Chapter 24

Several weeks later

"I don't like my dress. It's too frilly." Kurotsuchi stated, pulling at her pink Victorian style ball gown. It was the only dress that she owned and it was made special for this occasion.

"You look great." Naruto said sympathetically. "Unlike me. I'm like a penguin." Naruto said in reference to his own state of dress, which consisted of a lavish tuxedo and frilly undershirt. He emphasized his statement by waddling around like a penguin and making bird noises.

Kurotsuchi stifled laughter. The ball was proceeding in the background to them. It was slow compared to their lifestyle. People languidly flowed across the floor. The music tempo never reached any of the greater levels. The waiters all carried their platters of wine and other finger foods with expert precision.

Maybe it was due to the fact that they were ninja that they just couldn't mingle and have fun.

"I know brat. I can pull off a tux look, but that doesn't stop it from feeling silly." Jiraya said to his right, wearing a tuxedo eerily similar to that of his student.

Tsunade walked up behind him to add her own two cents. "There's nothing in the world that you could wear that you wouldn't manage to look silly in." Tsunade was wearing a slightly more modern ball gown than Kurotsuchi was, although it under-emphasized her breast size, probably to make the various lords and daimyos take her slightly more seriously. It was one thing to know that she could turn them to paste, but people often forgot about that fact when they were too busy ogling at her chest area.

"That hurts Tsunade-chan." Jiraya said with a feigned expression of hurt.

As Jiraya and Tsunade continued to talk back and forth, Naruto nervously glanced at Kurotsuchi. "Sooo… this is a dance… would you like to go dance?"

Kurotsuchi quirked a brow at his nervous behavior. "Sure, but I don't really know how to dance at all."

Naruto brightened up "That's okay, I'll lead." Under direct orders of the hokage and his grandmother figure, Naruto was forced into dancing lessons for this occasion. Everything from ball-style to salsa to Irish jig. If there was a type of dance to master, then he mastered it. Shadow clones were the best for things like that.

Jiraya had also emphasized the importance and significance of asking someone to dance with them. From his perspective, asking someone to dance was asking that someone to share a moment in time where they both, using his words, fade into a bliss of physical and emotional pleasure.

Jiraya was just messing with him. But that didn't make it any less fun to watch.

Kurotsuchi and Naruto took to the dance floor where Naruto directed her hands to rest on his shoulders while he grabbed her waist. The flow of the music was a medium-fast rhythmic tempo with a classical lilt to it. Naruto began mentally counting his steps as he led Kurotsuchi across, around, through, and in between the floor, spinning all the way. If Kurotsuchi was surprised by his skill in dance, she didn't let it show through.

Most of the guests all paused to look at them dance together. They knew who the ninja were based on sight alone, but the thing that they were more focused on was the way that they danced. It was as if they added something extra to their movements. A sense of expediency, or a sharpness to the way they turned and moved. To a non-shinobi, it was a mesmerizing sight.

Kurotsuchi laughed mid-twirl, prompting Naruto to laugh as well. Considering the lack of fun that he had during the classes, actually dancing with the person he liked was… nice. It was a nice feeling dancing with someone intimately.

"So how's your training going?" Kurotsuchi asked as they continued to flow and twirl all across the dance floor.

"I'm getting good with the Nuibari. I've also almost gotten to the one fourth mark in my affinity training. How's your training going."

"I can spit globs of quicklime already mixed in with water, instead of spitting the powder and then saturating it with water."

"Really? How'd you do that?"

"It's umm… it's difficult to explain to someone without the kekai genkai for it."

"I'll have to take your word for it then- Brace yourself, time for the dip." Naruto said with a grin.

"Dip?-" Kurotsuchi made a half-squeaking sound as Naruto suddenly held her by the back and lowered her to the point where her hair was almost touching the ground.

