Thank God most of my reviewers are sensible, tolerant people, even the ones who usually only like one sub-pairing of the threesome.
I don't mind at all when you say "I prefer so and so together". You can tell me that, because it helps me understand where you're coming from and why you're responding to my fic in such or such 's a good thing to learn how you and your usual preferences react to my fic.
I'm usually more of a yaoi girl, but I don't want to shortchange the het lovers here; after all, Sakura is one part of that threesome and I really don't want to realize that I've put her aside by sheer habit and forgot her at some point. If I veer too much into yaoi (or too much into het) I want you to tell me. I want to keep things balanced.
In short: I only mind reviews where people try to force their opinions onto mine. Anything containing the words "Do this, write that, you have to" in a non-joking manner is more often than not instantly deleted from my inbox. Anything else - advice, opinion - you can tell me; if you're not outrageously arrogant about it, I WILL think about what you said, and I will be grateful for it.
After so much fuss, the end of the whole mess came in a rather anticlimactic way.
There was the wait, as the Council deliberated what should be done with them for the incident. Sasuke avoided total boredom for about an hour, when he managed to secure a pen and paper and write a few quick letters to various Council members, reminding them of favors owed to his clan. He did bother to try diplomacy, but in the end he was pretty sure the threats and demands were just as blatant as Naruto's attempts at subtlety. He was cranky enough from the pain and the exhaustion that the thought of those stuffy, haughty bastards reading them made him smirk.
That finished, he spent a little while staring at Kakashi-sensei until Kakashi stopped pretending not to get it and sent the letters off with a man he trusted. After that, Sasuke nursed his aching hand and tried to forget the effort every movement took out of him. He would never show it, but the chakra depletion, though only needing rest as a cure, was more severe than he'd led them all to believe.
He spent another hour listening to Sakura and Naruto arguing, somehow managing to fall asleep in the middle of all their yelling, only to awaken, alarmed, at the sudden silence a few minutes later when they finally noticed they were being too noisy and shushed each other.
Then they tried sending nurses in to check on him, but he wasn't in a mood to be poked and prodded and forgot to protest when Naruto scared them off. He'd been about to do the same thing.
That was the summary of his whole morning. And during that time spent doing nothing but watching his teammates pace and ramble in the room, the council was underway and they were discussing the future of his child -- well, maybe not his, but he was already feeling possessive. And he couldn't even practice jutsu or sharpen his kunai; the nurses had neglected to give his weapons back. He felt naked.
The afternoon went in much the same way; listen to Sakura and Naruto bicker, nap, secretly agree with Naruto that it sucked that Kakashi had to stay in because they just couldn't make out with him watching -- avenger or not, he was a teenage boy, after all; making out was never going to be better than training, but it sure beat doing nothing at all -- watch Sakura beat the crap out of Naruto for being a pervert, nap, chew unenthusiastically on hospital food, nap, worry self sick about the issue of the trial, force self to nap...
It was almost six PM when finally, finally someone knocked at their door. Sasuke struggled to sit up straighter, Naruto jumped on his feet, Sakura took a deep, steadying breath, and even Kakashi deigned to wake up.
It wasn't quite who Sasuke had been expecting at all -- he'd expected either an anonymous, uninterested messenger or a Council member accompanied by a few dozens of guards in case they tried to make a run for it.
Well, there was, indeed, a chuunin bearing a message, but standing behind him was Iruka-sensei, someone Sasuke had only seen from afar since he'd left the Academy; and while he seemed to be expecting Sasuke and Naruto, he blinked in puzzlement at Sakura and Kakashi.
The unknown chuunin took a discreet deep breath before marching in, and Sasuke watched him closely. The man was nervous, and kept not-looking at Naruto. Sasuke couldn't tell if that was a normal 'my god, Kyuubi's vessel' reaction, or bad, 'the shit is about to hit the fan' news.
Iruka stepped in after him, stepping on the side to free the way back to the door. Apparently he'd recognized that the messenger seemed nervous enough without blocking his way out. Not that any ninja worth the title wouldn't have noticed.
