and they also wanted to be here."
Sasuke frowned. "Why?"
"Because I need them," she said.
And that probably was her final word on the matter. "And what will be happening then?" Naruto asked.
At that moment the door opened and Sakura entered, followed by their sensei. "Ah, you two are already here," Sakura said.
"Yes, and baa-chan…" Naruto shifted his eyes to Tsunade for a moment, "Tsunade was just about to tell us what will happen." He turned to the Hokage. "Ne?"
Tsunade nodded. She shifted some papers on her desk from one corner to the next. Then she got out a scroll, unrolled it, read something, and rolled it up again before putting it away. Naruto's eyes narrowed the longer it took for Tsunade to answer. "Ne… Tsunade?" he asked again.
Tsunade finally looked up. "Okay, well," she said, "You two need to…" she paused. "To eh…"
"To…?" Sasuke asked.
"To be intimate?" Naruto answered, "We already know that doesn't work."
Everyone stared at Naruto until he realised what he had said, and clasped his hand over his mouth, turning red.
Sakura grinned at Kakashi, from whom some sort of chuckle had sounded from behind his mask. "Really?" she asked the two. "You thought that might make you change back?"
Neither answered, nor looked at each other.
"I think they would have kept switching constantly if that had been true," Kakashi joked.
Naruto turned even redder in the face, and even Sasuke blushed slightly. "We eh… what do we… have to do?" Naruto asked softly, this time he wouldn't speak before his turn.
Tsunade smirked. "There are actually a couple of things you have to do," she said. "A… a sort of ceremony, if you will."
"Ceremony?" Sasuke asked, and he narrowed his eyes. "What kind of ceremony?"
"Oh, well, there are three steps," Tsunade said. "It might sound a bit… a bit weird, but it's the only way."
"What baa-chan? Just tell us," Naruto said, getting irritated.
Tsunade closed her eyes. "First, you will have to do a special tea ceremony."
Sasuke and Naruto stared at her. "Excuse me? And how is that going to change us back?" Naruto asked, frowning.
"Each step has a purpose. First the two souls need to be connected, by doing this ceremony of drinking tea, yes," she added when Naruto opened his mouth once more. "I won't explain the details to you because it will be a waste of my time."
"What?" Naruto asked, raising a fist, but Sasuke calmed him down by holding him back, grabbing his white shirt.
Tsunade smirked and stood up. "Come with me."
The four shinobi followed their Hokage to a small square room somewhere in the tower. The room looked old, with brown-beige coloured walls and dark brown pillars and beams. One wall was opened up, letting daylight in the room through a translucent material that was held into place by a dark wooden frame work. In one wall was made a niche; the tokonoma. Against the back wall of this alcove hung a large scroll with an inked Japanese inscription. A small table was placed in the middle of the room, and three cushions lay around it, one on each side of the square table.
"There are some traditional kimonos there," she pointed to the clothes beside the cushions. "You will have to put those on."
Naruto and Sasuke walked over to the clothing, and started to undress. Naruto picked up a blue kimono, and put it on like a vest. A navy blue hakama, pants, followed. Sasuke's kimono was white, and he had a deep brown hakama. Naruto finally helped Sasuke secure his obi as he had some difficulty doing so with his partly missing fingers.
Tsunade motioned for them to take place and thus Sasuke and Naruto sat down opposite each other. Tsunade sat down at the head of the table. Kakashi and Sakura took a seat to the side, against the wall.
"Let me explain what you will need to do, because this will not be a normal tea ceremony." Tsunade handed both a stone cup. "I will pour each a cup of green tea, and you will need to drink from each other's cup."
Naruto and Sasuke stared at her. "Seriously?" Naruto asked, his eyes narrowed to thin lines. "That's just stupid."
Tsunade shrugged. "Fine, then stay in each other's bodies," she said, preparing to stand up.
"No, wait," Sasuke said. He then turned to Naruto. "Just do as she says, you can whine later."
"I don't whine, it's just…"
"I don't care," Sasuke told him sternly. Naruto pouted, but carefully picked up his cup, making sure his wide sleeve was not in the way. He held the grey clay cup up to Tsunade, waiting for her to prepare the tea according to custom, and finally fill his cup with the green tea. Tsunade did so for the both of them.
After she had put the teapot down, she motioned for them to hold up their cups. "This part of the ceremony is supposed to distance your soul of the body. While drinking the tea you must realise this. Tea calms the mind, and gives you time to think things over." She waited for both to nod. "Hold up your cups in your right hand," she told them and they did so as if toasting. "Now, entwine your arms." Hesitantly the two entangled their arms until their own cups could reach to their own mouth.
"You said we would-"
"Shh," Tsunade shushed Naruto, "calm your mind. It must connect to Sasuke's soul so it will be easier to find its way back." Naruto immediately kept quiet, though he could get completely rid of the frown on his face; both out of annoyance and confusion about the instruction. However was he supposed to connect to Sasuke's soul?!
Tsunade told them to wait till the tea was the right temperature to drink, and in the meantime think things over, what they were here for and what was about to happen. After a while Naruto and Sasuke looked into each other's eyes and started to drink their tea at the same time, taking careful sips. Tsunade raised her head a little when she noticed the two could work so close in unison.
"Don't drink everything, let a bit remain in the cup, not just the drab, and then give it to the other to finish," Tsunade said.
Naruto and Sasuke did so, exchanging cups and finishing it; though Naruto still made a slightly disapproving face all the while. Finally they put their cups down on the table with a smooth movement while their other hand kept the sleeve from touching the surface. Tsunade nodded and finished the ceremony. She stood up and mentioned for the two to follow.
