By Psychic King
I LIVE! Erm... There's really no excuse for taking so very long to update. I've been dealing with a lot of 'life issues' recently (hospital stays and long forms about "do not resuscitate orders" for very close loved ones), and haven't been feeling especially creative, but that's really not an excuse. It does amaze me that is STILL giving me problems (which I know other people are not experiencing), but at LAST I've been able to get on long enough to actually update. I hope... Anyway, although it is very delayed, please enjoy the chapter...
It was a hot day in Konoha, and excitement was in the air. The town was completely rebuilt and the long-delayed Chuunin exam was just around the corner. Iruka smiled as his adorable students chased each other around the grass, playing no game in specific, just happy to run. He grinned, thinking of what Naruto would have acted like on a day like this. He could almost see the blonde standing, hands on hips, loudly pronouncing that HE would win the next Chuunin exam. Try as Iruka might to explain that it wasn't something ONE person won, but rather an achievement for all who passed, and the towns that the passers came from as well, the blonde still insisted that he was best.
"Ara! Iruka-sensei!" Iruka turned as a feminine voice called to him, smiling as he saw Sakura approaching. Behind her walked Ino and Chouji. "I'm surprised to see you out right now…"
Iruka smiled, "It was such a nice day, and I thought we all could use some break time. They're so riled up from the upcoming exams." He noticed Sakura's smile widen as he spoke and he leaned towards his three ex-students. "How are your preparations going?"
Sakura crossed her arms, staring haughtily ahead. "Great. If only SOMEONE would get her pig-faced butt in gear."
"Humph. I'm just playing down my abilities so YOU can keep up." Ino replied, in an equally as haughty manner, flipping her hair as she did so.
"What was that, Ino-pig?" Sakura demanded, storming towards the other girl with fire in her eyes.
"You heard me-" Ino replied, moving closer to the other girl and growling.
"Now, now…" Asuna called, holding his hands out as he walked between them. The girls quieted, but continued to glare daggers at each other. Asuna sighed, leaning against the fence to the school yard, cigarette hanging limply from his mouth. "How did things turn out like this?"
Iruka smiled at him sympathetically. After Shikamaru and Sasuke had disappeared Sakura was filtered into Asuna's group. Well, it made sense, Kakashi couldn't do much with just Sakura and Asuna's group WAS missing a member with the disappearance of Shikamaru. "Who'd have thought that Shikamaru would do something as abnormal as chasing after Sasuke? I didn't even know they were close."
Chouji shook his head, stuffing a large handful of potato chips into his mouth. "They weren't." He said through his mouthful of food. He suffered most of all with the absence of the others. Although Sakura had lost both her team mates, she was now a member of a team that was MUCH closer to her own power, making her more important to the group. She would never admit it to Ino, but she was a little glad for the change. The pressure was off. However, poor Chouji was now stuck with two girls for teammates, neither of which were overly strong, and both spent ALL of their time arguing. To top it off he'd lost a best friend who hadn't said good bye, or at least, if he had, Chouji had not bothered to tell anyone. He didn't really complain but his food intake was growing.
"He'd been spending a lot of time with Naruto before he left; it probably has more to do with that." Sakura put in, taking a momentary break from glaring at Ino. Everyone fell silent for a moment, remembering how much time Shikamaru had been spending with Naruto's second oldest son in particular.
Ino spoke first, glaring at Sakura maliciously. "It's YOUR fault, you know. It wasn't enough to make SASUKE hate girls. NO, you had to go pester Shikamaru until he turned homo, too."
Sakura's eyes widened, instantaneous anger rushing through her body. There was complete silence for a long moment. Ino got herself battle ready, prepared for an onslaught from the pink haired girl, but to everyone's surprise, Sakura's shoulders slumped, her face lost all fight and she turned for the group, dashing away.
Iruka looked at Asuna in surprise. "THAT was unexpected."
Asuna nodded, "I'd better go talk to her…"
Thomas gazed at Tenmar as the man played quietly with Olivia. It was pure luck that he'd run into him that morning. He'd noticed Tenmar the night before, as they were pulling away from that God-forsaken continent that they were finally free from. At the time, he would have approached the young man, but that annoying sailor, Fetch, wouldn't stop pestering him. It was just his luck that the ever-fickle Olivia approached Tenmar this morning and he finally got a chance to talk to him.
He watched Tenmar smile as Olivia danced around his feet. They had finished eating breakfast only a short while ago and were now sitting in the mess hall, watching the girl dance cheerfully around both men as they talked. Occasionally Tenmar would glance up, eyes catching his own and the blonde would smile absently. The last time it happened Tenmar glanced around before suddenly jumping to his feet. "I-I should go. My fam-"
Thomas reached a hand out, grasping onto one of Tenmar's. "You're not leaving us so soon, are you?"
