A Perfect Beginning
When Naruto woke again, he was alone. He couldn't stop the pang of disappointment that filled him when he felt his chilled hand resting by itself on the blankets and when he spotted the empty chair by his bedside. Had it been a dream? Maybe Kakashi hadn't been there after all? Naruto held back the sadness that wanted to break through; there was no point in being depressed about it. If Kakashi hadn't really come to see him, hadn't really confessed his feelings to Naruto... well, Naruto had already promised himself that he'd leave Kakashi alone if that was what the man wanted.
"So you're finally awake."
Naruto twitched slightly in surprise and turned his head to face the door of his hospital room. Tsunade stood in the doorway with her arms crossed. Her eyes studied his form and flicked towards the machines he was connected to. "How are you feeling? Headaches? Confusion? Fatigue? Pain?"
"I feel fine," he said. "My head still hurts a bit, but it feels more like you flicked me with your pinky than I got a kunai slammed into the back of my skull."
"It wasn't a kunai though, right? If that brat lied to me..."
She nodded, "He brought you in last night. There was a fissure in your skull, but I mended the bone and kept your brain from swelling – the Kyuubi did the rest."
"So I can go?"
"I'm not releasing you until this afternoon – that's four hours, Naruto. No escaping until then. I heard Kakashi's version of what happened last night. Now I want to know what you've got to say. And don't you dare lie to me."
Naruto stared at the ceiling, avoiding his pseudo-sister's eyes as he thought about what to say. He couldn't say anything that would get Kakashi in trouble, but he also couldn't lie to the Hokage, sister or not. He sighed and began, "He did smash me into the cupboards, and he did want to hurt me. I admit that. But I know that he didn't mean to cause any lasting damage or to hurt me badly enough that I would need to come here."
"He implied the same," Tsunade said neutrally.
Naruto nodded and continued, "Well, it's true. We were fighting and I said some things I shouldn't have said – things I knew would hurt him – and he was only reacting to that. Maybe he should have been paying more attention to where he was pushing me, but he was probably too angry to really focus on anything but punching me in the face."
Tsunade sighed and sat down heavily in the chair beside his bed. "You know, Naruto, I'm going to have to take you or him off your team if this continues. I know the two of you have a bad history, but your skills and the skills of your team-mates make you an invaluable asset to Konoha. But if you can't solve this without trying to kill each other – intentionally or not – I'm going to have to separate you. One last chance. That's all I'm giving you. Either you fix this without violence or you pretend to have never met each other before being placed on the team. I won't have you getting killed on the field because of some stupid scuffle between comrades."
Naruto nodded and she smiled sadly at him before patting his head gently and leaving the room. So he had one last chance, huh? Either get along or never work together again – and if they didn't work together, Naruto had no doubt that his and Kakashi's missions would be coincidentally timed to keep them apart. Naruto would get along. He would act as though nothing was wrong. Because the thought of never seeing Kakashi hurt more than his belief that the man's confession had been nothing more than a dream.
Team Genma continued to meet for training and for missions. Everyone on the team had noticed that something strange was still going on between Kakashi and Naruto, but while Sasuke and Sakura had asked Naruto about it, they hadn't pushed him when he didn't say anything. So now, while their missions were all successful, and their training pushed them beyond their limits into bettering themselves, there was a kind of tension and distance radiating from Kakashi and Naruto that spread throughout the rest of the team. It felt like the calm before the storm, which aggravated Naruto beyond reason. Hadn't he and Kakashi said everything they were going to say? Hadn't they already fought enough? And if that confession hadn't been a dream, though it must have because Kakashi never said a word about it, then why didn't Kakashi say something, anything?
The waiting was killing Naruto. Instead of hanging out with his team-mates, which he would have normally done during the free time they had between missions and training, he ran. He sprinted around Konoha, making forty laps around the hidden village in the time it would have taken him to do ten when he'd been twelve. The hours passed as the scenery flew by, but he never felt any better. Thoughts of Kakashi continued to swirl around his head, memories and suspicions and thoughts and emotions. He collapsed into a heap half-way through the forty-first lap and just stayed on the ground. His breath came out in pants and gasps, trying to fill his lungs and oxygenate his blood. Yet, no matter how much air he sucked in, it still felt as though he were suffocating. Obviously it wasn't the running that was causing this...
