Disclaimer: Naruto is written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto and is published in Weekly Shonen Jump. All rights to the material belong to them and any other related parties, not me.
Act I, Scene I
Flaming Intro of Youth
One year had passed since the end of the Fourth Great War. The terrible Moon's Eye plan concocted by the Uchiha had been defeated, and the weary ninja who fought in those battles returned to their villages to rest and celebrate. Peace, it seemed, had finally been achieved. The ills of the past had been buried, and the leaders of the joint Shinobi army had sworn pacts of friendship with one another. Yet even in peace warriors must train to hone their skills and bodies to new heights.
Two young ninja stood at the gates of Konoha, newly returned from an intensive training camp. With packs upon their shoulders and sweat on their brows, both men turned and grinned at one another. They were home.
"Naruto-kun!" Yelled the first ninja. "Let us celebrate our return to the village with a challenge. The first one to make it to the Hokage's Tower in a footrace wins."
Grinning, Naruto turned to the spandex clad ninja and yelled back. "Yeah! I can't wait to see the look on Granny Tsunade's when she finds out how much stronger I've gotten, Lee. This is gonna be awesome! I feel like I could kick Sasuke's ass from here to the Forest of Death without even trying."
Time had been kind to the two shinobi. Both were older and more mature, but the innocence of their youth still shone in their eyes. While Naruto looked more like his father with every passing year, Lee would proudly to anyone who asked that his boyish good looks were transforming into the rugged handsomeness of his teacher Gai. Much to the dismay of his friends, Lee's devotion to his master had only increased over the years.
"True, but you have not improved as much as I have. Gai-Sensei," Lee screamed into Naruto's ear.
"Ah! Goddammit Lee, I'm standing right next to you." Naruto poked a finger into his ear to try and fix things. It failed to accomplish much. "Stop screaming at me already."
Naruto's complaint was waved aside with a smile and a wink from the green clad ninja. "Good friends scream at each other in close proximity. Look at our Senseis! The two of them have been together for since the days of their own youth after all.
"Kakashi-Sensei hates it when Gai does that to him." Naruto pointed out. As soon as the words were out of his mouth Naruto wished that he could take them back.
"Lies!" Lee screamed. "False truth and nonsense! And for that, Naruto-kun, prepare to look at the flames of my heart! For I will bare them to the entire village so that all may look upon the fruits of my master's teaching."
Lee fell on his hands and knees as tears coursed down his face. "Gai-Sensei," he choked out, "guide my hands and legs and lend your wisdom to my mind. Protect my body from all harm and sharpen my hands and feet into weapons of beastly beauty. Gai-Sensei! I believe in your mysterious ways!"
Rubbing the back of his head and trying to restore hearing to his left ear, Naruto edged away from his often insane training partner while looking at the sky. Lee's rants about his teacher could take a while. "And people say that I'm the number one hyperactive ninja!" Naruto grumbled. "At least I don't scream about how much Kakashi-Sensei means to me every hour on the hour."
Sometimes Naruto wondered if his friend would ever find a girlfriend – or if he even really swung that way. To each his own, the orange clad ninja thought. Just as long as he doesn't chase after me. I've got enough rumors going around about me as it is.
Yet Naruto smiled anyway. The man might be insane and often weird, but he was a great sparring partner and a truer friend. No man could truly ask for more. But it was time to end the rant and get on with the competition.
Besides, people were starting to stare and that's how rumors got started.
"Oi, Lee, stop your babbling and get on with the contest." Naruto said as he smacked his friend across the shoulders. "I could always ask Neji to take your place, ya know?"
Lee shut his mouth with an audible click. Standing up and turning around slowly, Lee stared into Naruto's eyes with a look of impending violence written on his face. "Naruto-kun," he said stiffly. "You are going to regret saying those words."
The two young shinobi shifted their gear around as they stared at one another. Naruto tightened the straps on both his backpack and forehead protector. Lee snapped his wrist and shin bracers to ensure their placement. Both young men checked their equipment, and when Naruto realized something. "Hey Lee, we need a start signal of some sort."
Looking around, Lee spotted a familiar face on guard duty. "Genma-san!" Lee called to the sleepy ninja currently on gate duty. "Start us off! We need your experienced hands to guide our youthful enthusiasm in this manly endeavor."
Looking at up from his magazine, Genma shot Lee such a look of utter annoyance. He muttered, "No." and then went back to reading. "I'm not getting in the middle of a feuding couple."
No no no no no! Not another one! Naruto's face fell and he began to splutter while Lee just stood frozen in shock. I refuse to let another rumor start. "Hey! Not you too. How many times do I have to say that there is nothing going on between me and that emo bastard?"