"Hello, everyone... I was searching for you, Naruto," the teacher said in greeting. Immediately, Naruto tackled him. Sasuke rolled his eyes -- stupid Naruto was behaving like a kid; he was seventeen, why couldn't he act more like it? -- and leaned back against the headboard. Umino-san wasn't coming to give them information, therefore, Sasuke did not care. Though -- wait a sec. How had he come in without a pass, if they were still under watch?
Kakashi had apparently noticed too, for even as he stretched lazily, Sasuke saw him watch the other man closely. Iruka was attempting to shake Naruto off, laughing softly and looking a bit embarrassed.
Sasuke watched the messenger instead. The man didn't wait, just quickly shoved his scroll at Kakashi, then hurried out. Sasuke waited, fists clenched under the sheets, but Kakashi didn't open it right away, instead watching Naruto and Iruka.
"What are you doing here?" he asked nonchalantly, interrupting them.
"Ah, Kakashi-sensei. I was searching for Naruto," the other teacher repeated. "I... heard that there was some trouble earlier today."
"You heard? I thought the information was restricted." Kakashi gave him a falsely bored look, that the teacher apparently didn't have problems deciphering. Sasuke filed the information away. He'd gathered that to avoid a panic, no 'mundane' inhabitant of Konoha had been told, but he hadn't known how far the info was restricted. So even most ninjas didn't know what exactly had happened today, eh? That was good. They didn't need more anti-Kyuubi hysteria.
Iruka frowned as he stepped closer to the bed. "I heard a few Jounin talking. I was worried."
Kakashi gave him another blank look. Sasuke translated the look as 'heads will roll for that breach of security'. Frankly, not that Umino Iruka was any sort of threat to Konoha -- it was just unthinkable that he would betray the village -- but being overheard by a mere school teacher who hadn't been on a real mission in years wasn't really something any Jounin could afford.
"Worried?" Kakashi asked again, as if he couldn't for the life of him remember what that word meant.
Iruka's famous temper, which Sasuke still remembered from school -- and was the one thing that made the usually dully nice man mildly interesting -- finally showed up. "We had to evacuate the classroom. No one would tell us anything. Then I hear Naruto's name -- and you want me not to be worried? You want me not to listen in?" He turned to Naruto then, ignoring Kakashi. "I'm sorry, I would have come sooner if I could, but the students..."
Naruto grinned at the teacher. He looked casual enough, but Sasuke knew him well enough to notice that the idiot really was touched.
"It's okay, I understand. But really, we did well enough on our own... I think. Er. Well, at least you won't sink with us..."
Sasuke rolled his eyes. Way to make sure the man didn't worry.
"Don't listen to him, Iruka-sensei," Sakura intervened. She sounded weary. It was probably all that time trying to keep the idiot in check. "We're fine. Well... we will be, when we know..."
"When you know...?" Iruka prompted her.
"No offense, Iruka-sensei, but you don't have the clearance," Kakashi intervened before Naruto could answer. "By the way... Guys - you can go home."
Kakashi was smiling under his mask, in his carefree way, and Sasuke had never wanted to strangle him more than right now, but then he'd also never felt such powerful relief, so he was going to be lenient and ignore his teacher's usual couldn't-care-less attitude.
"Huh? What do you mean, we can--"
Sakura squealed suddenly, then lifted her hands over her mouth, incredulous. Sasuke decided not to grump about that annoying high-pitched scream. She was... kind of pretty when her eyes shone like that. When she beamed.
Naruto still looked clueless, staring at Kakashi then at Sakura, then at him, in askance. "Eh? What do you mean, we can go home? I thought..."
Kakashi sighed, probably at Naruto's total lack of ability to read between the lines. "I mean, you can go home. Team Seven will meet in a week from now, at the usual place, hopefully with a new mission. In the meantime, do whatever you want. Dismissed." He disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving Naruto gaping, Sakura grinning, and Iruka bewildered.
"... I take it that was good news?"
Sasuke allowed himself a smirk. "Yes."
They were, after all, lowly genins, and he doubted they would ever be given official information about what exactly had happened during the Council meeting, but there were other ways to find out the details that could prove important later. The very fact that they'd been told to go on as usual showed that the Council had decided not to punish them. For now, that was enough.
