Disclaimer: I own nothing, which is sort of obvious.
The Final Prank
The clouds drifted past lazily in the sky, their speed reflecting the general atmosphere in the Hidden Village of Konoha.
It had been three weeks since the end of the Fourth Shinobi War, and the rehabilitation and rebuilding process was just coming to an end. Thousands of lives had been lost and even greater numbers were still in the process of rebuilding their shattered lives, but ties between the villages – between people, were stronger than ever.
All because of one man, Nara Shikamaru thought idly, gazing up at the sky and trying to find familiar shapes in the white clouds above him. He had been watching that man for a long time - ever since he was a boy, really, and he had tried his best to look past all the obvious masks the man wore and 'look underneath the underneath' to see what really lay inside. Even now, he remained a mystery, and Shikamaru couldn't help but feel that he was missing one final clue, one final hint to unlocking his personality.
It had become something of a pastime for him, analyzing the character of that one man so he could proudly say he knew what made every last one of his friends tick - a pastime that he was almost unconsciously reverting to at the moment.
"That one looks like a dolphin."
He shifted, allowing his girlfriend to lean back on his shoulder a bit more. He still hadn't quite figured out how Temari had managed to get him to go out with her – let alone go on a date with her – but he was surprised to find that he was rather enjoying this outing. An empty picnic basket lay next to them, and the two of them were resting against the tree and enjoying the last of the summer sun.
"What are you thinking about?" the Suna-nin's voice shattered his flow of thoughts, even though he didn't mind in the slightest.
"This and that," Shikamaru answered a little bit too quickly in her opinion; he didn't want to destroy the minutely manly attitude he had by telling her that he had been thinking about their relationship. "But before that, I was thinking about the man who single-handedly ended the War and brought about peace to the Elemental Nations –"
"-Naruto," Temari finished for him, a small smile curving her lips as she thought of their mutual blond friend. "The man who ended the war and promised to remake the Nation!"
Even with the Edo Tensei resurrecting the previous Hokage's of the village, it had been Naruto who had struck the final blow and ended the War once and for all. It was Naruto, who had accepted his father's last gift to him – the Yin chakra of the Kyuubi, and used it to master the famous Hiraishin no Jutsu in a day and a half.
It was Naruto who was now known across the Elemental Nations as the Messiah of the New Age. With monuments being built and songs being composed about him in every village of the continent, it wouldn't be too difficult for Naruto to try and take over the world, Shikamaru thought in amusement.
He shifted again as Temari snuggled into him a bit further; with a start, he realized that she had fallen asleep. Shikamaru grinned, whatever else she was, she was also a woman after his own heart.
He closed his eyes to get some shut-eye for himself too, but for some reason sleep wouldn't come to him. It was a niggling at the back of his mind that kept him awake, the belated realization that he had stumbled across something of extreme importance but hadn't acknowledged it yet.
He grit his teeth in frustration as sleep continued to elude him and the annoying sensation refused to die down. Seeing no other choice, he reached into the basket and pulled out the orange book from it.
Unlike Kakashi's famous book, this was the new series of books – all of them about Naruto's life; hence the obvious colour of the cover.
Opening it to the first page, he began reading with the hopes that it would lull him to sleep.
If anything, the feeling of discomfort grew even greater. He knew he had hit upon it already, but it remained just out of reach of his conscious thought.
Sighing, he snapped the book shut in anger, before his eyes fell on the cover.
He didn't know why it was the colour that set realization off like a bomb, but the next thing he knew, his mind was burning with ideas – each of them more ludicrous and terrifying than the rest.
Shikamaru knew that he was rarely wrong with his assumptions, but this time, more than anything, he wished that what he was thinking wasn't correct. He wished his girlfriend had never said the sentence that would spark the maelstrom in his brain.
...And promised to remake the Nation.
Almost hesitantly, he opened the book again and flipped through it. He came upon it at once – an artist's impression of the Kyuubi the night it had been forced to attack Konoha.
The same orange fur covered its body – The exact same shade of orange Naruto always wears, Shikamaru realized with a sinking feeling in his gut, like ice sliding down his stomach. The blond had been in that dress all his life, until the Konoha ninja were convinced it was something like a second skin for him.
Shikamaru tensed as he realized exactly how true that comparison was.
The jigsaw started falling into place with a terrible clarity, until Shikamaru was nearly shaking from the sheer magnitude of his probably discovery.
He sat up again, feverishly flipping through his book. Temari awoke with a sharp squeak of annoyance, and rounded on him at once to give him a piece of her mind. She stopped short when she saw the look in his eyes, though.
"What's wrong, Shika-kun?" she asked, her eyes wide in concern. It was rare for the Nara too act so energetically, and even rarer for him to display his fear so openly.
"'Ari-chan," Shikamaru said, his voice tight. "Imagine yourself growing up being ignored and abused by the entire village. Shunned by everybody, hated everywhere you go, acknowledged by nobody. How do you think you would turn out to be?"
Temari's eyes softened as she immediately thought of her own brother. "Introverted and quiet," she said quietly, "with an almost pathological hatred for people in general."
"Exactly," said Shikamaru, before he found the page he was looking for. Eyes shifting across the page faster than they had ever done before, he read the words on the page –
Trickster...Kyuubi of the many faces...sly...master manipulator...
"NO!" he yelled, shooting to his feet and hurling the book away from him, "No, no, no, no!" He clutched his head, repeating the words and cursing his own intelligence, wishing for once that he wasn't so damned smart. He wished that he had never stumbled across this information, that he didn't have the advanced mental faculties that would allow him to make this deduction.
