Naruto stood at the stove, doing his best to follow the recipe Chouji had given him. He had carefully written down the necessary ingredients before going out to purchase all the items he needed, trying to hurry up and get back home quickly. Being away from his apartment for too long didn’t sit well with him right now.
Glancing into the pot, he could say with confidence that it looked good, but that meant little especially considering the fact that most things looked good to him. The kettle next to him began whistling and he quickly removed it from the stove, abandoning his efforts with the soup for now.
He filled the mug with tea, stirring in honey as suggested by Ino, and was just making his way to the bedroom when he heard the telltale coughing fit. Hurrying, he scuttled into the room, making sure to not spill the tea, and came to a stop by Shikamaru’s side.
It wasn’t often that Shikamaru got sick, but when he did he got sick. Yoshino had warned him of that when they had declared they would be moving in together. Since she wasn’t going to be around to take care of him, she wanted to give Naruto a head’s up. Ever since she could remember, Shikamaru didn’t really get sick. He could be around those who were ill and never catch what they had no matter how contagious. But, occasionally, he would fall prey to his immunization failing him and would be bedridden for days, hacking up a lung, barely keeping anything down, and doing little more than waking up long enough to tear up his esophagus before passing out again.
Naruto was fine with taking care of his boyfriend, though. He didn’t mind in the least. Or, well, he didn’t mind taking care of Shikamaru, but he did mind that Shikamaru was sick in the first place. It bothered him how much it seemed to bother Shikamaru.
Setting the tea by the bed, he settled on the edge of the mattress and rubbed Shikamaru’s back, as Hinata had kindly recommended. It didn’t do much, but occasionally it helped to ease his coughing fit a little bit quicker. Anything he could do to help, Naruto would do in a heartbeat.
“Thanks,” Shikamaru rasped, his throat obviously hoarse from the sickness and coughing, as Naruto handed the tea over to him after making sure he was settled against the mound of pillows behind him.
“Absolutely! I have that soup Chouji gave me the recipe for, think you’ll be able to eat some?” Naruto asked, crossing his fingers. They were on day three of Shikamaru being ill and the first two days had meant little food for fear of vomiting it back up. Yoshino had said it usually took until the third or fourth day before he could really keep anything down again. It was a cycle she knew all too well.
Shikamaru leaned further into the pillows, sipping at the tea, looking content for a blissful moment, happy to feel the effects of the drink soothing his irritated throat even if it was only for a few seconds.
“I’ll try, but I can’t make any promises,” he told Naruto, but that was about what Naruto was expecting anyway.
“Ok. I need to go check on it. Be back in a bit!”
Returning to the stove, he stirred the contents in the pot a bit before taking a quick taste test. Naruto bounced on his toes happily, reminding himself to give Chouji his thanks properly for the tasty recipe.
Grabbing a bowl, he returned to Shikamaru’s side and watched him manage about half before having to hand it back over. Not as much as Naruto would have liked for him to eat, but it was still progress!
When Naruto was finished putting everything away, he peeked into the room and smiled softly at his now sleeping boyfriend. Sitting on the bed, he stroked the loose strands of hair on Shikamaru’s head gently, upset Shikamaru had to go through this.
Naruto had never been sick before in his life. Ever. It just wasn’t feasible apparently. Kurama prevented it from happening. So he never knew what it was like to be ill, but he could definitely see that it wasn’t fun in any way. In fact, it looked painful.
He has experienced Shikamaru getting sick only a few times, including this current one. And each time it happened, he hated what it did to Shikamaru. The time before this one Shikamaru, in a delirious state, had tried to go to work despite nearly passing out on his way to the door. Naruto had to put his foot down to get him back to bed and even then he still had to plead and bargain with his stubborn boyfriend. He hadn’t been as surprised by this sort of behavior thanks to Yoshino’s detailed warnings. (She wanted to make sure he was ready for anything her son could throw at him. But he was still somewhat startled that he had to coax Shikamaru to rest of all things.)
The very first time he had ever seen Shikamaru sick had been way back during their Academy years. That time Shikamaru hadn’t really been sick-sick, not like he was now. Instead, he had gotten a stomach bug that cropped up out of seemingly nowhere. Seriously, no one else in the Academy, let alone their class, had it and no one else got it later on. Shikamaru was the only one affected. And Naruto had happened to be nearby when he heard Shikamaru retching in the bathroom. A quick peek told him who it was and he immediately went to tell Iruka.