As he pulled her back upwards, the sound of applause pattered out all around them. Apparently, at some point all the guests gave them the floor to themselves so they could dance without restriction. It went unnoticed to them until the guests all clapped in amazement at their conclusion.

Naruto and Kurotsuchi blushed a bit as they all of the sudden became the center of attention. Nobles from all over the country walked over to them and tried to make casual conversation. There were things like: Are you going to have a proper ceremony for your wedding? What rank are you? Are you going to marry again? Are you happy with your married life? How do you manage to keep sane while sharing him with 4 other women?

All of these questions bombarded them at once. Naruto and Kurotsuchi tried to answer all of them in turn, but were often side-tracked by another question. As this continued and the married couple only got more and more confused, they shared a look before vanishing in a puff of smoke. Body Flickering away to get some air. The guests looked shocked and confused at first, before they reminded themselves that the people they were talking to were shinobi, people who by their very nature were secretive and capable of doing all sorts of strange things.

They poofed away to their vantage point by the legendary pervert and the legendary sucker. "Nice moves kid." Jiraya commented.

"Thanks pervert." Naruto said distractedly as he looked all around the great hall. "Has no one else shown up yet?"

Jiraya and Tsunade too began to look around with Naruto. "Doesn't look like it." Tsunade said. "They might just be running late." Even if the invitation only specified that the ones involved directly in the marriage should come by, Tsunade decided that it would be imperative that Naruto should also arrive with at least a little bit of protection. It didn't have anything to do with the fact that Tsunade wanted to go to a formal ball, not one bit.

Just as she said that, Fu trepidatiously walked into the great hall, taking great care to not be seen. Naruto noticed her right away and waved in her direction to get her attention.

Noticing the very enigmatic individual, Fu fast-walked to the little group of formally dressed ninja. "Hey Fu." Naruto said once she was within earshot.

"Hey Naruto." She replied with a forced smile. She seemed… distressed somehow.

"Is something wrong?" Naruto asked with a concerned expression.

"No, nothing's wrong… it's just that I don't really like crowds all that much." Fu was a very introverted person, preferring to spend time with one person at a time rather than a large group of people, so it made sense that she wouldn't feel very comfortable here. She wasn't afflicted by it all that much when she was in the open, but that was only because she knew that she could flee the scene rather easily if push came to shove. She couldn't do that here, in the ballroom, where there were a lot of peering eyes all concentrated on her.

Naruto wasn't really able to understand this, being the moderately extroverted person he was, but without anything else to say on the matter, he let it drop. Tsunade had decided that punctuality would be of the essence, so she decided that her, Jiraya, and Naruto should arrive there on time. A sentiment that was not shared with all of the nations, as only Kurotsuchi and now Fu had yet to arrive.

Speaking of Fu, she decided to wear an orange party dress that exposed the midriff and the back as well as lot of her legs. If anyone else had worn what she was wearing, they would come off as sultry. Fu, however, had an air about her that denoted that the only reason that she wore it was so it gave better ease of movement. Much like her common attire.

Fu looked around the party hall and noticed how lavishly everyone was all dressed up. Most of the lords and ladies there were wearing extremely limiting clothing such as tuxedoes, suits, ball gowns, and other such wear. She visibly began to shrink inwards to herself. "I didn't know that this was going to be such a formal thing." She explained.

"Don't worry about it." Naruto said with a smile. "The whole point of this thing is to have fun. So if you have fun, then nobody'll notice."

"I like your dress." Kurotsuchi commented amicably.

"Oh, thanks. I like yours too. I had to borrow this one from my friend, Takkana."

"Yeah that's right. How's it going with getting new friends in Taki?" Naruto asked. Jiraya cringed at that remark. The negotiations to get Fu on the same trip with Naruto had broken down. Pro tip for negotiating with powerful leaders of nations: don't assume what would be best for the nation that they're taking care of.

"It's going good. People are treating me better when I head in the village."

"Were they not before?" Kurotsuchi asked.