"Very well done," she said and turned to Naruto. "That wasn't so bad after all, now was it?" she asked. Naruto did not answer; afraid his temper might break the connection with Sasuke's soul or something.
Sakura came to walk beside Naruto and Sasuke while they followed Tsunade to yet another location in the Hokage tower. "You two look quite handsome," she said. "You should wear kimono more often." She smiled happily.
They came to two sliding doors. Tsunade soundlessly slid open one door, and gestured to the others to enter the room. Naruto was quite surprised to find a huge room, almost like a dojo. Again the walls had the same sand-colour, but in this room were a lot more translucent walls than in the small tearoom. The room was higher too, two stories probably, and big wooden columns set a rhythm around the room along with the many lines in the window frames and wall decorations. The tatami mats lay in length of the room, making it look even deeper than it actually was. The beams in the ceiling showed craftsmanship as their handmade joints connected column to beam. Naruto and Sasuke looked up in awe at the fine Japanese architecture of the room.
"You two will do a kendo match next," Tsunade said, standing in the middle of the room.
"Kendo?" Naruto said. "I've never done that before."
"You learned kenjutsu," Tsunade said, Naruto nodded, "then this will just be a fight with a katana for you."
Naruto frowned as yet again his stupidity was pointed out. This time he did not react to her words with his own, but kept wisely quiet.
"The art of the sword will distance your soul from your body. It has already made a connection to the other soul, now it will need to be pulled out of the body. The fighting will help loosen the bond your body and soul have made in these past weeks."
Naruto and Sasuke nodded. Then Tsunade held up two haori, jackets. "It has your clan's symbols on them," she told the two as she handed Naruto a deep purple one with the Uchiha fan on the sleeves and back, and Sasuke a dark green one with the Uzumaki symbol. "To help you disconnect," she said. They each put on the jacket over their other clothing.
Next, Sakura handed Naruto Sasuke's katana in its navy blue scabbard; a black line on each side ran over the entire length, which continued on to the hilt without an interruption of a guard. Naruto let the familiar katana rest in both hands, getting accustomed to its weight. The smooth surface glided under his fingers as he moved his hand over the dangerous weapon. He pulled the katana a little out of its scabbard, seeing Sasuke's slightly blurred reflection in the shiny silver surface. He put it back inside, and slipped the scabbard through his obi belt.
When he looked up he saw Sasuke handling a katana similar to what the ANBU used, handed to him by Kakashi. It had a dark handle with dark grey, almost black wrapping and purplish grey diamond decoration. This katana also had no guard, but the decoration of the handle and the scabbard differed. The scabbard was smooth, and its dark surface reflected the light as daylight shone on it. Sasuke had also placed the scabbard in his obi. When Sasuke pulled the katana out of its scabbard entirely the metal was lighter of colour than his own katana resting in Naruto's belt.
Sasuke swayed the blade around before taking a traditional kendo stance; one foot placed before the other, and the blade held in two hands directed towards Naruto. Naruto pulled Sasuke's beloved katana out of its sheathe, and mirrored Sasuke's stance.
"The fight will end when one gets the other onto the floor or can show he is able to make a critical blow," Tsunade explained. "And no use of ninjutsu," she added with a look at Naruto, who saw no reason for her to do that. She then raised her hand only to let it drop again. Immediately as Tsunade's hand lowered, Sasuke took a couple of steps forward and raised his katana to attack.
For a while all Naruto was able to do was block Sasuke's strikes. He had almost activated the Sharingan, but thought this would probably not distance his soul from Sasuke's body if he used it to his advantage. After a while Naruto caught up with Sasuke's pace and was able to do more than just defend. He swung his sword close to Sasuke's left fox ear, which twitched at the near contact. Surprised at his own action, and at the same time shocked that he might have cut off his own fox ear, Naruto was cut in the cheek by Sasuke.
This woke Naruto up from his shock, and he frowned before he took a couple of steps forward to Sasuke, fending off the unfamiliar katana. His katana grazed Sasuke's sleeve; Sasuke's katana scraped Naruto's upper arm. Naruto made a cut in Sasuke's ear; Sasuke managed to cut Naruto's other cheek. Naruto lashed out to Sasuke, who blocked it, only to return the favour and be countered by Naruto.
This lasted for quite a while, both were panting from the exercise, but Sasuke showed the upper hand. He charged forward, sure this would be the final blow. Naruto on the other hand did not feel like losing to Sasuke, and braced himself for the coming attack; sure he could overthrow Sasuke in some way.
Their katanas met, a loud clink of metal was heard as both pushed their weight into the game. This time Naruto had the advantage, currently being both taller and heavier than Sasuke. Naruto slowly pushed both katanas away toward Sasuke, but Sasuke was still better at the technique, and thus threw off Naruto at the same moment Naruto had put all of his weight in to push Sasuke off. Both were sent back by the force of their blows. Sasuke was send into the wall, and Naruto hit a column painfully hard; both slid down to the floor.
Tsunade held up her hands. "That's enough, I'll call this a draw." Sakura and Kakashi helped the two sweating shinobi stand up.
"That was great," Sakura commented on their fight, looking over to Kakashi, who nodded in agree.
"Quite so," he said.
"Please tell me the next part is easy," Naruto panted, leaning on his own knees to catch his breath. Sasuke, in a similar position, resting against the wall, looked up to Tsunade as well.
"It is, in a way," she answered. "We will stay in this room," she informed them when Naruto was about to turn to the sliding doors.
"Oh," he said. "Then… what is the next part exactly?"
Tsunade smiled. "A traditional-" she had not even finished her sentence when Naruto sighed and lowered his head, groaning a 'no', "Japanese dance," she finished.