Genma yawned and closed his eyes. "So you dumped him for mini-Gai here? Never mind, I don't want to know." He stretched his arms and sighed in contentment. "If you want to prove anything otherwise then get yourself a girlfriend or two. Then I'll start to think otherwise."
Sighing, Naruto waved Genma off. That again. It was easier said than done. The man had no idea just how complicated Naruto's love life happened to be at the moment. Only Shikamaru and Sasuke understand the depths of my pain.
"Whatever. Just give us a signal so that we can start the match."
Genma flicked to another page in his magazine. "Crazy-ass morons," he muttered under his breath. "Fine. You two ready?"
Forgiving Genma's earlier comment towards him, Lee jumped from excitement at the older man's words. "Yosh! I was born for this challenge."
Growling, Naruto tightened his headband a second time and crossed his arms over his chest. "Bah, hurry up and do it already, dattebayo! I've got to get back to the emo bastard and smack him around a bit."
A resounding smack could be heard as Genma's palm met his forehead. "And you wonder why people think stuff. But alright, alright, you hyper little monkey. Anything to get your dumb ass self out of here faster."
Genma stood up and held one arm out. "The signal will be when I drop my magazine. Alright?" The two younger shinobi nodded their heads. "Then on your marks. Get set. Go!" And with that, Genma dropped his the magazine and started the race.
"Hey Moegi, look! If you shine a light into his eyes when he isn't suspecting anything, he gets this really funny look on his face and starts bumping into things."
"Idiot Udon! Konohamaru-kun's head injury still hasn't healed. Don't do that!"
Jerking out of his daze, Konohamaru looked around and saw his two teammates arguing about something. He must have blacked out again. I wonder what caused it this time?
Thinking about it was too difficult, so Konohamaru decided to turn his attention to something a little less complicated. Oh, Moegi was yelling at Udon again about something. That had been happening a lot recently. The poor guy. He couldn't handle Moegi's wrath all that well. Maybe Konohamaru should step in and defend him.
Standing with his eyes screw shut and one hand pointed at the villain of the moment, Konohamaru declared, "Hey, Moegi, stop yelling at Udon like that. What are you, another Sakura? You don't want to end up an old maid like her, right?"
There, that was easy to think about. Protect his buddy, make fun of the pink headed monster, and look like a hero while posing dramatically. I'm awesome!
Then he was suddenly flying through the air listening to a shriek.
"Konohamaru, you moron! You idiot! You dork!"
Shortly followed by two men yelling something about being sorry. Konohamaru had enough time to realize that he was flying backwards when something hard ended his sudden flight. Blackness filled his mind.
Udon closed his eyes and whispered a prayer for his friend's health as he listened to the frustrated shriek of their female companion. Judging by her shrieks and the twitching of Konohamaru's limbs, yet another visit to the hospital would soon be in order.
"Do not let his sacrifice be in vain, Naruto-kun! You're legs seem to be tiring."
"Shut it Lee. I'm right behind you."
Naruto and Lee were speeding through the mid-afternoon traffic. Each man wanted to see which one was faster in a dead run, to test the fruits of their training against the other. The brief appearance of Konohamaru in front of them had hardly slowed them down.
Lee quickly took the lead as he burned Naruto with his greater physical abilities. Looking up ahead, he spotted a window just beginning to open. Grinning, he adjusted his route to take him underneath the opening portal, with Naruto hot on his trail. Spotting the grin, Naruto felt a sliver of fear cross his mind. What was Lee planning?
"Careful Naruto-kun!" Lee shouted. "Look out above you."
Looking up, Naruto saw a bucketful of dirty water being tossed out of the opened window by a cheerful looking old lady. Lee was past the arcing stream while Naruto could only grit his teeth and stay the course as it flew towards his head.
"Ah! Dammit Lee!" Naruto cried as the water hit his face. "That was dirty. Literally!"
Coming up to a busy intersection, Lee bobbed in and out of traffic. Evasion had always been a specialty of his, a trait that Naruto had long admired. "A shinobi must always pay attention to their surroundings and use them to their advantage." Lee called. "Gai-Sensei's shinobi lesson number 8."
Wiping the dirty water from his face with one of his black and orange sleeves, Naruto glared at his friend's back. Admiration at his friend's trap and evasion skills evaporated quicker than the water steaming off his face. "Gai's shinobi lesson... that was in the frickin shinobi handbook! He stole that line!"
Lee's smooth stride faltered for a moment. "Gai-Sensei would never do such a thing!" He screamed. "And because you have insulted his honor, I must now win for his sake as well as my own."