They all stood by his bed, looking a little lost and not quite sure of what to do, and finally he rolled his eyes and glared at his teammates. "Go home, you idiots. It's late."
"We're not going to leave you here alone..."
He wasn't in a mood to argue about whether he was going to survive a night on his own against the hospital staff. "Sakura, your parents will worry."
She lifted a hand to her mouth. "Oh, crap. I wasn't even on a mission, they must be frantic..."
She looked at him, then at Naruto -- she seemed so unsure; he frowned. "What's the matter? Go home, Sakura."
"But -- I can't leave you two here, just like that -- and -- and... What do I tell them?"
Naruto seemed to be at a total loss. To be frank, Sasuke was, too. What did a nice, respectable, barely seventeen-year-old girl tell her parents when she decides to shack up with two guys, one of whom -- no clue which -- got her pregnant? He didn't have a clue. What did a nice, respectable, barely seventeen-year-old girl tell her parents when one of those guys was the Kyuubi no Youko's vessel, and the other a Bloodline heir who had betrayed Konoha in the past and seemed to attract psychopaths?
Naruto frowned. "Uh. Well, maybe... I mean -- maybe you shouldn't tell them right away. I mean... take it slow, y'know? Maybe -- tell Ino first. She'll know how to help. We... well. It's not as if we know how to deal with parents in the first place."
Sasuke nodded, trying not to seem too relieved. Foisting off the responsibility on Ino was a good idea. She already knew Sakura's parents, and Naruto was probably the only person in the world less qualified to counsel Sakura on the way to treat her own parents than Sasuke himself.
Iruka was still there -- Sasuke had more or less forgotten him, the man seemed made to be wallpaper - but he was politely standing a few feet away and trying not to look too curious. Sasuke didn't doubt that Naruto would spill the beans at some point, but he was too tired to deal with anyone's reaction right now. He did not care what their old teacher thought -- but Naruto did. And Sasuke doubted that he could be polite with anyone who would dare, not only to judge them, but simply to question them. It would be so much easier if everyone agreed that other people's sentimental and sexual life just weren't their business.
With a start, Sasuke pulled himself out of his musings. He wasn't sure if they'd kept on talking without him.
Sakura winced, and he frowned. Damn painkillers weren't working anymore, it made him sound even crankier. Why the hell was she so sensitive anyway?
"I'm ...going to go home now. I'll come back to see you tomorrow."
She hovered, unsure, and he frowned even more -- then Naruto grimaced at him and suddenly, he remembered. "... Come here," he asked as neutrally as possible. She stepped forward, almost warily, and he wondered where the fierce, no-nonsense mission-Sakura had disappeared.
It hurt like a goddamn son of a bitch to sit up, but he couldn't reach her lips so well otherwise, could he? Uncomfortably aware of Iruka's presence, he kept the kiss light, barely a brush of skin on skin, then sank back into his pillows. "... 'night, Sakura."
Girls were so weird. Naruto didn't need constant reassurances, did he? Though ... Okay, so maybe seeing her smile that blindingly compensated for the bother. A little.
Okay, so she was pretty ordinary most of the time, but kind of cute when she blushed. Okay, so maybe -- maybe it was kind of nice to know that he had the power to make someone that happy with such a simple gesture. But still, she better not expect him to be that affectionate all the time.
Maybe in private.
He was going to hang Naruto with his own entrails if the moron didn't stop making ridiculous 'aww, how cute' faces behind Sakura's back. Harrumphing in annoyance, he crossed his arms over his chest and glared away as Naruto hugged Sakura goodbye and walked her to the door.
Iruka hovered. "Do you want a glass of water, Sasuke-kun?" he asked politely. What he wanted to ask was all but polite, Sasuke could read it in the way he kept glancing at his face. He'd never pegged the teacher for a gossip, really -- though Naruto would probably reply that Iruka just wanted to know because he liked seeing his students happy or something. Whatever. Naruto could tell the man whatever he wanted, so long as Sasuke could pretend he hadn't.