Naruto and Fu shared a look. "Jinchuuriki aren't really… liked." Naruto explained.

This confused Kurotsuchi. "Since when? I don't mind Han or Roshi. They're the Jinchuuriki in iwa."

"That's just because… well, when I was a baby, Chomei got unsealed and killed a lot of people in our village. I guess that I'm just a reminder of that." Naruto nodded along with that statement.

"But now that we're the things that are keeping the peace between the nations, everyone is treating us better." Naruto added. Kurotsuchi nodded in slight understanding.

The sound of the music changed tempo rather drastically. It became much faster paced, prompting a good amount of the guests to take to the floor and show off their skills.

Fu became rather antsy at the sound of the music, looking like she wanted to move and dance as well.

"Do you want to dance?" Naruto asked, noticing her state of restlessness

"I don't know how."

"It's easy, I'll show you." Naruto took Fu's hand and sped off to the floor, not noticing Kurotsuchi's ire.

Tsunade saw the look on Kurotsuchi's face and decided to comment. "Oh, liven up. It's a dance and there's only one of him to go around five of you. Or at least there will be when everyone shows up."

Kurotsuchi sighed in defeat. "Yeah yeah. I know."

A poof of smoke lighted up near the group of shinobi and a slightly sleep deprived Yugito came out of it. "Is this the right hall?" she asked. Some of the civilian guests looked shocked at the sudden arrival of the wife from Cloud, but quickly dismissed it as more shinobi shenanigans.

"Yup." Jiraya stated.

"Good. This place has too many halls and not enough signs." Yugito was wearing a purple flowing dress that hugged her curves. It trailed off into two split tails that lightly graced the floor. She spied Naruto trying to teach Fu an Irish jig in the middle of the dance floor. She wasn't taking to it too well, but seemed to be able to laugh at her own failures, more often than not prompting Naruto to join in as well. Their presence really livened up the party's mood. "What have I missed so far?" she asked.

"Nothing much." Tsunade said. "Some formalities at the beginning, but nothing other than that."

"Good. Sorry I was late, but I was held up looking for a dress. Bee helped out though, so it didn't take as long."

"Bee?" Jiraya asked. They had met each other in passing, but the toad sage was able to glean that the hachibi Jinchuuriki probably wasn't the best of people to ask for dressing advice.

"I just picked the thing that he didn't choose." Yugito said simply. "So what do I do now?"

"It's a dance. So dance." Tsunade said.

"I don't dance."

"Then socialize."

"I don't socialize."

"Eat finger foods."

"I hate finger foods."

Tsunade held up her hands in defeat. Spying a waiter carrying a champagne bottle and glasses, she lifted the entire thing off the platter. "Then it looks like it's time to get you drunk off your rocker." She said with a grin.

The building that they were situated in was built a long time ago in the outskirts of the Land of Rain. Due to its limited military strategic value, it was mostly kept away from in terms of fighting and destruction when it weathered both the second and third shinobi wars. The particular hall that the dance was taking place in had a large, vaulted ceiling held up by thick roman-style columns intermitted along the edges of the dance floor. There were a great deal of round tables made of pure white marble. The band that played on the edge of the floor had a variety of instruments and players for nearly any type of musical genre that the lords and ladies wanted to take part in. to emphasize the sense of decadence and splendor, the Water Daimyo even contracted a swathe of builders to put up an aquarium full of exotic fishes along the far side of the hall just days prior to the event.

Even if he wasn't usually impressed such shows of wealth and power, when he first arrived Naruto was struck by the sheer weight that the room imposed on him and all others that entered there.

Speaking of Naruto, he and Fu were currently dancing rather erratically all over the dance floor. Naruto was kicking rapidly all over the floor in a sequential rhythm to make the quintessential tapping sounds that Irish jigs were known for. Fu on the other hand, was taking graceful leaps through the air around Naruto and came on the floor hard to compliment his own tapping. The difference between the two styles of dance made the beginning very awkward, but as they progressed, they struck a very nice rhythm. It was a commanding sight to see them dance and fly through the air with grace.

