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[ Hidden Beneath ] Chapter 11 - An Unexpected Partnership
fic - HB
Title: Hidden Beneath
Fandom: Naruto
Rating: M
Genre: General / Angst / Drama / Pre-slash
Pairing: SasuNaruSasu
Summary: While gathering information on Sasuke in Rice Field Country, Naruto's mission is interrupted. Though disguised as a fox, nothing could have really prepared him for the outcome of this encounter.

Chapter: 11/15?
Chapter Title: An Unexpected Partnership
Words: 1,883

It was still early morning by the time the pair exited the cave once again. Sasuke ambled along through the lush undergrowth at pace with the fox’s sluggish speed. The affected skin pulled slightly on every other step the disguised blonde took, irritating him no end. Naruto wasn’t pleased with the youngest Uchiha at all, he couldn’t fathom why Sasuke was forcing him to accompany him out, and that he had to walk, of all things. Being a poor injured animal should have been enough to be unconditionally pampered, never mind the fact he quite liked being carried to and fro around the forest cradled in those lithe arms.

This led to the chuunin’s current line of thought that Sasuke was a bastard with sadistic tendencies. Yet beneath the initial resistance, Naruto was relieved to have the excuse to be able to have the nuke-nin within sight at all times.

Still wondering why he had been forced along, the blonde assumed the other shinobi was going to train surrounded by the lush vegetation. The Uchiha had brought a few bags with him, and the trickle of chakra curled around Sasuke’s arms was enough evidence to know they were significantly heavier than they looked.

They emerged into a partially enclosed grove, a vapid mess of vines hanging off low lying branches, hiding further foliage. Sasuke dropped his cargo on the thick moss between the raised roots of one of the larger trees encircling the area. Naruto, careful of his side, flopped next to them and contentedly watched on as the pale teen hunkered down to pull out training gear from the beige canvas packs.

The chuunin was genuinely intrigued by the equipment Sasuke was handling, things he knew the name and purpose of but had never used. His own training had been overseen and dictated by the whims of an eccentric womaniser, an entirely frustrating path to follow. Despite knowing Lee walked around every day with heavy weights on his legs, Naruto hadn’t given thought to incorporate the method into his own exercises. The Uchiha retrieved several belts about ten centimetres in width, laying them out neatly.

Suddenly Sasuke stripped off the baggy trousers he had donned.

The blonde would belatedly wonder whether it was possible to die of shock while simultaneously bursting into laughter. Embarrassment was running rampant for Naruto today. Although this time he couldn’t distinguish whether it was for being unable to stop staring at the other’s lean, long legs or actually seeing the day when Sasuke wore spandex. Admittedly there was little difference (besides the material) to the shorts he used to wear as a genin but combined with the tight shirt, the black ensemble would have had the old Sasuke adorers back in Konoha fainting with ecstasy from the sleek appearance.

The reason for such clothing soon became clear when the dark-haired shinobi began the painstakingly slow process of properly wrapping each of his limbs in wide, white bandages. The swiftness and unerring dexterity of his movements showed just how often Sasuke trained with weights and he was finished in a quarter of the time Naruto would have taken. His black-tipped ears perked when the human began securely buckling the belts in place, appeasing thoughts on how the Uchiha was going to train. Naruto assumed it was a strengthening exercise as a chest and waist harness enclosed his torso while sets of three belts graced each limb.

Naruto couldn’t tell the sizes for sure, all he knew was the standard weight block used by Konoha shinobi for training was half a kilogram. Curious, the disguised chuunin sat up and nudged under one of the spare belts still on the ground with his nose. The act was not effective. In fact, the belt didn’t even slide a millimetre out of place. Sasuke turned from tucking the last strap on his left wrist to notice the red fox’s interest. He ran a hand over Naruto’s head and into a full body stroke that sent a warm shiver down the animal’s spine. The dark-haired boy carefully shifted onto his knees and forwent the use of chakra to stand, which left it difficult to manoeuvre with the extra kilograms.

Once vertical, he issued a warning to the animal. “You don’t want to carry one.”

The blonde huffed, wishing he could pout and act like the child he had been whenever in Sasuke’s presence when they were fresh out of the academy. He looked at the leather straps then at the pale boy and back again, contemplation clearly seen in his bright eyes. Just to spite his ex-team-mate, Naruto snared the edge of a belt between his sharpest fangs, shoved all of his small mass onto his hind legs, and gave a significant pull. The inevitable brashness resulted in the fox’s teeth scraping off the leather and flinging Naruto back to land heavily on his rump. The fall aggravated his still-healing injury and caused the disguised chuunin to whimper at the jolt of pain.

A low, throaty chuckle floated from where Sasuke had taken position in the centre of the glade. He glared waspishly at the Uchiha as annoyance streaked through Naruto for a moment. How could the bastard laugh at his misfortune and suffering. Despite the fact he was the one who had disregarded Sasuke’s warning, the unusual occurrence of the other boy’s unguarded laughter calmed Naruto down faster than he could yell ‘Hokage’. Instead, the orange-furred animal drank in the site of the amused expression wavering across the dark-haired shinobi’s face.

“I did warn you not to.” He held up a pale digit to punctuate his point. “I use one kilogram blocks.”