Naruto came back, hands crossed behind his head. He seemed at a loss; it was visible even for him that Sasuke wasn't in a mood to chitchat. He'd been around people he'd been expected to be civil to for too long, and all the juggling with the changes in their relationship and the tiredness due to the injury made his temper even shorter.
"Go home, moron."
Naruto chuckled and scratched at his hair ruefully. "Ehh... You forgot about my landlord. I'm not even sure I still have an apartment."
Iruka frowned thoughtfully. "This has to do with the hole in the wall?"
"Well yeah. That and the ANBU. Landlord said he didn't want no problem from me; I think I about hit his limits and blasted past them."
"Maybe he hasn't made his decision yet," Iruka replied. "You should see him, attempt to straighten things out. Maybe if you promise to do the repairs yourself..."
Naruto didn't sound that convinced. "Yeah... I should at least try. If he's decided already, I just hope he's gonna wait before he throws my stuff out."
"Then hurry the hell up and go check, idiot," Sasuke muttered irritably.
"Ah -- I'll come with you," Iruka said, smiling with a touch of uneasiness. "If your landlord really threw you out..."
"You know where I live," Sasuke intervened before Iruka had the audacity to invite him over. "The key is under the third slab in the corridor. Don't trigger all my traps or I'll make you reset them."
"Heh. Of course I'm not going to trigger your traps, Sasuke," Naruto assured him, blue eyes shining with confidence. Sasuke resigned himself to buying paint to cover the burn marks on the walls.
"You better. Now go away, I want to sleep."
He closed his eyes, crossed his arms over his chest, deliberate, and pretended that his two guests didn't exist. He could feel Iruka's reprobation from here, but he wasn't the man's student any longer, and so he didn't care. Naruto chuckled.
"You're so prickly. A bit like a hedgehog."
"Shut up," he hissed, opening an eye to glare at him.
Naruto was waving a kunai under his nose. "Here's a quill, mister hedgehog. Try not to let the nurses see it."
Sasuke tried to keep hold of his irritation at the nickname, but... But. Naruto was giving him a bladed weapon.
"...Turn the key three times or you'll get showered in shuriken," he muttered as a token of his appreciation.
Still snickering, Naruto finally exited the room, dragging behind him an Iruka who was still trying to be polite. Then the door closed behind them and Sasuke was alone in his room. Finally, he could get some real rest.
Things would be hectic enough the second he left the hospital; he would have been perfectly content to warn no one about their changes in lifestyle, but Sakura needed to tell her parents and Ino, and Naruto probably wanted to tell all his friends. Sasuke predicted lots of questions and incomprehension, and lots of unease. Dealing with people -- when he was actively trying not to antagonize them -- was annoying and difficult and unnecessarily stressful, and he would almost have chosen running away, even at the cost of spending the rest of his life fighting off Hunter-nin. But his teammates wanted to stay, so that was it.
And then they would have to find a house for the three -- four -- of them. And actually earn enough money to pay for it.
Then he would have to pack his things - not a small feat, because while he didn't have so many knickknacks, by then Naruto would have been living with him for a little while and Sasuke had seen the other guy's apartment enough to know he was messy as hell.
And arrange the marriage - though he hoped Sakura would foist most of it off on her mother or on Ino or something; women were supposed to love planning weddings. Right? And if they weren't, Naruto better be.
Add, to that, forcing the Council to let them pass the Chuunin exam, and training enough to be able to go through it easily even with Sakura pregnant, and ...
Learning to live together. Not just during missions; but all the time. Permanently. Learning to tolerate people in his space. Teaching them to respect his space; learning to respect theirs, not too much, just enough. Learning how to be a husband, a father.
So many changes.
Just normal life. Life as usual. Life as adults.
In some ways, Sasuke had been an adult for a very long time, and yet he still felt very young faced with all these new responsibilities, all these obligations and ties. Were his shoulders wide enough to bear the burden alone? He didn't know. He didn't want to ever have to find out.
But together, it just might be okay. Because they were a team, the three of them, and they were unstoppable.
And now, onto the sequels. X3 ahhh, still so much stuff to talk about.