Since Naruto had never been sick and rarely dealt with anyone when they weren’t feeling well, for the longest time he hadn’t known what to do when he came across an ill person. Now, he would know to make sure Shikamaru’s hair stayed out of the way, but it had taken a crash course in dealing with sick people and the various ways people would react to being sick and being offered help while sick from Sakura for him to start understanding what he was dealing with whenever it happened.
But that crash course hadn’t come until after “The Mission.” Naruto could have really used the knowledge Sakura taught him during that time, but too little too late. Thankfully, it turned out fine except for the fact it almost hadn’t.
They had been sent on a mission together to a nearby town in the dead of winter. It was just the two of them plus Gai. (Shikamaru had commented to Tsunade the interesting combination to which she had snorted and explained she needed Naruto and Gai there to do damage control and provide any necessary backup. Shikamaru was there to actually get the mission completed. Naruto would have taken offense if it wasn’t for the actual goal; assassination.)
Things had gone smoothly for the most part. They hit a snag at one point which had forced them to change their plan and separated them from Gai, but Shikamaru had contingency plans for his contingency plans and had already prepped for something like that occurring so it wasn’t a big deal.
Then it rapidly went downhill.
One thing lead to another and suddenly Naruto had found himself leaping out a window into the roaring blizzard alongside Shikamaru before the room exploded. The shockwave had sent them head over end before landing roughly on the ground below. Or, well, Naruto had landed on the ground, feeling his shoulder and hip scream at the treatment. Shikamaru, on the other hand, had found himself hitting what seemed like the ground and sliding across it briefly before coming to a stop. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been the ground. It had been ice.
It hadn’t taken more than a second for Shikamaru’s impact to send a spider web of cracks shooting across the pond, collapsing under his weight. He hadn’t had any time to brace himself, push chakra into his feet, or, hell, even just climb on to his feet. Between one breath and the next, Naruto had watched Shikamaru slide to a stop and then fall into the icy water.
He had been fast in his rescue, not even stopping to think, just launching himself into the water, ignoring the pain, in order to drag Shikamaru back out again. It didn’t matter how fast he had been, though; the damage had already been done.
Naruto had managed to get them huddled in a fissure along the cliff the house they had just been in, which was now on fire, was built into. There hadn’t been much more he could really do as far as he knew other than to build a fire and hope Gai would find them soon.
After a few tries, he had managed to get the fire stoked and made sure Shikamaru was close enough to feel it despite being unconscious. He hadn’t made a sound when they landed. Naruto had figured the impact may have knocked him out and had worried about a possible concussion.
It had taken an hour for Gai to be able to rescue them. He had been trying, but had taken his own injury in the process of their mission. By that time, Naruto had been panicking, unsure what to do about Shikamaru’s lips looking a little blue.
(Sakura had beaten it into his head that he should have gotten Shikamaru out of his wet clothes even if he didn’t have any others available. He promised himself to never make that mistake again.)
Once they had gotten back to the hotel, Gai and Naruto took turns on keeping watch over Shikamaru. During Naruto’s rotation, Shikamaru had woken up briefly, eyes glassy. At least he had color to his face again even if it was only because of the fever.
“Hey, how you feeling?” Naruto had whispered, deeply concerned, but not wanting to wake Gai up. “Do you need anything?”
Shikamaru had stared at the ceiling for a few seconds, seemingly not having heard Naruto at all. When he had finally shifted his eyes to look at Naruto, it was as though he had looked right through him. Eventually, he had just closed his eyes and fell asleep again.
Naruto reached up, checked Shikamaru’s fever, and frowned at how hot his forehead felt. In response to the feeling of Naruto’s hand, Shikamaru had leaned into the touch and mumbled something softly before he fell asleep again, unaware of Naruto’s reaction.
There had been no way he had imagined that, right? Had he misheard?
Gai had woken up in the morning and stretched before he turned to his two teammates in concern only to have found Naruto staring at the wall intently, obviously deep in thought with a faint blush on his face, and Shikamaru still asleep.
Their return to the village had been difficult, but doable. Both Gai’s and Naruto’s injuries hadn’t been that bad, just a bit sore by the morning, so Gai had just carried Shikamaru the whole way since they really hadn’t been that far from Konoha.
Naruto would honestly never know if he had truly heard Shikamaru mumble a quiet “love you” and who it had been meant for if he had, but it honestly didn’t matter nowadays anyway. He got all the “love you” he could ever want whenever he wanted now.
In fact, a couple of days later would find Naruto with a no longer sick, but certainly grateful boyfriend. It was a lazy morning that day and as Naruto was getting ready, Shikamaru gave him a quick peck on the cheek. He was smiling before he knew it, happy now that Shikamaru was no longer suffering.
“Love you, too.”