Author's Note: I love Naruto. I want more of it. This is actually part of a larger story arc that is only in my head and will never get written down, but the bar scene was just. . . yeah. I have never written Naruto before, and for other reasons feel I may have screwed this up, but this was a blast to write. Bother me enough and I might write more.

Naruto would have liked to pretend that he didn't know how he and Kisame ended up at a bar, but that would have been a lie, and though he couldn't care less about what he said to most other people, he had never made a practice of lying to himself.

They had succeeded in their mission, but that was a given. The day the four of them failed at something was the day Naruto went back to Konoha. . . and that was the problem. Less than two days after Gaara had smothered that fat, corrupt-beyond-belief representative from the Cloud Country, and something less than an hour after they had gotten back to headquarters, the Council had summoned them, and informed the exhausted (fine, only Naruto and Kisame were tired in the least, but hell, it was his inner monologue) assassins that they would be leaving the next day. On another mission. To Konoha. To have a conference with the local shinobi and their Hokage, all of whom thought he was dead. He really didn't want to explain why he wasn't.

-You aren't near drunk enough. Pound back another one. I want to be absolutely plastered by the time we stagger out of here.-

((You're the fox.)) He normally wasn't in the habit of listening to Kyuubi, but hey, when a guy's right, he's right. He reached for the sake bottle. A hand gripping his wrist stopped him.

"Brat, I'm pretty sure three's your limit. You're on seven. I'm cutting you off."

" 'm fine." A sudden array of stars crossed Naruto's vision as he crashed to the floor. The bar's denizens glanced at the source of the sound, but the sight of a kid drunk off his ass was nothing new. They went back to their drinks.

"If you were fine, you could have dodged that in your sleep. Go back to your partner. We leave tomorrow, and you really don't want the hangover." Naruto hauled himself to his feet. He was tired, angry, and nervous as hell, but right now angry was all he could deal with.

"I'm not a kid, you're not my father, and I can get as drunk as I want!"

Why had he invited the fucking shark along, anyway? Just because he was the only other of the four who would even consider drinking before a mission didn't mean he had to ask him. He could have asked. . . come alone, hell, drinking wasn't a team sport, for fuck's sake.

Just because Itachi and Kisame were the most celebrated partnership in the Akatsuki, just 'cause he and Gaara were demons-in-human-form (that's what a lot of people called them, Naruto didn't buy it, demons didn't give a shit about what former friends thought, they didn't even have former friends to worry about), they got all the kamikaze missions, or at least all the stupidly painful ones. Whose bright idea was it to have missing-nins of Konoha (and their partners) go to Konoha to hammer out a truce? It was a terrible idea. Offhand, he couldn't think of anyone on the Council who was brain damaged, but obviously they were all equally demented and Naruto just hadn't noticed. ((That's what I get for sleeping through the briefings.))

Itachi hadn't been happy. Neither had anyone else, but Itachi was the most pissed about it (besides Naruto, but Naruto was more depressed angry than homicidally inclined, and Itachi's anger was far more impressive). Not that anyone outside the four could tell, it took years of experience to know the difference between the 'you are idiots' eye flash and the 'get out of the blast radius, you fools!' eye flash. It had definitely been the latter, and Naruto had wished desperately to be nearer to the door. Things had almost gone downhill from there, but Kisame had mentioned dinner, and Itachi recognized the distraction for what it was, accepted it, and left, presumably to brood, which he did much better than Sasuke. Of course, Itachi did everything better than Sasuke, except for the spoiled-child act, but that wasn't a particularly worthy achievement. It was probably that exact act that Itachi wanted to avoid by staying away from the land of his origin. His little brother was even more annoying than other people's little brothers. You'd think after eight years a guy would get over the murder of his family already.

Gaara disappeared about five minutes later, to find a place to meditate, most likely, which left only Naruto and Kisame, and Kisame was already walking off. Naruto hadn't wanted to be alone just then, so he tagged along.

It had probably been pity on Kisame's part that they ended up at a ramen shop and not one of the sushi places that the former mist shinobi favored. They ate in silence, and the owner knew better than to bother two ninja in bad moods, despite one of them being his best customer. When Naruto reached for his money pouch and realized he had left it back at his apartment, it was a toss up between pity and the desire to avoid property damage (Naruto was prone to this when frustrated) that Kisame paid for his dinner as well his own.

Standing in the doorway of the apartment he shared with his partner, and seeing a distinct lack of Gaara, Naruto made a split second decision, snatched his yen off the dresser and ran over to where Kisame was entering his own place (this was across the hall from Naruto's location of residence, so took less than a few seconds) and suggested they hit the Sloshed Stoat before turning in. Kisame, apparently, had used up his well of charity for the week, and only agreed after Naruto said he was paying. Kisame also took the time to mention that Naruto was going to have a pretty hard time getting a drink seeing as they usually didn't let children into bars. Naruto glared up at the taller shinobi. Sometimes there were disadvantages to knowing someone so well they knew all your weak spots. A combination of youthful features and a less than impressive stature made Naruto seem younger than he really was, and getting carded every time they went anywhere was starting to become a sore point with him. Even though the less than subtle insult made him bristle, Naruto kept himself from saying the first cutting thing that came to mind, as he wasn't really in the mood for a full-out shouting match. Seven drinks later, a fight was sounding much more appealing.

And that, Naruto concluded glumly while he pulled himself out of the wall Kisame had thrown him through, was exactly how he and Kisame had ended up at a bar.


Well, not exactly. It perhaps would be more interesting to find out how he and Kisame had gotten to a point in their relationship (thankfully platonic, as Naruto couldn't have dealt with another person hitting on him; he didn't know how Itachi got through each day without killing someone (this deserves another brackets, as in fact Itachi rarely went through a day without ripping someone's throat out, but Naruto had a minor concussion and couldn't be bothered with the details)) where Naruto could invite him out for sake drinking in a seedy bar on the bad side of town, considering four years ago Naruto was ready to tear the shark man's head off at the slightest opportunity. Not that an opportunity ever came. Binding seals were such a bitch.

However, Naruto was less worried about the past and in a complete panic about the future, and gave himself a mental stomp after his short bout of reminiscing. It wasn't really worth getting hit by Kisame again for one more drink, and Naruto stumbled towards the door before his partner in bar hopping reminded him he was paying. He really would have hit him if the bastard would stand still for two seconds. . . huh. Guess he was drunker than he originally thought. Life sucked that way. Now, onto the real dilemma: how was he going to break it to Hinata that his reason for standing her up wasn't, well, death? She actually believed all that 'nothing can tear you away from me' true love bullshit. Hm. He'd have to ponder that one for a while, or he'd probably screw it up in some unfathomable way. Girls were complicated about that sort of thing.