Eventually the song began to go through the finishing stages. To make the dance come to an explosive finish, Fu took one last great leap through the air in the direction of Naruto, making sure that he saw her do so. With an almost practiced ease, he caught her just as the song hit the last note. It was almost as though they practiced the dance for months when in reality, they just had such similar ways of thinking that they came to the correct conclusions concurrently with each other.

Naruto and Fu huffed as they remained in that position, staring into each other's eyes as the sound of applause surrounded him. Naruto broke into a smile. "That was pretty fun."

Fu smiled back at him with closed eyes. "Yeah, it was."

Before any of the guests had any chance to comment, Fu grabbed a tight hold on Naruto, sprouted a pair of translucent red wings from her back, and took flight. The wings hummed lightly as she started to fly around with Naruto nearly screaming in fright. "F-F-Fu?" Naruto asked.

She adjusted her hold on him so that his back was pressed against her torso. "Didn't you say to have fun?" she giggled into his ear.

Naruto was afraid what would happen if he opened his mouth to speak once more.

"Don't worry about it and just have fun." The air began to woosh around Naruto as Fu sped up and started doing lazy circles around the ceiling of the hall. Most guests gazed up in wonder at the laughing Fu and her slightly freaked out husband.

Temari, who had just entered, looked at the sight above her with a little bit of amusement. Her party attire consisted of a tight lavender robe that opened up down the middle revealing a mesh undershirt. On her shoulders was a yellow cloak that complimented the rest of her dress. Looking around for anybody else that she knew, she spied a mop of black-pink hair talking to Yugito Nii.

"No way." She whispered to herself. Walking up to the speaking pair, she asked "Pinkutsuchi?"

Kurotsuchi turned around to face Temari and almost immediately regretted it.

Temari, who at the time was having a hard time keeping in her amusement, suddenly let the dam break and began guffawing in great huffs of air. Kurotsuchi's only option in that situation was to sit quietly and glower at the laughing wind user.

This laughing took a great deal longer than Kurotsuchi or even Yugito expected it to. "I can't- I can't- I can't believe that you dyed your hair pink." Temari finally managed to get out.

Blushing in indignation and embarrassment, Kurotsuchi replied. "Naruto did it. Not me."

"Naruto dyed your hair pink?" Yugito asked. When she mentioned the change of appearance to Kurotsuchi, she replied with clipped answers, denoting that she didn't really want to talk about it.

"Yup." She said with a tone of barely suppressed anger. "When I was asleep, he bleached and dyed my hair pink."

"How did he manage that?"

"I'm a heavy sleeper. But I got him good after that. Completely soaked him with paint." Her tone turning into one of amusement.

Temari sat down and took notice of the rest of the table for the first time. Next to Yugito there was a large amount of empty champagne glasses along with an empty champagne bottle lying on its side. The seat to her right was thrown back, meaning that someone had sat there until recently. She understood why almost immediately as she saw a very drunk Tsunade stumbling in the distance for a waiter to get her more booze.

"The champagne is a lot stronger than the hokage thought I guess." Yugito said, twirling a glass around in circles. "I'm immune to the intoxicating effects of alcohol, but I didn't tell her that." The Jinchuuriki said coyly.

Tsunade started harassing a poor, blond-haired waiter who had his hair slicked all the way back just like the rest of the waiters. She looked like she was about to come to blows to get the alcohol that the waiter was refusing, but even being a civilian, he could probably sidestep any swing that the Hokage sent his way just because of how drunk and disoriented she was.

Yugito huffed in amusement. "I've never seen someone get so shit-faced drunk so fast."

"How long did it take?" Temari asked.

"'Bout 10 minutes." Kurotsuchi replied.