"Wha- I did what? Argh! Dangit Lee, get back here!" Lee was running even faster now. How was he even doing that? Had he been getting steroids put into his cereal by Gai? Because this speed was just ridiculous.
Fueled by the memory of his role-model, Lee broke away from Naruto, edging the trailing ninja out when they sharply turned a corner. Now Lee was pulling ahead even further, pouring on the speed that had kept him alive during the war. If this kept up then he would never catch him, Naruto fumed to himself. He had to think of something, and think of it fast.
As if the other ninja could read Naruto's thoughts, Lee called out to him in the midst of a flipping spin over an empty stall. Showoff. "You are still falling farther behind, Naruto! The memory of Gai-Sensei shields and sustains me, while your dishonorable words weigh heavily upon your limbs."
"I'll show you sustaining!" Came Naruto's answering yell. Thinking quickly, he dove through another empty stall and slid along the long wooden counter. A brief wince of pain hit him but Naruto shunted the feeling to the side. A battle hardened ninja did not fear the pain of splinters.
The action was worth it. Lee was now within arms distance. "Heh. I've got this one in the bag," Naruto mumbled to himself.
Feeling cocky, Naruto decided to follow it up by taunting his opponent. "You couldn't beat me even if Sasuke and Sai tied me to post! I'm just that awesome, dattebayo!"
The one time that had happened, Naruto had still been able to take on Ino, Chouji, and Kiba in a sparring match and come out on top.
Yet in his cocky upswing Naruto had forgotten something about his opponent. Specifically, the young man's love of insane training.
"Yes! That is the way a competition should be Naruto-kun! If you beat me, then that is what I shall do as my punishment. I will strap a training post to my back and run 100 laps around Konoha. And if you lose then you will do the same. I shall join you in your laps as well to keep you company. The flames of youth burn brightest when paired together!"
Ducking to avoid a startled pedestrian as he raced through a busy intersection, Naruto mentally smacked his forehead. How did Lee have time to come up with stuff like that while running? "Um, Lee, you really don't have to do that."
Lee executed a flying dynamic kick that took him over a moving cart filled with ripe cabbage. As the incensed vendor yelled something about his cabbages, Lee shook his head and squared his shoulders. "No! As a student of Gai-Sensei, it is my way of a ninja!" Lee turned his head to the sky as his eyes filled with tears. "Gai-Sensei! This is for you!"
"You know that he's not dead, right?"
"It doesn't matter! This run will be dedicated to him!"
And with that final yell, Lee put on a burst of speed that left Naruto no room for talking if he wanted to keep up. Gathering his energy for another burst of his own, Naruto snapped his arms out and to the side. He caught up to Lee and, for a split second, looked over at him and grinned. Then he suddenly felt himself go spinning as his right arm came into contact with something soft and giving.
Naruto hit the ground hard. His only consolation was that, judging from the sound of Lee's shouts and the general noise of things snapping and breaking, the other ninja had gone down as well. Dammit! What the hell did they hit?
The blond ninja looked behind him to see who or what he had hit. He probably owed someone an apology at the very least.
Unfortunately, the person they had run into demanded more than the least from him. And was very capable of obtaining it.
Naruto could feel his blood begin to curdle within his veins.
"Naruto, Lee, you are both... morons." Sitting on top of a nearby ledge, Kakashi looked at his most incident prone student. "What on earth gave you the idea that close-lining Sakura was a smart move? Whenever she regains consciousness, she's going to beat the living daylights out of you."
Laughing sheepishly, Naruto rubbed the back of his head while his sensei looked on in mild amusement.
After sending a searching glance at Sasuke, who was kneeling by the downed kunoichi and holding a light near her fluttering eyes, a second thought occurred to the older ninja. If he kept Naruto distracted long enough then Sakura might have enough time to snap out of her light daze. Then things would get really entertaining. Especially if Lee were to come to her aid like always.
"Gai-Sensei, why are you riding a pony?" Lee mumbled from the ground. "And who's Mr Shirley? Is that Kakashi's middle name? I want to play with the lipstick too!" Scratch Lee off the list. Judging from the sound of things the Chuunin was concussed and mildly delusional. Buddha save Kakashi and stop the young man from saying anything even weirder.
Kakashi turned his attention back to his other student. "And? I don't have all day, Naruto."
Naruto cast a worried glance at where Sakura lay sprawled out in street and muttered something to himself. Whatever he said was too low for Kakashi to catch, but it was unimportant as the blond launched into a brilliant defense of his actions.