Sasuke stared at her through Naruto's blue eyes. "No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I'm not going to-"
"You will, just like Naruto will." Tsunade tilted her head. "Now that you have distanced your soul from your body, it will need to be able to latch onto your own body. The dance movements will help guide the soul to familiar movements, luring it back to its own body."
Naruto blinked. "So, after this," he said, straightening up, "we will go back to our own bodies?"
Tsunade nodded. "A hand sign on my part will keep it in place."
Naruto balled a fist. "Alright then; I don't care anymore, let's do this."
Sasuke, seemingly less enthusiastic than Naruto, hesitantly stepped forward to Tsunade. "What kind of dance?" he asked, knowing there were many styles and techniques. Let it be a sword dance, he thought.
Tsunade held up two folding fans. "A fan dance," she said. Sasuke audibly sighed, lowering his head.
"So… what do we do? I never dance," Naruto confessed. "I have no idea what to do."
"Luckily," Tsunade said, handing Naruto a bright red and white fan, "the scroll does not say precisely how, so you can dance according to your own style." She handed Sasuke an orange and black fan. "So, why don't you pretend to have a sword in your hand, and move around a little more gracefully."
Naruto frowned, not seeing how he could do that. He looked over to Sasuke. "And when will we…"
"You will change back once your rhythm is similar enough for your souls to switch bodies."
Naruto shook his head. "This might take ages."
"Now, now, Naruto, don't be so negative," Kakashi said. He and Sakura stood beside Tsunade at this time.
"Fine, come on, where's the music," he said taking a stance in the middle of the room. Sasuke slowly walked up to him, and took a similar stance 3 meters away from Naruto, the red tail hanging against his wide pants.
They started off rather awkwardly, once the music started; moving around the room uncoordinated. Naruto made a lot of unnecessary movements with his fan, while Sasuke could move a bit more and a little faster. It was quite funny to see them dart around. It took quite a while before they stared to make movements even remotely recognizable as dance moves.
Sakura couldn't help herself when she saw Naruto hit Sasuke with his red fan, and started to laugh loudly. Naruto apologized to Sasuke, who rubbed his cheek, before sending Sakura an annoyed look. "You're not helping," he told her, but it seemed a waste of words, because Sakura had doubled over from laughter.
The two continued their dance for only a couple of paces, when Sasuke stopped Naruto. "Sakura," he called out to her, "please tell us what's going on." Sakura had slid down the wall, and even Tsunade was laughing now. Kakashi seemed close to doing the same.
"Why do I feel like…" Naruto said.
"… We have been tricked?" Sasuke finished.
The two stared at the laughing trio, trying very hard to keep their growing anger under control. Finally Tsunade was able to speak between laughs. "I'm sorry, we just couldn't help it. I saw an opportunity to get back at you, and I took it."
"So, you mean," Naruto said, his face falling, "all of this was…"
"Fake, yes Naruto," Tsunade said. "We made it up," she motioned to the other two and herself.
"And all the stuff about connecting and distancing souls and bodies…?" Naruto asked through gritted teeth.
Tsunade shook her head. "I just made it up on the spot," she said laughing.
"Did you even find a way to get us back at all?" Sasuke asked annoyed, shaking slightly.
"Of course Tsunade-sama did," Sakura said, finally able to do more than just laugh. "It wouldn't have been a good joke if we didn't."
"Then… what is it?" Naruto asked.
"You should have seen you dance," Sakura said giggling.
"I personally favoured the tea drinking," Kakashi said.
"The looks on their faces," Tsunade agreed, shaking her head.
They all laughed again, and this time Naruto couldn't help but laugh along. "Your dancing did look more like an old turtle trying to find a spot to die," Naruto told Sasuke, who did not appreciate this.
"You're one to talk," he said.
After another couple of minutes of joyful laughter, and a sulking Sasuke, Tsunade stepped forward and placed her hands on Sasuke's and Naruto's shoulders. "Let's get you two back to normal, after you've changed back to your own clothing."
A little later Naruto and Sasuke once again stood in front of Tsunade's desk, changed back to their normal clothes. Naruto shook his head, smiling. "You really got us," he said. "But tell me… how long ago did you find out how to change us back?"
Tsunade finally looked like she felt somewhat guilty. "Two weeks ago, but I had no idea yet how to get back at you, and the two of you were having too much fun pretending to be the other. Everything was okay, so I waited for the right time."
Sasuke and Naruto exchanged looks. "Fine, but can we switch back now, for real?" Sasuke asked.
Tsunade mentioned for the two to sit down on the floor, and knelt down in front of them. Sakura and Kakashi again stood to the side, not wanting to miss the actual switching.
"This will be a bit disorientating, and it can last for a couple of days, but it will pass over," she told them.
"It can't be much worse than dancing though," Naruto joked, earning some sniggers.
"Okay, ready?" Tsunade asked.
"Hai," the two said in unison.
Tsunade made a whole bunch of hand signs so rapidly that hardly half could be seen by a normal eye. She finally stopped, her hands held together in an unfamiliar sign and shouted, "Kai!". She placed a fingertip on either forehead of the two men in front of her. It felt like a small shock went through her fingers, crossing from one body to the other, but there was no change visible.
Naruto and Sasuke, however, felt quite differently. At one moment they were sitting, facing Tsunade, and the next the earth disappeared under their feet. A strange falling -or maybe it was a pulling motion- was felt, but in the darkness and without any feeling of gravity, they could not be sure. Before they could get any idea of what was happening it was gone. It was as if they had landed, rather roughly.
Sasuke closed his eyes, feeling dizzy and unstable. He placed his hands on the floor to make sure the room was stationary instead of feeling like being inside a washing machine. Naruto bent over, and placed his head on the floor, holding it in his hands.
