I woke in an odd position, and I couldn’t feel my left arm. I always hated that. For a moment I always panicked, wondering if somehow I’d lost it during the , but very true.
With a wince, I pulled my arm out from under the thing restraining it, and flexed my fingers as needles of awareness stabbed by nerves. I started to shift my torso to get into a more comfortable position – I really was twisted in a contortionist kind of way – when I heard an animal like growl in my ear. My eyes flew wide open, and I forgot to breathe for moment. I only had a cat at home, and I’d never heard him make such a deep sound before in my life. And then I realized I wasn’t at home.
I was still in the woods.
I’d spent the night sleeping in the leaves.
My first impulse was to bolt upright, and put much space between me, and the warm body that made funny noises. But with a deep inhalation of breath, I managed to stay still.
He was on his back; I was on my side. His shoulder pillowed my head, while his arms curled around my upper body. I could see his chest rising and falling evenly as he breathed, though I wasn’t able to see his face. My arm had apparently been crushed by his torso, which explained why the circulation had been cut off. My hair slipped slowly into my eyes, and I huffed softly with annoyance.
I cannot believe what a moron I am. How on earth had I fallen asleep so easily?
Naruto made that odd noise again, and I felt like rolling my eyes with exasperation. I held my breath as I shifted, pressed my hands down onto the ground, and slowly sat up. At first, it seemed as if my change in position had no effect on him – his breathing remained even, his face slack and devoid of the troubles of the world. But, when I pushed back a little more, scraped my knee on a poorly placed rock, and let out a soft, but distinctive expletive, his eyes opened, groggy and unfocused. Advantageous
I froze, my heart beating rapidly, and prayed that he’d just sink back into sleep. When he blinked and the fogginess began to clear from his vision, I cursed my bad luck, and I cursed the damn rock on the ground. If I found it later, I planned on throwing somewhere. Far. And hard.
At first, Naruto just looked confused and disoriented. I’m sure seeing me looming over him wasn’t something he’d expected. In fact, I’m quite sure it intimidated him a little. Or at least I hoped it did, I thought sadistically.
After a few moments, the confusion blended with curiosity, and he lifted a hand to run through his already disheveled hair.
“Good morning?” he said in a questioning tone.
“Ah, yeah. Good morning,” I mumbled back, averting my gaze.
He sat up gradually, letting the last vestiges of sleep fall away. We were side by side when he was fully upright, though facing opposite directions.
My mind was reeling for something to say. Anything. I’d never been so tongue-tied in my life. Words stuck to my throat, and thoughts rattled around in my mind like ping pong balls. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him turn his head toward mine. My heart beat a staccato rhythm at the proximity, and it took all my strength to keep staring ahead at the tree lines. I vainly tried to focus on the bark of the tree not far away. Admire the brilliance. The strength of it. Its blond hair. Wait, trees don’t have hair. Damnit, I can’t even admire a tree without thinking of Naruto.
“Next time,” he murmured softly in a teasing tone that I knew meant bad news, “can you be the pillow, instead of me?”
At first I didn’t think I’d heard him right, but then my eyebrows slammed together, and I whipped around to face him, my face bright red with outraged indignation. “Who said there would a next time!”
He grinned cheekily, and gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Why wouldn’t there be?”
“Am I missing something?”
He leaned closer, if that was even a possibility. “What do you think you could be missing?”
“Don’t be cute.”
Oh, God he was so close. I could see the stubble on his face, the hint of lines beside his eyes that bespoke of amusement, the swirl of brightness in his blue gaze. I was so close to breaking, to saying to hell with it all, and letting my impulses be my guide.
“You think I’m cute.”
“That’s not – I didn’t…don’t put words into my mouth,” I stuttered.
“But, that’s what you said,” he persisted, cocking his head to the side.
“No, I didn’t!”
“That’s what I heard.”
“Then you’re hard of hearing,” I snapped. I suddenly hoped my anger would blind me to the sudden desire of running my fingers through his hair.