Kakashi hadn't said a Kami-damned word to him in the two weeks since he'd left the hospital. Naruto felt like he couldn't breathe, having to see Kakashi nearly every day and never being acknowledged. Something had to give, and Naruto felt like it was him. He couldn't take it anymore. He was done. Being on Team Genma... it'd been like a dream come true, working with his old team and the man he was in love with. Except it wasn't, it was a nightmare. It was tense and awkward and Naruto was suffocating. How was he supposed to breathe when the air was so heavy?
Naruto decided, then and there, that he was going to leave. He couldn't take it anymore. Working with Kakashi was too painful, too distracting. Naruto would get killed or get one of his team-mates killed with the way he was acting. So he went to Tsunade and requested to be put on a different team.
"What do you mean you want another team?" she demanded. "Did Hatake do something to you?"
"No, he's been nothing but professional."
"Then what's the problem?"
"Look, you said they were your best team when I came back, so obviously they can get on fine without me. I'm tired of being around Kakashi; everything's so tense. We haven't fought at all – I swear we haven't, so don't look at me like that! – but he hasn't said a word to me unless he's had to. It's awful and it's distracting me and the rest of the team."
"So you want another team? You're giving up? Just like that?"
Tsunade shifted in her chair, flipping through files on her desk, and then she shook her head and told him, "I don't have any other openings. The only thing I could do right now is send you on solo missions or put you in ANBU. I don't think you're ready for ANBU yet, and you can't legally enter any division except infiltration and seduction. Only those who've been jounin for a year are legible to enter the others, and it's only been over a month since you passed your Jounin Exam."
"I could probably do it," he mused. "Infiltration, I mean. My Henge is perfect for something like that. Jiraiya told me it's shape-shifting, not bending the light to create an image like the normal Henge does. Mine's a real, physical change."
"I don't want you in infiltration and seduction."
"I don't have to do the seduction part – though I'd probably be good at that now – but I'm practically made for infiltration, and Jiraiya trained me in that and spying. He said I might eventually be able to take over his spy network for him."
"Naruto, if you were to work in infiltration, you would have to put all your other training on hold. You wouldn't be able to train as hard as you do now, and you'd be away from the village for long periods of time – months and years, Naruto."
"I'm fine with that," he said stubbornly.
"You might be fine with it, brat, but I'm not. And Jiraiya's told me that Akatsuki are going to be making their move within the year. We can't afford to let you slack off on your training – you have to be ready to face them when they come for you."
"But if I'm in infiltration, then I'd be hidden! They wouldn't be able to find me at all!" he said fiercely, trying to convince Tsunade. If she let him do it, then he could leave Konoha. He wouldn't have to see Kakashi anymore, wouldn't have to feel that ache in his chest as the man refused to talk to him.
"Naruto, these are S-ranked criminals! If they want to find you, they will! We barely know anything about them, not their goals in gathering the bijuu, not the names and abilities of every member – but we do know that they have Uchiha Itachi. That kid's a genius at seeing through things and finding out secrets. You can't hide anything from that kid – nobody every could."
"Fine," he said, "then I'll just do solo missions."
"I don't really want you out on your own anymore, not when they could strike at any time."
"You said, you promised me that I could if I wanted to! And what happened to pulling me off the team if Kakashi and I fought again?"
"Honestly, I would have pulled Kakashi off the team."
"But – argh! Nee-chan, you can't do that to him!"
"I can, and if you can't work together, then I will."
"Fine! We work fine together. Our missions are successful. There isn't any reason to separate the team. I'll see you later, Hokage-sama."
"Naruto!" Tsunade shouted after him, but he was already out the window and halfway down the street. Of course his sister wouldn't let him run away, no matter how much he wanted to at the moment.
The next day found Naruto running once more. He circled the village over and over again, legs pumping speedily beneath him. He didn't use his chakra to run when he did this, because it wouldn't help him build his speed and strength. Chakra could enhance both, yes, but the stronger his body was, the more powerful he'd be when he put chakra into it. Lee had taught him that, showing him that one didn't need chakra to move swiftly and hit strongly. Chakra could augment it, though, if need be.