"Did it work?" Sakura asked Kakashi silently.
Tsunade moved her hands over the two men, making sure they were physically alright, and then told them to take it easy. Sakura and Kakashi waited, just like Tsunade, until one of the two would show a sign of being himself again.
Naruto straightened up first. "I GOT MY TAIL BACK!" he yelled, hugging the soft furry extension happily.
Sakura startled at the sudden loudness. "Really? That's your first reaction?" she asked, having her question answered if the jutsu had worked.
"You have no idea how great it is to have a tail," Naruto went on, stroking the red fur. "It was like losing an arm all over again."
Sasuke sat up too, and brought his hand up to the bridge of his nose. "Aren't you… disorientated?" Sasuke asked.
"I'm too happy right now," was Naruto's answer.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "I get it. It was… nice having a tail, but this reaction is just…" He closed his eyes for a moment.
Naruto turned his head to Sasuke, and this obviously triggered some disorientation in him as well. He put his hand quickly on the floor to steady himself, and winced. "It's not overreacting; it's appropriate."
"Glad that the two of you are back to normal," Kakashi said.
"As far as normal goes between those two," Tsunade added, still observing the two closely.
Then Sasuke stood up, and swayed. He reached for the wall to steady himself. His other hand went to his head.
"Ho, take it easy," Tsunade said, "you just changed bodies, you should take it slow. Last time you switched was different, then you had to adjust to a new body, but you two have been switched for quite a long time; you have to get used to your own body again."
Feeling dizzy, Sasuke stayed leaning against the wall, but did not want to sit down again. Stubbornly he ignored Tsunade when she tried to help him sit.
Naruto just let himself fall back, and closed his eyes as he lay on the floor. "I know why he needs to stand up," he said.
Sasuke turned to look at -his finally blond again- Naruto. "Why?" Tsunade asked.
"He wants to look down on people again," Naruto grinned.
Eyes turned to look at Sasuke for confirmation, which they got in the lack of answer he gave.
Naruto and Sasuke stayed stationary for a while, and Sakura and Kakashi went home now they knew for sure they would be talking to the real Sasuke and Naruto again.
"Glad you had a good day," Naruto shouted after them, shaking his head. "Really, like they went to the theatre or something." He quickly stopped moving his head, and leant back against the wall he had moved closer to.
"You two seem alright," Tsunade said, taking place behind her desk again. "Once you've sobered up a little you can go home."
It took a full hour before they could both stand and walk without swaying around like drunken men. Naruto and Sasuke thanked Tsunade (a little grudgingly in Sasuke's case) for changing them back, before they finally headed back home.
Not feeling quite alright yet, they were nevertheless happy to be back into their own bodies again. Strolling slowly down to their house, while trying to get used to their own bodies, the two talked things over.
"I must admit it was nice being tall," Naruto said.
Sasuke nodded. "You really are short."
"Am not, I'm average height," Naruto retorted, amazed Sasuke still dared to tell him he was short. "Next to you everyone is dwarfish," he muttered. "I'm glad to have my own eyes again though," he added. "I rather have good hearing and a tail than the Sharingan; as cool as it was."
Sasuke shook his head shortly. "No, the eyes are better, but you're right about having a tail."
Naruto grinned. They were just walking down the market when Naruto's ears twitched. He turned to Sasuke, stopping him by grabbing his long sleeve.
"Wait a minute, Sasuke," Naruto said, and he dashed away into the opposite direction. Sasuke slowly turned around, and saw Naruto's team standing in front of a small shop selling ninja tools.
"Hello~," Naruto greeted his team joyfully.
The trio looked around, frowning slightly. "Eh…" Eri said, looking up into Naruto's happy and smiling face. "Sensei?" she asked to be safe.
Naruto grinned some more. Ryomaru's eyes widened. "Y-you're back to normal!" he said. Naruto ruffled his short green hair.
"Correct. I'll be training you guys again. I know it will be a disappointment compared to Sasu-"
"YES!" Eri yelled, throwing a fist in the air. Naruto raised his eyebrows in surprise. Ryomaru sighed in relief and smiled, and even Kenji did not seem all that upset. "Finally we have our own sensei back," Eri said, and she hugged a still slightly stunned Naruto. "Normal training again, short explanations, and hard work without needing to be all too precise."
Naruto smiled. "Well, thanks," he said, really feeling happy to hear this.
"Naruto-sensei knows us best," Ryomaru said, a small smile showing.
All three looked around to Kenji, who stood quite still, obviously not sure what to say. Naruto grinned when he saw how Kenji wanted to agree with his team, but his pride and idolisation of Sasuke was clearly in the way.
"We… missed you," he finally said very, very softly, not looking at any of them. He crossed his arms.
Naruto spread his arms and gathered his three students. "Yeah, I missed training you guys too," he said.
"When did you switch back?" Eri asked after Naruto had let them go.
"Just now, we're on our way home." Naruto waved his hand to Sasuke, who stood looking at them from afar. He looked up a little when he saw Naruto motion at him.
Eri waved at Sasuke, who grudgingly returned the gesture very shortly before turning his head aside. Eri turned to look at Naruto and they both grinned. "I think we'll be going again then, the switching thing is a bit… weird."
"Okay. Bye sensei," Ryomaru said.
"See you again at the training field." Naruto walked back to Sasuke, who turned his head down to look at the approaching blond.
"What did they say?" he asked.
"They were glad we were back to normal," he said. "They want me to tell you they enjoyed your training sessions though." They might not have actually said this, but Naruto felt this was true though.
