A/N: This chapter was written for the Sumigakure Halloween Event of 2016 prompt "Costume Contest."


"Hold still, Ino-chan." Sakura hissed at her once best friend, now girlfriend. "Sai, you need her to hold still, right?"

"That would be helpful, yes." Sai had a death grip on Ino's chin, which was doing plenty to help keep her as still as possible. "Do you want smudged scales?"

"No." Ino said through grit teeth, doing her level best to stay motionless. The kitchen chair she was perched on was pretty uncomfortable, though. Damn Sai for buying this set.

"You chose a seriously difficult costume, Ino." Sakura told her like she didn't already know. "You're lucky we have Sai on hand."

"I aim to please." Sai said, tracing out the edge of a blue-purple scale in gold glitter. "That is the phrase, yes?"

"Yeah, Sai, you got it right." Sakura straddled a chair and rested her chin on the back. "You're gonna look great, Ino-chan."

Ino would have pouted and insisted that she always looked great, thank you very much, but Sai was still painting on her face.

"I love these airbrush things, by the way." Sakura fiddled with one, careful not to actually activate it by accident. "Such a smooth color."

"Ino, you're twitching again." Sai pulled away for a moment and gestured for Ino to make all the faces she needed to in order to get rid of the itching sensation, even if she wasn't allowed to touch.

"Ugh, how many more layers after this? And how much longer?" Ino know that it took time and effort to look one's best, but Halloween costumes (and Sai's occasional requests to join him at cons in cosplay) stretched the limit of even her patience.

"Well, we've got the blue base and purple block shading down. Now I have to finish the gold edging on the scales and the detail shading and highlights." Sai moved back in to start painting again, and Ino resigned herself to being motionless once more. "Luckily for you, my plans only involve specific linework across your cheekbones and around the edges of your face and jaw. The rest has more room for error and can go faster as a result."

"Yaaaay." Ino hissed out through a clenched jaw. The pale blue had gone on most of her face, and the darker blues and purples had gone over exactly the areas Sai had described, so she already knew this, but it was nice to have reassurance.

Sakura laughed into the back of her hand. "C'mon, Ino-chan, I went through the same thing."

Ino made a disbelieving noise, and then froze again, completely silent, as Sai tutted at her.

Ino had watched Sakura's makeup process, and it had been much shorter and lighter than Ino's. Sakura had only dealt with some pale green airbrushing around the edges of her face and cheekbones, some gold glitter and dark green 'freckles,' and sparkly gold eyeliner used to draw vines all over her face, as well as just used as eyeliner. It sounded like a lot, but it had taken much less time than Ino's. Even Sakura's hair had taken less time, since it was already dyed a good color, and just needed to be fluffed out into an appropriately poofy shape. With her patchwork outfit and wooden jewelry, she already looked the part of Puck the forest fairy, plucked straight from Shakespeare's pages and modified to hell and back.

"You'll be a sea goddess yet." Sai assured Ino, and she closed her eyes and waited for the liquid cold of the makeup to end.

It did, eventually, with the glossy royal blue lipstick finishing the whole thing off. Ino kept her face as emotionless as possible to keep from potentially ruining the two-hour makeup job, and waited for Sai to finish up with her hair. It was less time-intensive, since it mostly just involved putting colored chalk on a few streaks and weaving some more parts, and pulling the whole thing into one of her usual tails, with a handful of seashells and coral here and there to give it.

Then she finally got to put on her actual outfit, which had so many layers and fiddly bits that she got giddy just looking at it. It wasn't quite as decent a cut as her parents would have approved of, but Ino was a grown woman living with two partners in a big city, and while she still listened to her parents, things like the decency of her sea goddess costume were a little less important. Besides, she'd seen kimono in way lower cuts than this, and all it really showed off was a hint of cleavage and her shoulders, while she still got furisode-style sleeves trailing down almost to the ground, with… well, it wasn't real embroidery, because that would have cost a fortune, but the variable-shade iron-on swirls (from silver to various shades of blue) made the piece absolutely gorgeous.