"Um, well, you see Kakashi-Sensei, I... that is, Lee and I... actually, it's all Lee's fault. It was his idea. I swear!"
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. Now there was an argument worthy of a 6 year old. "It was Lee's idea to knock Sakura unconscious? And you actually went along with it?"
Naruto waved his hands around frantically at the same time that a semi-aware Lee started shouting 'lies' and 'slander' and 'defamation of character'. Where had he learned those words? Certainly not around Gai.
"No no no! You've got it all wrong." Naruto pleaded, snapping Kakashi's attention back to the trouble prone knucklehead. "You see, Lee and I were racing through the town to see which one of us was faster when Sakura-chan came out of nowhere! It was an accident. Neither one of us wanted to hurt her at all. And stop smirking Sasuke! You're a bastard, you know that? And if you keep on smirking I swear that I - oh, hi there Sakura-chan."
Kakashi chuckled. Naruto had finally figured out why Sasuke was smirking.
"How's your head feeling? It doesn't seem to be swelling up at all. And you know, that dress looks really pretty on yo- ah!" The sound of a fist smashing through wood filled the air. "No! Bad Sakura-chan, bad!"
My, but that had been a close 's dodging skills have improved somewhat in his time with Lee. Although Sakura's ability to keep up with him in that green dress of hers was also rather impressive. She certainly had not slacked off in her training either.
"Naruto, get back here," rang the voice of Team Seven's only female member. "I am going to kill you! You've absolutely ruined this dress. And it was brand new too! So hold still and die!" Taking off, Naruto began dodging behind various objects with Sakura promptly reducing each one to tiny pieces of rubble.
Staring up at the sky, Kakashi ran one hand through his hair while his other held the ever present Icha Icha novel. The first day in two weeks that he had any time to himself and here he was, watching yet another fight between his students in a street nearby the Hokage's Tower. If this was his entertainment for the day, then chances were that he needed to get a more active social life.
Why couldn't they be nice to one another like Kurenai's team? Naruto and Sasuke bickered constantly while Sakura just pounded both of them into the ground at the slightest provocation. Hell, Kakashi would rather take Asuma's team on some days. At least Choji and Shikamaru never fought with one another. One was too lazy and the other too nice. Both were qualities distinctly lacking in his students.
Lost in a fond daydream of nice, obedient students, Kakashi missed what was going on around him. Thus when Naruto began yelling in pain, Kakashi was a little confused. Had he missed Sakura finally catching her target?
"Not the face Sakura! Not my- AAAAAHHHH! No, the face, hit my face. Please hit the face!" Ah. Yes, Kakashi had missed out on Sakura catching her blond teammate. She also seemed intent on inflicting some permanent punishment on said teammate.
Someone might need to tell Tsunade not to expect any grandchildren from her surrogate child if her student was successful in her current goal. Someone preferably not named Kakashi. Maybe an anonymous note could do the trick. She couldn't shoot the messenger if there was no messenger to shoot.
"Now, Naruto, this might hurt a bit. But don't worry – I'm a doctor." Sakura's smiling face had a rather sadistic look on it as she stepped in close to her target. "And I'm prescribing you a dose of hard reality to the face. Got it?"
"And I," Lee shouted from behind Naruto, "am her gorgeous nurse assistant, little Lee-kun. So hold still and take your medicine Naruto."
Kakashi's visible eyebrow raised further as he observed the situation. Somehow Sakura had convinced the concussed Lee to join her in punishing Naruto. The green clad ninja was holding a screaming Naruto in a Full Nelson while Sakura proceeded to use Naruto's body as her personal punching bag.
Thank Buddha it was not anything else. Upon hearing Nartuo's initial scream, Kakashi's mind had gone to regions better left unexplored. He did not think that he could risk his remaining sanity with further attention to the gruesome spectacle developing in front of him.
"Now, where did I put my lipstick? I need to make myself look beautiful for the patient."
Not to self. When dealing with a concussed Lee, flight is the better part of valor.
To Be Continued
A/N: So, here's a story idea that I've been keeping in my back pocket for awhile. It was originally intended to be a multi-chapter crackfic. In it, the Naruto characters would perform a live version of Fern Gully, all while various hijinks ensued. Unfortunately I lost inspiration for it and only wrote the first chapter. I took a look at it recently, touched it up a little, and felt like posting it online.
This story is loosely related to my other Naruto story, Crouching Ninja Hidden Kitty, and reading that will give you a better background as to why Konohamaru is so out of things (although the point in time that they take place in are separated by several months).
Shoot me a PM if you would like to adopt this fic and run with the premise.
See you next time.