He was just making his twentieth lap around the walls when he spotted someone joining him from the corner of his eye. He stumbled for a moment, eyes widening as he took in the familiar shape beside him, but he quickly shook himself out of his stupor and continued running with his new companion. Kakashi ran beside him soundlessly, staring at the path ahead. Naruto could almost pretend that he was still Hisoka and that Kakashi was running alongside his lover. But it wasn't true, and Kakashi didn't even look at Naruto as he ran. Despite this, their legs moved in tandem, their arms held to their sides in a similar manner. They moved together without needing to look at one another, their forms matching and their speed equally as fast.
Naruto couldn't help but think that they moved as one, even if they might no longer completed each other the way they had before. The next twenty laps seemed to fly by as they moved, and Naruto felt at peace for the first time since he'd returned to Konoha. Running with Kakashi had always been something special. The energy he expended seemed to return to him, making him feel lighter and faster. It felt wonderful, as though Kakashi's mere presence was a source of energy.
The great oak tree marking the end of their run came into view, and Naruto couldn't keep his eyes from sliding to Kakashi, wondering if they would keep up with tradition. When he realized that Kakashi was looking at him from the corner of his eye, he knew that their tradition would not be broken. He grinned, feeling anticipation build within him, and then he both felt and saw the moment Kakashi's feet glowed and pulsed with chakra. Naruto expelled chakra from his feet as well and pulled up beside the now sprinting Kakashi, chakra flowing through their legs and out of their feet as they ran.
They raced, neither able to pull any length ahead. They reached the oak at the same time, hands splaying across the bark as they both shouted, "First!" They shared a look, glaring competitively at one another, and then fell down laughing as they realized how attuned their actions were. It was easy to forget that they hadn't done that in three years, easy to forget that they hadn't been speaking to each other in weeks. With the same adrenalin rushing through their veins, and the familiar environment, it was easy to forget that they weren't still lovers.
Eventually they stopped laughing and regained their breath, the two of them lying side by side staring at the green canopy above and the sunshine flitting through the leaves, bathing them in warmth. Naruto closed his eyes with a smile and sighed contentedly. "I missed this," he hummed.
When Kakashi didn't say anything in reply, Naruto opened his eyes and turned his head to see what the man was doing. He was rather startled to see Kakashi lying on his side directly beside Naruto, his head propped up on his fist as he stared intently at the blond. His eye was unreadable, but his gaze was heavy and Naruto's Adam's apple bobbed as he gulped. Then that dark eye darted down to his parted lips and Naruto gasped. Was Kakashi thinking about kissing him? He bit his bottom lip nervously and met the man's eye. Kakashi's other hand pulled down his mask and Naruto stared wide-eyed at his handsome face. Was he really showing Naruto (Naruto, and not Hisoka) his face? That same hand brushed sweaty blond locks off his forehead and gently slid down to cup his cheek. Kakashi's thumb brushed gently along his tanned cheek and then he tilted Naruto's head to the side and his eye flashed down to Naruto's parted lips once more before sliding closed as their lips finally met.
The kiss was soft and gentle, nothing more than the brushing of lips, but when Kakashi pulled away, Naruto was breathless. He gasped and clenched the grass between his fingers, his eyelashes fluttering as he blinked repeatedly. He stared at the man leaning above him in disbelief. A sly smirk pulled along Kakashi's lips and the man leaned down again, pressing their lips together once more. This time he lingered and let their breaths mingle, his own steady and strong, and Naruto's quick and sharp. He kissed Naruto again, this time applying more pressure. Naruto finally reacted, his hands flying up to Kakashi's head and burying themselves in his silver hair, tugging him closer as he kissed the man heatedly. Their mouths moved against each other, innocently passionate until a tongue darted out and swept along Naruto's upper lip. The blond sucked in a sharp breath and parted his lips, allowing Kakashi to deepen the kiss. Just as Naruto gave in, Kakashi pulled away. Naruto's eyes opened slowly to meet with Kakashi's as the man stared down at him. That dark eye flew across Naruto's face, taking in the flushed cheeks, dazed eyes, and stupid smile.