Temari's eye brows rose in disbelief. "10 minutes?! I thought she was a heavy drinker."

The glass that Yugito was twirling around fell on its side, sending a soft clunking sound all around the table. There were many more similar glasses surrounding it. "She is a heavy drinker. She just drinks fast."

A soft tapping sound took their attention away from the glass and towards Mei, who was using a walking stick to help support her right side. "Hello everyone." She said cheerfully. She was wearing a traditional Kimono that had wave patterns transitioning from a deep blue to a soft green as it traveled upwards. The tapping sound came from her walking stick, which she leaned heavily against. The walking stick was long, allowing her to walk without hunching over.

"What happened to you?" Kurotsuchi asked.

Mei merely smiled and simply stated "A tree fell on me. Is everyone here?"

Yugito hummed a positive.

Mei looked around with a little bit of confusion. "Where's Naruto and that other girl?"

Temari pointed upwards to the flying Fu and Naruto, who, by the look of it, was really getting into the whole 'flying' thing. Mei looked at them with amazement apparent on her features. "She can fly?"

"Well, she is the Nanabi Jinchuuriki."

"She's a Jinchuuriki?"

Yugito nodded. "Yup, so am I. Why do you seem so surprised? You must have at least heard of this."

"I've been slightly preoccupied waging war against a totalitarian racist fear-monger." Mei said, taking a seat of her own and sighing audibly in relief. "What about you two?" she asked Kurotsuchi and Temari. "Are you Jinchuuriki as well?"

"Nope, but I do have the lava release kekai genkai."

"I'm just good with wind release."

Mei gave Kurotsuchi a knowing smile. "Really? I have the lava release kekai genkai too."

"You do?" The lava release kekai genkai is arguably the one kekai genkai that is most diffused across the elemental nations, even so, meeting a person who is born with the kekai genkai is very uncommon. Even more uncommon is becoming aware that you're a sister wife to one.

"Yes, I assume that you use quicklime or other such corrosives in your fighting style." Although any lava release user could feasibly use any sort of lava release jutsu, the villages usually specialize in a single aspect. Iwa generally focusses on corrosives and other chemically based jutsus, Kiri focuses on the actual molten rock form of lava, while Kumo focuses mostly on rubber forms of the lava release.

"Yeah, and you use the melted rock kind?"

"Mostly." Mei eyed the women around her with slightly more deference than before. "Well aren't we the motley crew?" she stated. This was the first time that she was meeting them in a social setting. Not having done her homework on the various females involved, she didn't know that they were actually accomplished shinobi that had extremely rare traits associated with them. Namely, being Jinchuuriki or another bloodline limit user like her.

Naruto and Fu alighted next to their table with a small humming sound. Naruto had a shit-eating grin on his face that didn't seem to be capable of going away, while Fu just seemed amused at his own state of affairs. His grin quickly vanished however, as Naruto soon realized who was sitting at the table they were situated at. "Mei?"

She gave him a reassuring closed-eye smile. "Hey hubby. Haven't seen you for a while."

"A-Are you okay to be here?" Naruto dumbly asked.

"It's fine. A little bit hard to walk, but that should go away in a week or so."

"I-I… I just…" Naruto seemed at a loss for words.

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry that I wasn't able to help you fight. It's my fault that you got hurt as bad as you did." Naruto said dismally, lowering his head to the point where she couldn't see his eyes through his hair.

Mei began to laugh long and harmoniously. She remained doing so until he grew the courage to lift his head up and see the reason for her doing so. "Come here." She ordered melancholically.

Naruto walked to her slowly until she was within grabbing range. Then, she took a hold of his arm and brought him over onto her lap for a comforting hug. "Don't be stupid. The only reason that I'm alive is because of you."

The rest of the table group looked at the scene with surprised eyes. "Am I missing something?" Kurotsuchi asked.