Naruto sighed, and leaned back the slightest amount. Without thinking, I leaned forward to makeup for his movement. A slow smile slipped over his lips, lightening his whole features.
“If I’m not cute, then what I am?”
It would have been so easy the snarl back at him, to let his teasing roll off my shoulders like I had always let it, and then hit him over the head in a teasing, yet serious sort of way. But, for some reason, I actually thought about his question, and felt my ears begin to burn with awkwardness.
Anything my mind came up with was too sappy, too inappropriate, too ridiculous to say aloud, and I was afraid I would just end up humiliating myself. So I gave into the urge that had gripped me ever since his eyes had opened and he had looked at me with that lazy inquisitiveness that made my blood simmer with something I dare not describe.
Without a further thought, I reached out, clasped his head between my two hands, and leaned forward to press lips against his. I didn’t feel the proverbial fireworks, or the splash of blinding color behind my closed eyelids. But, when the shock drained from his limbs, and a hand came up to cradle the back of my neck, something much better washed over my senses – something completely indescribable. When I gasped and he deepened the kiss, I sank against him, my arms going around his neck, my tongue trying to follow his in a dance I had never perfected, had never wanted to until now. I felt giddy and dizzy and nervous. My heart throbbed uncontrollably, and I felt like my stomach had turned inside out. Nothing had made me feel more alive in my life.
I tilted my head to slant my lips over his at an angle, and felt a wave of tingles shimmer down my spine. This was more than an exploration of mouths, lips, tongues, and teeth. It was more than the base desires that rooted and flamed within my body.
This was Naruto. This was my best friend, my confidante, my former teammate, my punching bag. This man was more important to me than any other.
The silky feeling of his mouth along my lips made my toes curl, my skin warm, my ardor intense. My hands slipped down from his shoulders, over his chest, and tightened on the fabric of his thin shirt. I followed him as he slowly leaned further back until his back was against the ground, and I was pressed against his chest. My hair fell into his face, but if he noticed, he gave no sign. I sighed against his lips, before slipping my lips more fully over his tangling my tongue with his. I had lost all semblance of reason at that point, overwhelmed with the knowledge of who this was beneath me, what we were doing, and how utterly delicious it felt. Naruto groaned softly, his hands on my waist, his fingers grazing the skin of my waist.
A snap in the distance filtered slowly into my brain, and echoed softly. The knowledge that there was something out there in woods, perhaps watching us, made me suddenly uneasy. Naruto must have heard it was well, for he gently pushed me away just as I broke contact with him. We were both breathing heavily, still caught up in the emotions that the kiss had evoked. I looked away from Naruto and toward the direction where the intrusive sound had emanated from just in time to see a small white rabbit hop into the clearing, sniff, and then disappear back into the brush.
When I glanced back at Naruto, his eyes were still on the spot the rabbit had just vacated. After a few moments, he turned his head back to mine, a half smile gracing his lips. He reached up, and brushed some of my hair back behind my ear.
He chuckled. “You’re cheeks are as red as apples.”
I’m not quite sure why, but for some reason that comment caught me off guard, and made me bristle with offense. Maybe it was because I was on sensory overload, or maybe it was because I was instinctually trying to put distance between the two of us, even though that was the last thing I actually wanted to do. I slammed by brows together with annoyance, pushed myself to feet, and glared down at Naruto with eyes sparking with frustration.
“Don’t make fun of me!”
I spun on my heel, the image of Naruto’s acute bewilderment burned into my mind. I had only taken a few steps when I heard him rise hastily to his feet and hurry after me.
I kept going, even though I had the strongest urge to stop.
I wasn’t surprised when he suddenly skidded to a stop in front of me, his expression slightly panicked. I moved to side-step him, but he was too quick, and dodged my attempt of escape.
“I’m not making fun of you,” he was quick to tell me. “I –,” he sucked in a deep breath, “I…please don’t misunderstand me.”