The silence was heavy again, but this time Naruto didn't mind so much. He just smiled and waited, feeling content now that he'd been kissed.
"So do you... want to go you with me, Naruto?" Kakashi asked, his voice sounding just as awkward as it had when he'd asked Hisoka the same question all those years ago.
Naruto's silly smile turned into a beaming grin and he wrapped his arms around Kakashi and pulled the man into a tight hug. "What do you think, idiot?"
"Ruto-chan, you'll hurt my feelings if you call me names," Kakashi teased.
"Pff!" Naruto huffed, "don't call me 'Ruto-chan', that makes me sound so stupid!"
"You are stupid."
"I am not!"
"I confessed to you and you didn't even talk to me afterwards."
"What! But – but I thought that was a dream!"
Kakashi raised his eyebrows and stared at him incredulously, "A dream? I tell you I love you and you think it's a dream?"
"Well," Naruto squirmed as he defended himself, "I fell asleep right after, and you weren't there when I woke up. And you were the one who didn't talk to me after!"
"I was just waiting for you to say something!"
"And I was waiting for you to say something!"
Kakashi gave him a deadpan stare, which Naruto returned with a defensive, accusatory look. When they realized that they'd both been waiting for the same thing for weeks, and they'd both been getting incredibly frustrated by the lack of communication, they snorted and started laughing again.
"Ah, I can't believe it! You're such an idiot," Naruto laughed.
"So are you," Kakashi returned.
"Yeah, yeah," Naruto muttered, pressing his face into Kakashi's shoulder as he hugged the man.
"So you never did answer my question..."
Naruto looked at Kakashi in askance, wondering what the hell he was talking about.
Kakashi sighed and smacked his arm, "I asked if you'd go out with me!"
"Hm... I don't know..." Naruto taunted.
"Naruto!" Kakashi growled.
"Okay, okay!" the blond laughed. "Ah, Kakashi, calm down! Of course I will! I love you, you big idiot. You know that."
"Hmph, see if I want to go out with you now."
"Awe, don't be like that, Kashi-chan!"
"Hey, who said you could call me that?"
"Psh, if you can call me 'Ruto-chan', I can definitely call you 'Kashi-chan'!"
"No '-chan'," Kakashi said. "I don't mind the 'Kashi' bit, but I won't be called '-chan' like some cutesy little girl."
"Awe, but you are a cute little girl..."
"Naruto," he said dangerously.
"Ah, just kidding, honest, Kakashi-sama!"
"Hm, that's more like it," Kakashi grinned, lying back on the grass with his arms crossed behind his head.
Naruto snorted and muttered, "Of course you'd like that."
Kakashi just smiled, keeping his eyes closed and looking content. They laid there quietly for a while, just enjoying the other's presence, until Naruto finally spoke up, sounding out his fear. "You know," Naruto admitted quietly, "I was really afraid that you wouldn't want me anymore, now that I'm Naruto and not Hisoka."
Kakashi cracked his eye open and stared at him silently before answering softly, "I thought I might not, because you're still so young, but then I saw you when you got back... Naruto, you might not be Hisoka, but everything I loved about her, everything that made me want her, I saw in you. Stronger, even. You're much better than she ever was; you're whole, and true. I never noticed it, but Hisoka always held something back – now I know she was holding you back. You're... you're you, Naruto, a complete person, not just the fragment of one like she was."
"Then... then you don't miss her? You don't... think of her... when you're with me?"
Kakashi shook his head, pulling Naruto into his arms and kissing his head affectionately. Naruto smiled again, thinking about how lucky he was to have someone like Kakashi – at least, he thought that until a mischievous glint entered the man's eye and Kakashi said innocently, "Except... you know, I think I might miss how flexible she was... I remember this one time she did the ballerina: standing up with one of her legs pulled up in the perfect splits while I thrust into her..."
Naruto's face reddened and he pulled away from Kakashi, hitting him and crying out, "Pervert!"