Sasuke nodded and turned away. Naruto inclined his head a little, and saw Sasuke's expression softening. He smiled and took Sasuke's hand in his. Sasuke looked down at the joined hands, feeling the missing parts of Naruto's hand. "This feels much better, doesn't it?" Naruto asked. Sasuke smiled in response.
Naruto happily swished his tail behind his back as they walked on over the streets of Konoha back to their home. "It was fun though, being each other," Naruto said, unable to keep things to himself. He rested his head against Sasuke's shoulder.
"Hm… yes," Sasuke admitted.
"I knew you secretly liked it too," Naruto said. "I bet you always wondered what it would be like to be me."
"What makes you say that?" Sasuke asked.
"I wondered the same thing about you," Naruto said.
Sasuke could not say he had always wondered what it would be like to be Naruto. No, the thought had not really ever crossed his mind. Of course he had wondered what it was like to have a tail and fox ears, but never seriously considered it. However, to satisfy Naruto he nodded. This earned him a big smile, which had been his goal.
The bright blue eyes shone brightly again, the smile was warm, the whisker marks fitted. Naruto was Naruto once more, and Sasuke was really happy to be able to see him again. He was so happy that he was not be able to express himself, but on the other hand a small feeling had started to grow ever since they had left the Hokage tower. He missed something. He missed this link with Naruto, knowing he was always close. It was strange, but being back in his own body felt… lonely.
Sasuke suddenly faltered, and Naruto looked up to see what was going on. "Sasuke? You feeling dizzy again?" He looked around at the familiar setting, a little bakery, a small square and a lonely oak tree, before looking back up into the deep mysterious onyx eyes.
Sasuke shook his head. "No, I was just…"
Naruto tilted his head, and looked up to Sasuke with slight concern on his face, but waited for Sasuke to make the next move.
It took a while, during which the two looked at each other, probably happy to be in their own bodies again and able to look at each other, when finally Sasuke took a couple of steps toward Naruto until he was so close he could place his hands on Naruto's shoulders, and thus he did so. Once his hands touched Naruto's shoulders a pleasant feeling he had missed for almost a month surged through his nerves. He knew he tightened his grip on Naruto's shoulders a bit too much, but he just couldn't help it. He would never let Naruto go again. It took quite some self-restraint to keep from pulling Naruto into a tight embrace before pressing his lips against the blond's. He looked down in those azure blue eyes that reflected the slightly clouded sky. He couldn't help but smile.
Naruto smiled back, liking the reaction he could see in Sasuke's eyes and body language. He waited patiently for Sasuke to kiss him, to hug him; waiting for his strong hands to move over his body, but nothing happened.
"Naruto," Sasuke said in such a soft voice, Naruto had to strain even his fox ears. "There's something… something important I want to…" Sasuke stopped and lowered his eyes.
At first Naruto waited for Sasuke to collect himself and find the right words, but Sasuke took quite a while to do so, which was unusual. "Important? What is it, Sasu?" Naruto asked.
A leaf fell from the oak tree and landed on Sasuke's shoulder, but the raven ignored it. He still seemed to struggle with words, and the grip on Naruto's shoulders tightened even more so.
"Sasuke?" Naruto asked worriedly.
"I've been thinking about this for quite a while now," Sasuke continued suddenly, "and I really think it's a good idea." He looked up into Naruto's confused and frowning face. How he loved that whiskered face. Blond locks fell into Naruto's eyes, swaying in the wind ever so slightly. Slowly Naruto's eyebrows loosened up until the concern was off his face and instead was replaced by curiosity. All those times Sasuke had looked at those eyes in the mirror, it just hadn't been the same, they had lacked Naruto's soul which made them sparkle and look livelier than they already were. This was the final push Sasuke had needed.
"A chakra kizuna," he said.
Naruto stared at him. "A what now?" he asked blankly, his eyes squinting in his famous confused look.
"A chakra bond," Sasuke repeated. Naruto still seemed confused, so he continued. "It a sort of ritual in which two shinobi forge a bond made with their chakras. It's hardly ever done because the two shinobi make a pact that bonds them so strongly that sometimes they go crazy."
Naruto frowned at this. "Then why would you-?"
"Because it also has a lot of advantages; for example it makes the two stronger because they can use each other's chakra, they can go on longer, and they heal quicker."
Naruto nodded. "And why would you… suggest such a thing?" he asked quietly, not wanting to sound doubtingly.
To Naruto's surprise Sasuke smiled broadly. "Because I love you."
Naruto stared wide-eyed at the tall raven as he heard the simple explanation. "Because…" he repeated softly. He tilted his head. "Why?" Of course he wasn't asking Sasuke why he loved him, and Sasuke knew.
"It's a special bond, it will link us. With this whole… body switching I came to realise that we are not just how we appear on the outside; you are not defined by just your actions or words. It's the souls that makes us who we are."
"So… doesn't that mean you want our souls to be connected?" Naruto asked confused.
"No, don't you understand? They already are." This seemed to confuse Naruto even more so. "You must have felt it too; must have realised it," Sasuke went on. "While we had switched we could easily have drifted apart. That's what the whole idea of the jutsu is about, that the enemy switches places, gets confused and can't fight. Some people get mad after living inside another's body for too long a time; they can't handle the stress. Not only from being inside someone else's body, or the idea of being someone else, but also because of the body itself; it pushes unwanted souls out. Slowly it rejects the soul that does not fit inside the body, it starts corrupting it, and slowly that person will inevitably go crazy."
Naruto stared with wide eyes at Sasuke. "You knew this all along?"
"Of course," Sasuke said, "it's only obvious."
Naruto clearly didn't agree, but knew better than to point this out. "So, then why the chakra bond if our souls are already… eh… connected?"