"Well." Mei started. "On the second day of our week together, there was a raid headed by the Mizukage. Naruto insisted that he help to take care of the grunts while I met and battled with the mizukage head on. At some time during my fight with him, he grew coral into my right thigh and knocked a tree down on me, crushing my ribcage." The eyes of the all of members of the table lighted up with concern. "Oh don't worry, I got scored a few hard hits too. Then once my corrosive steam vanished, Naruto pulled the log off of me, which saved my life."

"I should have done more." Naruto stated.

"You couldn't have." Mei said. "If you walked into the corrosive steam, you would have melted into a very sludgy liquid."

Naruto still looked distressed at the thought of his own supposed weakness, but let it slide for now, seeing as he didn't have anything to counter her argument. Fu took a seat at the table and after a final squeeze by Mei, Naruto took a seat by Kurotsuchi.

"You've gotten better at controlling Chomei's chakra Fu. You didn't even have to spawn a full cloak to use the wings." Yugito commented

Fu bashfully rubbed the back of her neck. "Thanks. I've been practicing a lot."

"What about you Naruto? How far have you gotten on controlling Kurama's chakra?" Yugito asked.

A grumbling sound resonated from the back of Naruto's head. Kyuubi still didn't like other people using its real name. "Not so good. I've been trying, but it's not getting any easier."

"It might still be a bit too early for you then."

"What? Why can Fu do it but not me?"

"Adolescent Jinchuuriki have a lot of trouble trying to control their bijuu's chakra. Fu's a year older than you right now, so it stands to reason that she'll be better suited to learning how to handle Chomei's chakra. She and Chomei also are on better terms than you and Kurama, which might have something to do with her progress."

"I'm sorry, but who're Chomei and Kurama?" Mei asked.

"Chomei is the Nanabi and Kurama is the Kyuubi."

"They have names?" Kurotsuchi asked.

"Well… yeah. Their people too, just really big and made out of chakra." Sometimes Yugito forgot that people didn't know that bijuu were sentient beings that were capable of rational, cognizant thought. She was just so used to Matatabi talking to her that it had stopped being abnormal to her long ago.

"What's your bijuu's name then?" Mei asked

00000000

As Naruto and his harem continued to talk, get to know each other better, and find out the inner complexities of being a Jinchuuriki, six people sat at a table together and didn't say anything.

It was the kind of 'not saying anything' that didn't denote a tense or dismal atmosphere, no this form of 'not saying anything' was purely awkward.

All the kage seemed to have the same idea of coming with their respective members of the treaty, and It also seemed that the five kage of the hidden villages (plus one Sannin) didn't have much to talk about. This wasn't helped by the fact that Tsunade was smashed beyond belief and barely conscious at the moment.

Ai looked across the table at the other kage. He was wearing a suit that was far too tight for his frame, it looked like if he made any sort movement or muscle flex, then he was going to tear directly through it. Onoki was looking dapper and dandy for an older gentlemen, wearing an old fashioned tuxedo that was suited for his size. Baki, the representative from Suna, was wearing the traditional formal clothes from Sand, which consisted of a long, beige robe. And Yagura was wearing a normal, sea green tuxedo.

"So how's the training camp going?" Ai asked as amicably as he could, trying to drum up conversation.

There was a chorus of 'good' all around the table, even by Tsunade, who was barely able to sit without falling over.

"Have there been any… new developments?" Onoki asked before taking a sip from his champagne.

All around the table, the various kage shook their heads, not even bothering to use their vocal chords.

"How is the… treaty going?" Jiraya asked.

The mention of this prompted all the kage to look over to Naruto's table, where there was laughter and general frivolities all around. One by one, they all looked away and went back to their own state of awkward interaction.

Baki snuck a look at the table where the Daimyo were. They weren't even making any attempts to enjoy the dance, instead preferring to play a game of blackjack.