Tenmar's face flushed. "I… I mean, my family will be looking for me, so I should-"
"Family?" Thomas replied, frown crossing his face and distorting his handsome features. He'd remembered a few companions around Tenmar, now that the blonde mentioned it. Olivia stopped dancing, serious look crossing her face as Thomas's mood darkened.
For a moment Tenmar thought she looked almost scared, but the moment passed as she went and laid her head on her father's leg, looking up at him with concerned eyes. "Yeah, I'm traveling with my father and brothers." Tenmar let the words slip without thinking, and immediately regretted them. Naruto looked more like a brother than a father. If Thomas started pushing to meet his family, Tenmar would have to put some distance between the two of them and himself.
"Ah, well, it's best not to let them wait." Thomas stood as Tenmar began to turn. "I don't suppose…" Thomas trailed off, feeling slightly foolish for trying to detain Tenmar. The blonde man turned back towards him, slight smile playing on his lips, question in his eyes. Thomas felt his heart skip a beat. "I don't suppose we could meet again? Perhaps for din-"
"There you are, Princess. I've been looking for you all morning." Thomas narrowed his eyes as the annoying sailor wrapped his arm around a surprised Tenmar's waist. He noticed Tenmar stiffen, but the sailor kept firm grip on the blonde, half leading half dragging him above deck. Thomas could hear Fetch's voice carrying down to them, "Naruto's been worried as a mother hen when he noticed you were gone." Thomas held back his urge to follow them as he felt a small hand on his leg. He glanced around to notice it was only himself and the girl left in the mess hall, her eyes were suddenly serious.
"We should get ready. We don't have much time. Father." Thomas nodded, turning to glimpse Tenmar one last time before the blonde disappeared completely above deck. The little girl by his side smirked. "If you really like him that much, we can always grab him before-" Thomas watched as she made a slashing motion across her neck with her hand.
Thomas shook his head, then hoisted the girl into his arms, his nice-guy persona back in place. "You, my dear, have the face of an angel, but I fear your mind is far too corrupt." The small girl giggled as her father tossed her lightly in the air. "Come now, back to our cabin for a small rest. We have work to do before dinner."
Tenmar allowed Fetch to lead him above deck, his head still spinning with surprise. How had he gone from saying his goodbyes to Thomas to being pulled around by an ass like Fetch? And why wasn't he resisting? As the thought entered his mind, Tenmar had an instant urge to pull away from the man, but, no matter how hard his mind pushed, his body would not follow through.
"Oi! Fetch!" Tenmar's head swiveled as the man from yesterday called out angrily. "Get you're ass over here and help!"
"Later." Fetch snapped, gesturing to the man with his free hand and tightening his grip on Tenmar. He flung open the door that lead down to the cargo hold, as well as Tenmar and the others' sleeping quarters, not bothering to look back at the now even more annoyed man.
Once they were in the cargo hold, Tenmar attempted to pull away from the angry sailor, but Fetch would not let go. He pulled Tenmar down the hallway, away from the room his family was sleeping in, and yanked open a door. Inside were hundreds of boxes, some piled high as the ceiling, each one marked slightly different. "What's in here?" Tenmar asked, but Fetch was still in no mood to talk. Tenmar felt himself blushing as the strong scent of sweat and passion reached his nostrils.
"PEARSON!" Fetch bellowed, obviously catching the scent as well.
After a long moment a young head popped up over on of the shorter stacks of boxes. "Fetch- I mean, Sir! I didn't think - I mean I was just - I mean I…" The boy trailed off, his face a crimson red. "Can I help you, Sir?"
Fetch's eyes were narrowed, "Take your friend and get out."
The boy's eyes widened in noticeable fear, and Tenmar heard what sounded like a female voice gasping. "The Captain asked me to stand guard, Sir! I mean… Ahem, what friend would you be talking about?" As he spoke there were obvious sounds of two people dressing. He poked his head up once more, to stare strait into Fetch's angry glare. "Ah, right. Uh… You won't tell the captain about this, will you?"
"Get. Out." Fetch replied through clenched teeth.
Frightened, the boy dashed out from behind the boxes, only half-presentable. Behind him, clutching to his arm as if scared to death was a pretty-looking young woman, equally disheveled. Tenmar, feeling sorry for the two, shot the woman a sympathetic look as she dashed passed.
Fetch turned and watched the doorway, waiting until the sounds of the two were lost in the general sounds of the ship before turning to Tenmar. For a moment, Tenmar thought that Fetch was going to hit him and prepared himself for a fight. His defenses dropped when Fetch sagged against a row of boxes, finally releasing his iron grip. "Tenmar… Tenmar, Tenmar, Tenmar, Tenmar…" He murmured, looking down and shaking his head.
Tenmar stared at him. "What's WRONG with you?" He sighed, himself sagging against another row of crates. "What do you want?" He racked his hand through his hair in frustration.