"Because I want to be connected not only with your soul, but to your body as well," Sasuke said softly, as if almost afraid Naruto might laugh at him for saying something like this.
Naruto did not know how to answer at first; he just stared back at Sasuke. Connected in both body and mind? Was this really so important to Sasuke? Naruto lowered his eyes to Sasuke's collarbones. It was true that he had felt almost comfortable in Sasuke's body, and had gotten used to it rather easily, so he realised now. He had thought it was because he knew Sasuke so well, but could it be because of what Sasuke had just told him? Naruto had never really thought much about souls and stuff, it was not important; you couldn't see it or prove it was there, but obviously Sasuke knew more about it.
Slowly he brought his hands up and placed them on Sasuke's upper arms, feeling suddenly small again in his own body as Sasuke looked down upon him, waiting for an answer. He could feel the dark eyes follow every movement, every breath he took, and now knew how it was like for Sasuke to see all this.
A sudden urge to hug Sasuke fell upon him, to hold him close and nestle himself against that protective chest and the warmth it radiated towards him; to finally hear Sasuke's real heartbeat again. With immense restraint he kept himself from doing just that, because now was not yet the time; Sasuke needed an answer.
He lifted his head until he looked up onto Sasuke's beautiful pale face, framed by two dark locks of hair. His dark eyes, as mysterious as the universe, searched his. "I think…" Naruto slowly said, not sure yet what to answer. Sasuke shifted his hands on Naruto's shoulders, but did not let go. "I think this is very important to you," Naruto said.
"Yes, I-" Naruto stopped Sasuke by placing one of his hands over Sasuke's heart.
"I'm not completely sure why, and to be honest, that doesn't matter to me." Sasuke frowned ever so slightly. "If it's important to you, then that is all the reason enough for me," he finished. The vague frown had gone in an instant.
"I want you to know," Sasuke said.
Naruto shook his head. "You don't have to explain, it's alright." His hand on Sasuke's chest gripped the white fabric. "In fact, I don't even want you to explain."
"Naruto," Sasuke said softly. He wanted to explain, he really wanted to. He wanted to tell Naruto that he was the world to him, meant more than anything to him, that he wanted to hold him close, kiss him, feel him, connect to him, wanted to never let him go, he wanted to say that without Naruto he was nothing, no one, that he would never have become the man he was today. He would not be able to feel pride, would not be able to feel alive, to be happy, to cry, to feel, to be, to exist. Naruto had made him, had formed him, had completed him. Naruto was everything. He wanted to tell him this so badly, but words were not enough, showing him was not enough, a touch was not enough; it had to be something much deeper, much more special, something much more fitting. Suddenly the thought of a chakra bond felt too small a thing to do, to propose.
Before any words, any movements or gestures could be exchanged Naruto had finally given in to his long desire, and embraced Sasuke, burying his face into Sasuke's shoulder, pressing his body tightly against his chest, laying his head against his shoulder. Immediately Sasuke returned the gesture, not even thinking about what he was doing. He laid his cheek on top of Naruto's head, feeling the soft ear close to the bridge of his nose, taking in Naruto's smell.
"You don't need to explain," Naruto said again, "because I can feel it." He moved his head over to Sasuke's heart. "I can hear it."
Sakura looked down upon the half-naked body of Sasuke kneeling in front of her. His head was slightly faced downward, not looking up to her standing form; a ghost of a smile on his face. He was glancing to his left. There sat another half-naked man; a blond tanned man wearing loose white pants. He was also kneeling in front of the pink haired woman. Sakura turned her head away from the raven haired man in equally white pants to the blond, fox-eared man. He seemed ever so slightly nervous, but smiled back at Sasuke when he noticed the glance in his direction. Sakura grinned when she saw the red tail with white tip playfully move around behind him.
"You two ready?" she asked, tuning her head from the one to the other. Sasuke and Naruto both nodded, and Sakura picked up a small bottle filled with a black liquid.
She hunched down in front of Sasuke first, and he looked up to her. Sakura smiled at him while she moved a finger to the bottle and dipped it in the dark liquid. Next she moved it to Sasuke's chest, and started drawing a kanji right over his heart. She wrote with precise strokes the kanji for heart before she drew a perfect circle around it.
She had felt Sasuke tense his body when the cold liquid touched his skin, but as she continued drawing, writing unreadable symbols and marks like long strings fanning out over his body, he relaxed more. Sakura moved over to his back, continued her artwork there until she reached the only piece of clothing the man was wearing. She stood up and went back to his front, and next drew another kanji right over his stomach; it said 'chakra'. This time she only drew one cord of symbols connecting to the circle around the kanji. It went to Sasuke's side, and she started writing on the white cloth of his pants all the way down along the side of Sasuke's leg until she reached the floor.
She stood up and studied her handiwork. Sasuke's torso had been painted black, all the way from the shoulders to his waist. Only the one chain to the floor reached further. She turned then to Naruto and did the exact same thing to him. Only the chain from the kanji on his stomach went left, toward Sasuke, instead of right. She then connected the chain of symbols over the floor to the point on the ground at Sasuke's feet where she had left off.
Finally finishing the inking of the seal she straightened up again, and placed the now half-emptied bottle on a small table behind her. Practised she knelt down, and with precision put the small piece of glass exactly in the middle of the table. The ritual hadn't finished yet, because she turned around again, facing the two men. She straightened her soft pink kimono, and calmly looked around. Black and blue were watching her every move.
Sakura couldn't help but smile as she remembered Sasuke coming to visit her on a dark stormy night months ago.
"Sasuke-kun?" she had asked opening the door to face a soaked Sasuke. "What are you doing here all soaked up?"