"Naruto's one of my best friends," he whirled around and grabbed her shoulders with an almost manic expression on his face, "He wouldn't – he wouldn't betray –"
"Naruto? Betray?" Temari couldn't help the panic bubbling her stomach, "Naruto would never betray anything he held dear to him! Sweetheart, are you alright?"
"NO!" Shikamaru yelled again, now starting to frighten her. "No, I'm not! Temari, you said it yourself. Which child would grow up to be a prankster and a trickster despite being shunned by the entire village?"
"Naruto did it because he wanted the attention," Temari answered. The Suna-nin was a smart woman, even though she had caught on to the topic of their conversation a few seconds later than Shikamaru, she had caught on faster than most people nevertheless.
"Wanted attention my foot!" Shikamaru said, running his hands through his hair like a maniac. "It was right under our nose all this time! The continuous stream of mischief, the overwhelming slyness of his plans –" he remembered the way Naruto would smile when his pranks would pay off, nearly every book he had read had described it as his now famous 'fox-like grin', "hell, even the smile!" he shouted. "How could we have missed it? How could I have missed it?"
"Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?" Temari asked him sharply, almost refusing to believe what she was hearing. "Naruto worked his entire life to protect Konoha, Shika. He nearly killed himself to save the Shinobi Alliance."
"One final prank," Shikamaru muttered, "one big lie, to gain the trust of the Nation and then strike when it's at its most vulnerable –"
"Listen to yourself!" screamed Temari, "this isn't like you! You're paranoid, Naruto would never even think of what you are thinking about! How dare you think of him like that?"
But Shikamaru was ignoring her completely, much to her chagrin. He was pacing the area now, muttering to himself as he tried to fit everything into place.
"The keen senses," he said, "Yugiito had that as well, but that was only after she had synchronized with her Bijuu. Naruto's had it since birth."
"His healing," Shikamaru continued, ignoring Temari's indignant rebukes. "No other Jinchuuriki can heal like that until they're in their Tailed-mode..."
"Shikamaru, please see reason," Temari was now reduced to pleading with him, getting more and more concerned for his mental health with every passing second.
Things were now falling into place with a crushing certainty, "The Kyuubi was sealed into the baby when he was only a few hours old, what chance would a being that young have against something so old and powerful." He went through the records of other Jinchuuriki in his head, running through facts that other people would have to go to libraries to remind themselves about within seconds. "The others had their beasts sealed into them once they had their own personalities and could think of themselves."
Shikamaru crumpled to the ground – the consequences of his discovery was potentially earth-shattering.
"And now it's regained the entirety of the Kyuubi's original chakra," he muttered. "Always smiling, always laughing – a facade to hide another facade. It was masterful, underneath the undearneath as Kakashi would say."
"Did I hear my old sensei's name?" a playful voice drifted into the clearing, and Shikamaru's back stiffened as Naruto walked into the clearing. Was it just him, or were the blond's eyes glinting with an inexplicable emotion.
Apparently, it was just him - Temari went up to give Naruto a hug immediately.
"You're back!" she exclaimed in delight, hoping her boyfriend wouldn't shoot his mouth off about his wild theories any more now that Naruto himself was here.
Naruto had been on the victory tour with the rest of the Kages – attending ceremonies in every Hidden Village, spending nights in the quarters of the five leaders themselves.
"Spending time at the leaders' offices," Shikamaru breathed, speaking aloud in his terror even without realizing it.
"That's right," Naruto said with a pleased grin, and Shikamaru looked up with panic in his eyes. "Temari," he said, his voice clear and controlled even as he started to reach in to his chakra, "get away from him."
"Shika, not this again!" she groaned, but stopped short in shock when Naruto interjected.
"Oh, no, he's right," he said, like he was commenting casually on the weather and just hadn't revealed the greatest secret in the Elemental Nations.
The old fox-like grin was on his face now, making his eyes appear like slits. Maybe it was the atmosphere of the revelation, but Shikamaru found himself wondering why he had never realized how sinister it looked.
"Na – Naruto?" Temari questioned, sudden uncertainty flittering across her eyes.
"It's too late," Naruto – the Kyuubi told them, that same grin on his face – making his expression almost...cathartic. "The pieces are set for one last prank, Shikamaru. I must commend you for realizing it before the others, but you're just a mite too late."
Shikamaru was already attacking with his clan's jutsus, but Naruto brushed them away with a burst of red chakra like they were nothing more than annoying flies.
"You mean...all this time, all your actions...they were all lies?" Temari whispered, looking almost broken at the realization.
"Correct again," the Kyuubi replied, parrying both of their attacks with ease. The two of them were now putting everything they had in their efforts to subdue him, but it was like they were fresh Genin in his eyes. "One final mask – my greatest trick, in my opinion. The results, I assure you..." he paused, his smirk gaining the cruel edge he had kept hidden for so long, "will be explosive."
Almost like clockwork, the first of the explosions went off in Kiri, killing hundreds in one go and injuring twice that number.
Within a space of seconds, panic and chaos spread across the Elemental Nations as most of the continent went up in flames courtesy of the little presents Naruto had left behind in every city.
"Don't worry," the blond said idly, even as the Hokage Monument – on top of which they had been standing – was devastated with a blast, taking out Konoha's pride as the village itself suddenly found itself in ruins, "I'll leave some of them alive, just so the tale of my greatest lie lives on forever."
And as the nine tails of chakra formed behind Naruto's back, Shikamaru knew he was dead. All he could do was ask one last question before the world went black abruptly. "Why?"
The Kyuubi turned away from the body of the ninja, crushing his mate absently with another of his tails.
"Because I can."
Author's note: I couldn't get this idea out of my head, so I decided I might as well write it down. I know Shikamaru overreacts a bit, but I wouldn't have the story if he didn't!