His lover just laughed and wiggled his eyebrows before asking him if he'd like to give it a try in his male body. "It'd probably be just as hot and feel just as good," he tried to persuade. When Naruto crossed his arms and turned away, nose in the air, Kakashi turned his persuasion into a taunting challenge: "Unless, of course, you aren't that flexible anymore?"
Naruto narrowed his eyes at the challenge and shouted impulsively, "I'll show you!" Then he grabbed his lover and the two vanished in a puff of smoke.
The next day Kakashi showed up to team training three hours late, and Naruto was nowhere in sight. His team-mates turned to look at him questioningly and Genma asked him, "Where's Naruto? Tsunade-sama said he'd probably be with you today."
"Maa, he pulled his hamstring last night," Kakashi told him, grinning beneath his mask and giving his team-mates an innocent and happy eye-smile.
Yeah, Naruto wasn't as flexible as he'd been when he was younger and in a female body, but honestly... Kakashi didn't really mind. The sex was actually better than it'd been before, now that Naruto had nothing to fear: he could completely let himself go, no longer needing to withhold anything, and just be himself. Kakashi would still have to persuade him into trying out every position they'd ever done. Just to see if he still had it in him, of course. Who knows what Naruto could still do, after all? Kakashi would have to test him...
Kakashi grinned beneath his mask, already planning out how he'd manipulate his blond lover into trying the more outrageous positions he'd previously rejected trying out. Yeah, Naruto would give in eventually. All Kakashi would have to do was lament the loss of this or that, challenge him, and the blond would do just about anything. He chuckled, ignoring the suspicious and dubious looks his team-mates were giving him. This was the perfect beginning to a new and exciting relationship. Naruto was lucky the Kyuubi could heal him so quickly – otherwise, he'd probably never walk again. Not with the things Kakashi had in mind; they had to make up for lost time, after all.
The Last AN: That's the end of the story! Wow, I can't believe I actually finished that! 54,106 words... Damn, that's quite the number, eh?
Well, there you go, a happy ending! I didn't put sex in it because, well, it felt pointless to me. It'd be porn and it wouldn't really showcase anything that you didn't already know or see or feel. I'm sorry to disappoint those of you who wanted or expected another lemon; I tried to write it, putting it after Naruto Shunshins them away, but it was forced and unnatural. It wasn't the emotional event or character portrayal I apparently like the sex I write to be. If you look back on the two scenes I wrote, I think you'll notice how much they say about Kakashi and Naruto (at least I hope you will). In my opinion, that scene with Maiko really shows how different Naruto is when he returns to Konoha, especially if you compare it to the sex between Hisoka and Kakashi. My sex scenes are supposed to say something - they aren't just supposed to, eh, get your rocks off (though I hope they had some affect, of course! ;P).
I like the way I finished this, ending it full circle with Naruto and Kakashi starting a new relationship in the same place and way Hisoka and Kakashi's began (you should have felt some déjà-vu there). They get to start afresh, with Naruto finally knowing/accepting who he is.
I won't be writing a sequel, if anyone plans on asking. To me, this story is over. The whole point of it was exploring identity and relationships, which I did. I hope this ending satisfies at least some of you. (I know, I know, you wanted another lemon...) But honestly, I hope it leaves you feeling like it's complete. I hate when a story ends and I'm left feeling like something else should have happened, leaving me completely unsatisfied. So hopefully I didn't do that.
Anyway, I'd just like to thank everyone who's reviewed and Favourited and Followed and Communitied this story. You've all been such a great inspiration for me. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: you're the reason I finished this story. Oh, sure, writing it was a lot of fun and I gained some experience and style in doing it, but if it weren't for the fact that you guys were expecting and hoping for more, encouraging me with every review, I never would have kept going. I'm the sort of person who tends to start and not finish things because she's afraid they'll never be good enough. But despite the fact that this story could be better written, better planned... I actually finished it. I faced the anxiety of posting new chapters and reading new reviews, and for once I had a story that I wasn't done writing before publishing - and I completed it. Maybe that doesn't sound like an impressive thing to you... but to me it means more than I can say. So I thank you for giving me the courage to carry on despite my fears. You're all wonderful people. Thank you.