Without answering, Sasuke stepped into the warm and cosy environment of Sakura's and Sai's home. Sakura led him into the living room, and got him a towel. "Is something wrong?" she finally asked after Sasuke had dried his hair.
Sasuke shook his head. "No, I just came back from a mission, but no one was home."
Sakura frowned and sat back, leaning against a small cabinet. "Did something happen?" she asked next.
Again Sasuke shook his head. "No."
"You just wanted to talk?" she asked softly.
Sasuke did not deny this, and looked down at the towel in his hand. "Isn't Sai home?"
This time Sakura shook her head. "Mission with Kakashi-sensei."
Sakura stood up and went to get them some tea. It took a lot of patience on Sakura's part, but eventually Sasuke started to answer her questions and started to talk back. Slowly he opened up more, and the conversation finally came to the point which Sakura knew had led Sasuke to her house.
"I just wish I could… show him," Sasuke suddenly said softly, not facing Sakura.
Sakura looked down at her tea. She wasn't quite certain what he was talking about, but she thought she did.
"You mean, beside the way of showing him in bed?" Sakura asked calmly.
Sasuke turned his head to her. "I… I don't know," he told her truthfully.
"You feel like showing him how important he is without making some kind of commitment?" she asked next.
Sasuke shrugged. "I don't know." He shifted around a little. "On the one hand I feel like… I want him to be mine, to show the rest of the world we belong together," he confessed, "but on the other hand I know we both don't need such things to show our…" his voice suddenly died down.
"Love," Sakura finished and nodded. "I know what you want to say."
They sat in silence for a while, and calmly drank their third cup of tea. It was well into the night, but for some reason neither felt tired enough to stand up and leave things like this.
After a while Sakura started to play with a lock of her hair, twirling it around her index finger. Sasuke looked up to her, noticing the nervous tick.
Sakura bit her lip before opening her mouth. "I know the two of you don't need a symbol or a piece of paper to show you are dedicated to one another, but what if… what if you made a sort of bond that does not really show?"
Sasuke looked up to her. "What are you talking about?" he asked, narrowing his eyes, but Sakura knew he was interested.
Sakura leant closer over the table toward Sasuke. "A ritual."
"A ritual?" Sasuke asked, sounding sceptical. However, unconsciously he leant closer to her, curious to know what Sakura was talking about.
"I read about it in one of Tsunade-sama's scrolls. It's a ritual in which two shinobi make a bond… through their chakra."
Sasuke narrowed his eyes once more, and sat back again. "Hn," he said sounding disappointed.
"It has all kinds of advantages, but more importantly…" Sakura waited for Sasuke to look up to her. "It does not show, but it-" she moved her hand over her chest, "it connects," she gripped her shirt in her hands around the place where her heart was, "deep within."
For a long time neither spoke, Sasuke contemplating this new piece of information. He did not seem convinced.
It wasn't until weeks later that Sasuke suddenly brought the subject up again. They talked about it once more, Sakura explaining everything about the ritual, how it was a seal, what the advantages were, the possible downsides and risks, but more importantly the meaning of such an act. Sasuke seemed more interested than he had been before, but still did not seem fully convinced. Again after this conversation the subject did not come up for a long time until a month before the chuunin exams began.
Sakura was in the hospital, cleaning up a cabinet when Sasuke appeared in the window. "Still working?" he asked, stepping inside.
It started out as a normal conversation. "What are you doing here? Weren't you supposed to take Akira-kun into the park?"
Sasuke looked up surprised. "How do you know?" he asked suspiciously, leaning against the wall beside the open window.
"Naruto told me last night."
Sasuke seemed to realise what was going on. Sasuke had been away last night, ordered to take a scroll to a nearby village. After Akira went to bed, Naruto sometimes left the house for a stroll. Last night he must have gone to Sakura.
Sasuke crossed his arms. "Tsunade-sama wanted me to tell you she wants the results of the Kobachi mission," he said, finally telling her the reason of his appearance.
"I've completed that not even ten minutes ago," she said, patting a stack of brown folders. "I was just cleaning up."
Sasuke nodded and moved toward the window, getting ready to leave, but Sakura stopped him by placing a hand on his shoulder. "I don't know if you've thought about it lately, but…" Sasuke turned his body toward her. "I know Naruto wouldn't mind at all."
Sasuke looked startled. He obviously knew what she had been talking about. "You asked him?" he asked angrily.
Sakura let go of Sasuke, holding up her hands protectively. "No, no, of course not!"
Sasuke turned away from her, back to the window. He stepped into the windowsill, but stopped. "Are you sure?" he asked softly.
Sakura smiled. "Yes."
While Naruto was away to the chuunin exams, Sakura had suggested all kinds of ways for Sasuke to ask Naruto to take part in the ritual. Sakura thought it was cute that Sasuke seemed so uncertain about how to ask Naruto. It appeared he was afraid to ask the blond. Sakura knew it was quite an important question, and not one to take lightly, but she also knew the two were ready for it. She tried to encourage Sasuke in every possible way, because it felt right to do so, as if it was her duty to make it happen.
And then, finally, three days ago Sasuke had showed up in her garden, smiling brightly. Sakura was quite surprised by the sight of the smiling Uchiha, and even more so when he told her he had asked Naruto.
"What did he say?" she asked excitedly, though of course already knowing the answer; if not for being certain that Naruto would agree, the look on Sasuke's face was an answer in itself.
Quite suddenly Sasuke embraced her, and Sakura felt a blush forming on her cheeks. Sasuke had never hugged her like this before. "Thank you for everything."
Unable to make any sense of her words after that, Sasuke left her alone.