"Okay, screw this." Onoki stated before taking a deck of cards out of his sleeve and begin dealing them out to the other kage. "The daimyo have the right idea. Texas hold 'em. No bets. Aces wild."

Again, without making any sounds of vocal recognition, they all took up the cards and began playing the game of cards.

00000000

"This isn't going to go according to plan, yeah." The blonde waiter said to the black haired waiter.

"Just do what we've planned so far. We'll have to make up the rest along the way." The black haired waiter said in return.

The blonde waiter had a large amount of black eye shadow going on and was wearing gloves to hide the mouths on his hands. The only defining characteristics of the black haired waiter were the eye troughs going vertical beside his nose.

These two were Deidara, the mad bomber; and Itachi, the clan killer. They, along with the rest of Akatsuki were tasked with obtaining the three-tailed Jinchuuriki, Yagura of the hidden mist.

Deidara looked dissatisfied with his temporary partner's answer. "Can you remind me why we're taking him and not the other three Jinchuuriki here?"

"Because one, we didn't know that they members of the treaty were going to be here, and two, getting rid of the doctorial Yagura has a lesser chance of making everyone combine their forces to kill us rather than getting rid of those three."

Deidara was still confused. "But why do we all need to be here? The only ones not here are leader-sama, and Konan."

"The substance that Sasori put in the champagne won't affect Jinchuuriki."

"But it'll affect the kage? Aren't kage immune to poison?"

"The substance that Sasori made isn't any sort of poison or sort of artificial drug."

"What is this substance anyway? When he tried to describe it too me, it didn't make any sense."

"It's practically just a venom along with an abrasive substance. The abrasive substance makes small cuts in the esophagus, while the venom enters the bloodstream. From my understanding, it was very difficult to synthesize into a tasteless substance, so most of the effectiveness that the venom normally would have is now gone."

"That makes a lot more sense. So are we going to slit the throats of the kage when they take their little nap?"

"We're mercenaries, not murderers. Killing off our client base isn't the most effective way to make money."

"Fair enough, yeah. When are we going to start?"

"When everyone that poses a threat to us are safely wracked with nervous system hemorrhaging."

"And the Jinchuuriki? And the under-aged?"

"We'll figure something out."

At the very back of the hall, a pair of yellow eyes peered through the recesses of a large aquarium. A man with silver hair that was currently not slicked back silently played a flute amongst the band members, his normal hairstyle prevented him from entering the ball as a waiter, who all had slicked back hair, out of fear that he might get recognized. A large fern almost quivered with excitement at the far ends of the hall. The eyes of a marble statue flicked momentarily to the left, then back to its original position. Another, rather well-built and tall waiter with tan skin served finger foods to a pair of giggling ladies.

For now, the members of the Akatsuki were biding time.

00000000

There was another round of laughter from Naruto's table.

"You mean- you mean to tell me. That you thought Naruto raped you?" Temari gasped out between bouts of laughter.

"It was a weird morning." Yugito said with hands raised in mock defense. Naruto nodded, agreeing with her sentiments.

They were currently regaling all their times with Naruto, as more often than not, something happened that was worth at least a good amount of laughter.

"Oh! Remember the Battle of Painted Rock?" Kurotsuchi asked Naruto. "I got you so fucking good with all those paint balloons."

"The only thing I remember about that day was how pissed you were at me for dyeing your hair pink." Naruto said.

Another round of laughter graced the table at the expense of Kurotsuchi. They were all getting along rather well. Even if they were brought into this situation hating and despising it, they all got to know one another and had become genuine friends. Even Mei, who had limited interaction with them up until then, felt like she was instantly a part of something that she had never experienced before.

Friendship was cool like that.

The band started playing a light, lyrical sounding music. It was the soundtrack most associated with the Waltz.

Without saying another word, Naruto got up from his chair and spawned 4 shadow clones. They circled the table and offered their hand to each of the five women. "Could I have this dance?" they all asked synchronously. "It's really easy." The Naruto's all assured them. "All you have to do is follow my footsteps."