Armed with this new information, Naruto tallied the kilograms surrounding Sasuke’s limbs. He was quickly overtaken by shock as the total rose beyond expectations, at least for a ninjutsu-based shinobi Sasuke used to be classified as. By rough estimate the ex-leaf-nin was sporting around twelve kilos on each leg, the arms about nine each and the entire torso toted at least fifteen more.

While Naruto recovered, blue tendrils of chakra began leaking from each tenketsu, spreading to encase Sasuke’s lithe frame like a second skin. It was barely discernible to the chuunin’s sight, but the level of ability was as impressive as the Hyuuga clan cultivated for Hakkeshou Kaiten. The effectiveness of the energy in lessening the burden of weight was quite obvious, even a civilian ignorant of the ways of chakra would have noticed the extra support. The pale boy stood taller as his spine straightened from the prominent hunch and the tension in the stressed muscles lessened.

Sharp eyes followed every move as the shinobi eased into a transitional kata, the lacing of the supplementary chakra expounding the fluidity of Sasuke’s normal grace. In fact the visuals of the slow martial dance was soothing to the kitsune, the same way calmness Sasuke using his entire hand to stroke along his back invoked.

Naruto was dozing quite unguardedly for he practically jumped when a hand rested on his shoulder. The fox craned his head to look at the other quizzically and his cheeks heated once more. The Uchiha had stripped every belt except for both wrist and ankle weights and was re-wearing his loose three-quarter shinobi pants. He was also sans black shirt, which Naruto spied discarded by the canvas bags totally soaked through. Sweat glistened in the stray sunbeams that streaked over pale toned flesh and slicked those dark bangs to smooth skin.

Sasuke seemed to understand the unspoken communication. Slate coloured eyes softened a little and the corner of his lips twitched.

“Healing you is interrupting my valued solitude. In spite of this, I’m starting to like you. I don’t involve myself with others unless there is something they can give in return. You are no exception Kitsune-san.” Sasuke tapped a single long digit against the wet, black nose, making Naruto blink. “Any other time I would leave you to the mercy of this less than hospital country as soon as the toxin completes its’ course through your system. But luckily for you, I have a solution that will benefit both of us and will keep me around while you recover.”

If a fox’s face structure allowed such expression, Naruto’s mouth would have been agape with incredulous shock paralysing all movement. Not only was Sasuke talking to something that for all intentions and purposes couldn’t understand him, he had proposed equivalent trade as if the youngest Uchiha dealt with wild animals like shinobi every day. Were the disguised blonde anyone else he would have started to doubt the pale shinobi’s sanity. Three years under Orochimaru’s tutelage surely wasn’t good for one’s mental health, no matter what amount of things the snake sannin promised.

Naruto was jerked back to realty when the other boy scooped the orange animal into his arms once again, and returned to where he had been previously exercising. The dampness of the Uchiha’s skin chafed uncomfortably against his dry pelt. Since the chuunin was facing outwards he missed the half-grin and mischievous eyes gracing Sasuke’s features. Surprisingly, they knelt on the forest floor and the human held the fox on his hind legs with a solid grip around the ribs. He must have leant close because his warm breath ruffled the fur on Naruto’s ruff, tickling the skin underneath.

“Trust me.”

The statement didn’t have a chance to be processed by the blonde before a rush of adrenaline shot through his system as Sasuke abruptly moved him and shifted pose. When the earth was still again it took several moments for the resulting dizziness to fade and for Naruto to comprehend exactly what had happened. The fox was now perched in the middle of the shinobi’s naked back, front paws pressing gently into the muscles below the shoulder blades. He mentally cursed the Uchiha as his heart rate stuttered back to a normal pace. What the hell was his ex-team mate thinking by manhandling him, and while he was ranting, how in Hokage’s name was Sasuke going to extract repayment from a wild animal?

Naruto stared at the exposed neck of the boy beneath him, whom was presently being used as a seat. Sasuke was lying front down in the dirt and bearing all of his weight on his forearms, elbows tucked into his sides. Sasuke straightened his arms, body rigid, and chest lifting from the ground as he rose onto his toes.

“Hang on” was all the warning Naruto received before the shinobi began a repetition of push ups.

The fox immediately laid down to distribute his weight more evenly over the pale back, paws alternatively anchoring into the shifting muscle in compensation despite the sheen of perspiration. For a couple of horrifying minutes Naruto was certain he’d topple off. In no way did he want to land on the hard-packed earth. The spongy wild grass covering the entire area wouldn’t be enough to avoid the certainty of his bones jarring on impact. The thought made him mentally wince and he hoped his trust in Sasuke was not misplaced.

Once the anxiety over falling faded, the steady motion was lulling and Naruto unconsciously relaxed into the slow rocking. Lids slid shut over navy irises and the orange furred animal fell into another slumber.

[Hakkeshou Kaiten - Eight Divination Palms of the Hand, Heavenly Spin (Neji’s rotation taijutsu)]
Happy Anniversary! It’s been 3 years this month since I started writing Hidden Beneath

Chapter 12

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Yay! An update! Very cute!!! I'm kind of tired, so my review is lame, but it was very sweet and I look forward to the next chapter! :)

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