Sakura held up her hand in the ram hand sign. She gave a nod to her team mates before they returned it. A series of hand signs followed, she finished with the hand sign labelled snake before slamming the palm of her right hand precisely onto the middle of the inked chain on the floor. It glowed up a soft pink as her chakra ran through it, going left and right. It followed the chain to the stomachs of both men where the kanji glowed softly. Next the kanji written over their hearts glowed, and the strings started to grow tightly around their bodies, moving over their arms, and faces, disappearing underneath the fabric of their pants to reappear on their bare feet. Like chains they tightened around the bodies of both ninja, and Sakura took a step back to see what was happening.
Both Sasuke and Naruto winced when the chain connecting their stomachs pulled tight between them, moving up from the floor like a rope. It tugged at their bodies before it stopped glowing. For a moment nothing happened before the black strings covering their bodies started to retract, not to the kanji on their chest, but to the one on their stomach, until only the two black circles with the kanji and the chain linking them were left.
Sakura paid close attention to Sasuke's and Naruto's condition, but they both seemed fine. The string between the two, connecting their bellybuttons, hung between them.
For a moment Naruto doubled over, and flattened his fox ears against his head when the seal of the fox appeared over the black ink. This was apparently what Sakura had been waiting for as her eyes were fixed on Naruto's stomach before it had even appeared. Naruto made a movement as to grab his stomach, but did not. After a moment, during which Sasuke had looked around if the blond was okay, Naruto straightened up again. "It's okay," he panted softly.
Sakura let out a sigh of relief. The inked kanji glowed pink once more on top of the seal of the fox. On Sasuke's stomach it glowed up pink as well, before it turned a soft purple. On Naruto's stomach it turned into a mix of red and yellow: orange. The orange and purple followed the chain and met in the middle, where it mixed and flowed into the other chakra.
Sasuke gritted his teeth when the somewhat vile chakra entered his body, and closed his eyes. Naruto cast a worried look before looking away again. This had been the most important reason why Sakura had never suggested this ritual to Sasuke or Naruto before. It wasn't until she had seen the two of them huddled together within Sasuke's Susano'o, where both their chakras stabilised the enormous shadow of a man, that Sakura had realised their chakras could be exchanged after all. They had done so right before her eyes that very day.
The link had been made. Their chakra mix glowed even brighter before fading away. It looked like it was eating away the black inked chain between their bodies as it too faded into nothingness. Sakura watched how the ink on their stomachs disappeared until only the kanji written over their hearts remained. This was Sakura's sign. She held up her hands, palms open toward Sasuke and Naruto, and pushed her hands on each of their chests over the ink. "Fuin," she said, making it all permanent.
Once she pulled her hands away the ink was completely gone; there was not a single sign on their bodies showing that anything had happened just now. Sasuke was still panting softly, and Naruto slid down into a cross-legged position. "Wow, Sakura-chan, you did great," he said.
"Of course," Sakura said, smiling. She turned to Sasuke. "You'll manage."
Sasuke glanced up to her face. "Hn."
Sakura stood up and started to clean up the room. Naruto watched Sasuke catch his breath, and noticed how a single drop of sweat slid down the side of his smooth pale face. "I don't really feel any difference, you?" he finally asked.
Sasuke swept the sweat of his face, and turned to Naruto, who sat smiling at him. "I figured as much," he said.
"Why?" Naruto asked, "because of the fox?"
Sasuke nodded. "Its chakra, it's quite heavy," he said.
"Oh," Naruto said sheepishly. "But when we switched bodies it did not seem to bother you."
"I was inside your body, it's used to it. This is different." Sasuke tilted his head to see where Sakura was, and then stood up. Naruto did the same and turned around, like Sasuke, toward a small person sitting in one of the corners of the room. Sasuke took a couple of strides toward the small person, and sat down on his haunches in front of him. Akira smiled at his father before taking his outstretched hand. Together they walked back and faced Sakura, who stood waiting for everyone.
Naruto grinned and stomped Sasuke against his arm. "Let's go." He picked his and Sasuke's shirt up from the ground, and pulled the orange one over his head. He then threw Sasuke's shirt over to the tall man.
Sasuke put his shirt on before following the others with the little boy in hand. It was strange, this feeling of knowing he was connected to Naruto's chakra. He knew he could access it at will. It was like everything was completely different from before, while at the same time everything was exactly the same.
Outside Sakura turned around and hugged both man. Akira looked up to the adults with interest before hugging Sakura's leg, not wanting to be left aside. Sakura smiled down at the small boy, hunched down, kissed him on the cheek and left. "Have fun, bye," she said waving. Naruto and Akira waved back.
"Thanks for everything, Sakura-chan!" Naruto yawned as they started walking. "I could really sleep. You?" he asked turning his head to Sasuke, who shrugged.
The sun shone brightly onto the three as they crossed the market, and then strolled through the green park. Beautifully coloured flowers greeted them, the buzzing of happy bees collecting pollen, butterflies dancing in the air, the birds singing their song. Sasuke looked up into the blue cloudless sky and felt nice and warm. His son happily tried to keep up to his pace, still holding his hand. Such a small hand, Sasuke thought. His free hand moved over to Naruto and folded around the bigger hand, though still smaller than his own. Naruto looked up at him and smiled. Sasuke returned it. He was happy, immensely satisfied.
Akira looked up, a question obviously burning on his tongue. "Are you married now?" he asked innocently.
Naruto and Sasuke looked at each other before the blond burst out laughing at the look on Sasuke's face.
* I'm referring to the one-shot Kisu of course ;)
A/N: I finally finished it. I can't believe it…
To MS: Thank you for all the beta-ing you've done for me! :D