Yugito grinned playfully and replied "I don't see why not." She then took his hand and followed him to the dance floor. Each of the other women in turn took his hand and let him lead them away to the floor.

The waltz is a rather simple dance style. It operates on a 3-step rotation which repeats itself rhythmically. As shinobi, learning different movements and adapting them to muscle memory quickly was part of their job description. Seeing as the dance is simple in nature, the five women soon had the moves committed to memory and were making graceful movements in turn with their personal Naruto.

Fu winced slightly as she accidentally stepped on Naruto's toes. She was having a harder time getting the movement in sync than the rest and the disappointment showed on her face.

Naruto almost had to laugh at the expression that she was showing. "Come on Fu, don't think about it so much. Just let it happen." She gave her first real friend a simple smile. A smile that showed her appreciation towards Naruto as he put up with her sometimes stepping on his toes and causing him discomfort.

Mei, without her cane to support her anymore, had to rest far more heavily on Naruto's left side as they circled around the dance floor. The only adverse effect left from her fight was a small amount nerve damage in her right leg, making it harder, although not impossible, to dance in tune with Naruto.

"I'm still sorry." Naruto stated.

Mei sighed with her trademarked smile on her face. "Naruto, trying to take on the responsibility of the world on your shoulders will only leave you crushed under its weight. It's my fault that I got injured in that fight. Now stop worrying so much and dance with me." She said softly.

Yugito smirked downwards at Naruto. "Have you grown? You're a bit taller than you were in Cloud."

"Am I?" Naruto asked with a surprised expression that soon turned into one of excitement "Awesome! I must be getting my growth spurt."

"But don't get too tall." Yugito warned. "I might just lose my hugging pillow if you get taller than me."

"I'm more than just a hugging pillow you know." Naruto said in deadpan.

"I know you are. But that's not going to stop me from treating you like one."

Temari gave Naruto a mischievous smile. "Aren't you the bold one? Asking all your wives to dance while in the presence of your girlfriend."

Naruto chuckled. "It's not like that. Dancing is fun."

"You say that, but I think that you really are a polygamist deep down in your psyche."

Naruto almost groaned. "You and your big words. Is polygamist even a real word?"

"Polygamy is the practice of taking multiple wives upon your own volition."

"Don't joke about that."

"I'm not. I'm just saying that married for life is a long time. Who knows? You might just get a little bit more than chummy with someone else." Temari said while looking at the dancing pair of Fu and her clone.

"Fu? We're friends."

Temari saw the look that Fu gave her clone. She had seen the way that Fu looked at other people before. Fu usually held a mask of meekness upon her face, but whenever she was in the presence of Naruto, she instantly removed it to show what she was really feeling.

"For now." Temari said almost knowingly.

Kurotsuchi and Naruto looked into each other's eyes as they danced, not talking much, just enjoying the other's presence.

"You still owe me for dyeing my hair pink." Kurotsuchi finally stated.

"I thought we were even."

"We'll never be even."

Naruto seemed to ponder that statement for a bit. "Okay, is there anything I could do to even the scales? Even just a little bit?"

Kurotsuchi pondered his question as well. "Hmmm… I can think of one thing." She said slyly.

As they twirled around each other and in sync with the other pairs, Kurotsuchi closed her eyes and leaned forward until she was kissing her boyfriend.

The remained like that for a while. Still managing to sidestep the other pairs as they stayed in the waltz position. Naruto cracked open his eye slightly to make sure he didn't collide into any furniture, or stray away from the floor. Out of the corner of his eye, Naruto saw that they table where all the kage were had a lot of completely smashed kage fallen down on its surface. Naruto didn't understand what it was about alcohol that attracted people to it, but decided not to dwell on it too much and just enjoy his time with Kurotsuchi.

He probably should have taken in his surrounding more effectively, because everything exploded around them not much later.

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