Okay, and the slit was pretty high. Whatever.

"You two wait here," Sai said just as he finished with the final ties in Ino's costume. "I'll be back in fifteen minutes."

He disappeared into his studio room, and Sakura and Ino glanced at each other. Sakura hopped up onto the counter, and Ino rolled her eyes. "How much do you want to bet that his make-up is going to be ten times more complicated than either of ours even though he's taking like a tenth of the prep time?"

"I'm not going to make sucker's bets like Tsunade, Ino-chan." Sakura wrinkled her nose in a way that was so cute that Ino kind of just wanted to make out with her then and there.

She refrained from doing so, because Sai would probably murder both of them if she ruined their make-up jobs just for some kisses at an inopportune moment. "So, what did he say he was doing?"

Sakura shrugged. "He's been keeping it a secret from me too, you know."

Ino snorted.

They waited the allotted time, chatting aimlessly about their expected competition at the contest, and Sai came out, right on time.

Ino blurted out the first thing to come to mind, which was a very rushed, "Why are we going to the contest when we could stay here and have kinky roleplay sex, again?"

"Because if Deidara and Sasori win again, I am going to set something on fire." Sai's answer was as cheerful as anything he ever said was, and Ino wasn't entirely sure he was joking. "Quite possibly, that something would be Deidara."

"Not like it would be anything new for him." Sakura quipped with a grin. "Ino's right, though. You look really good."

He did. He really did.

"How the hell did you get all that done in fifteen minutes?" Ino demanded, coming closer. "I mean, I was expecting some kind of ridiculous outfit since you've been working on that thing for weeks, but come on, how."

She gestured at his face.

"Very carefully." Sai answered with a smile. It made the tiny feathers marching back across his cheekbones shift, and Ino really had to marvel at how they looked embedded instead of just pasted on. Even his eyes were different, some kind of contact lens in place to make the inky pools cover the entirety of his visible eyes, sclera included.

"Reminds me of the bird form in Howl's Moving Castle," Sakura commented, swinging her legs back and forth. "At least on the head. That what you were aiming for?"

"Some kind of raven-inspired demon, essentially. A raven demon god, perhaps?" Sai turned on the spot, and Ino's eyes tracked over the black feathers sewn into every inch of the thin cloak. Well, of course it was thin; she could only imagine how much worse the weight of it would be if the cloak was thick under all those feathers. "You like it?"

"Said as much, yeah." Ino sucked in a breath. "I'm having a real hard time controlling myself seeing you in all that leather."

"Do not mess up all my hard work." Sai warned, but he lifted the cloak to show the black leather ensemble beneath. It wasn't leather in the sense of tight pants and vests, but in the sense that Sai looked like he was about to declare war on the underworld and win, and there was even a sword and a quiver of arrows and—

"Do you have a bow, then?" Ino asked.

Sai nodded. "I stored it with your fan."

"Temari's gonna have it out for you for stealing her schtick." Sakura teased, sticking her tongue out at Ino.

"Temari is not the only person allowed to have a fan as part of her costume." Ino sniffed. "Now come on, we're going to be late."

"Yes ma'am." Sakura giggled, giving Ino a jaunty salute and hopping down off the counter. "I'm going to have the two absolute hottest dates at the contest, no doubt."

"Thank you," Sai said, after a moment. "Also, Ino isn't allowed to drive."

"God no, I wasn't even going to suggest it." Ino shuddered. Driving opened up way too many avenues to ruining her hair.

"We are so going to win this thing." Sakura said with a feral grin, looping an arm around each of her dates'.

They did, in fact, win, to the displeasure of most of their rival teams. Kankuro and his siblings were better losers than Sasori and Deidara's team, at least, and the prize that Konan, the event coordinator, awarded at the end was definitely worth all the time and effort. And they got to be judges next year, too!

(Ino was of the opinion that the kinky roleplay sex she got with her boyfriend and girlfriend at the end of the day was the best prize, but that was just her.)