"You…" Fetch replied softly. For a moment his eyes shone as he pushed himself off the crates and stepped towards Tenmar, hand outstretched. Tenmar jumped as Fetch's hand caressed his face gently, as his fingers slid through his unbound hair. "I wanted to cherish you, I wanted to take my time with you, I wanted to see you smile…" Fetch closed his eyes and withdrew his hand, clenching it. "But NOT at that man." Tenmar stepped towards the door as Fetch's face turned angry, but Fetch grabbed his arm, pulling him close again.
For the first time since they had met, Tenmar found himself really looking at Fetch. The man was tall, even taller than his father was, he was muscular and even had a handsome face (when he wasn't sneering) with his light brown hair falling every which way across it, but it was his eyes that Tenmar couldn't look away from. Even as Fetch stepped forward, anger melting away to something different, darker, Tenmar was unable to look away. Even as Fetch pulled him closer with one hand, cupping Tenmar's face with the other. Even as he leaned his own face in…
"I won't let you go to him, not without a fight." Fetch whispered.
Tenmar had enough time to dizzily wonder who Fetch was talking about before his lips were claimed. It wasn't the soft, loving kiss he'd imagined giving to Iruka, or the clumsy, awkward kiss he'd seen a young Naruto share with Sasuke. This kiss was all passion and need as Fetch pulled him closer, somehow making the large Tenmar feel small and powerless as he did all he could think to do, which was to hold on and return the kiss as best he could.
"I hope Tenmar picked us up something to eat…" Uzu complained noisily as he flopped down on a pile of cloth. "When I went to get food a few minutes ago, they said..." Uzu sniffed, as if about to confide something truly unjust to his captive audience, which consisted of Ganten, Rin and Moab for the moment. "They said… We'd slept through breakfast!"
Ganten rolled his eyes, unimpressed by his brother's dramatics. "Where's Father?"
Uzu looked down, disappointed that his brother was unwilling to share in his pain. His eyes caught on Moab, who somehow had crawled into his lap and sat patting his leg in a sympathetic manner. The baby was almost too old looking to still be considered a baby. Uzu wondered briefly if all babies grew this fast. "He's looking for Tenmar. Fetch came down a while back, while YOU two were still sleeping," he shot Ganten and Rin a disapproving glance, which would have been taken more seriously if Uzu were not the family champion of sleeping through all hours of the day. "Fetch said he'd seen Tenmar go off with some shady guy and was all worried. Daddy said Tenmar could take care of himself, but I guess after a while he started to worry, too. Gaara went with him."
Ganten glanced at Rin, feeling slightly guilty for what he was about to ask. "I don't suppose you could find out if he's… OK?"
Rin shrugged, he was feeling much better now that they were away from Port Town. Apparently a while back, while he was still sleeping, they'd reached something called the Point, and now they were in the open sea. The only minds he could reach were the minds on the boat at this point, and there were far less minds here than most places he'd lived, as the only animal minds were buffered by the water. Human minds were more complex to pick through, but… "It's worth a try."
Rin had barely settled into his ritual of meditation to clear his mind, crossing his legs, evening his breathing and clearing his mind, when he jumped upright, face flushing. His eyes were wide as saucers. "I think… Tenmar's fine."
Ganten glanced at Rin's red face. "What? What's wrong?"
"I think I just disturbed something... private." Rin replied looking down as his face grew hotter.
Uzu leaned forward, eyes eager. "What, you mean you caught him jerking off?" His voice held a certain tone of malicious humor to it as he waited for Rin's response.
The brown haired boy shook his head, "No. He definitely wasn't alone..."
Uzu's eyes widened, as the news he heard was even juicier than he'd thought. "Who was he with?"
Rin shook his head, a look of amazement crossing his face. "I didn't stay in long enough to find out! That would be a betrayal of Tenmar's privacy!"
Ganten gave Uzu a dirty look as he stepped between his brother and his friend. "That's enough, Uzu."
Throwing himself back on the cloth, upset, Uzu sighed. "God! Finally some dirt on Tenmar and I don't even know the whole story! This is gonna drive me crazy!" He idly tossed Moab in the air as he thought of a way he could pry the rest of the story out of Tenmar. The near-toddler shrieked in delight as his favorite person absent mindedly played with him.
Rin sighed in relief as Uzu's thoughts trailed away from making him find out more to the story. His eyes fell on Ganten. He didn't have to be a mind reader to know that the thought of his eldest brother with a man (or woman, even) deeply disturbed the white haired boy. For once Rin was ridiculously glad he'd lied to the others and hadn't mentioned who Tenmar was with. Or the fact that they were only a few rooms away.
Rin was getting better at giving people privacy. It wasn't so much that he had actually pulled out of Tenmar's mind, or that he hadn't been reading it all morning, as he was reading the minds of everyone on this boat at all waking hours. What he recently had become good at, however, was pushing most minds to the background, like other people did with sound. It was not that Rin wasn't aware that somewhere on the ship a woman was baking bread, that a rich older man was getting ready to grab some poor girl's ass, that someone had smuggled their pet puppy on the ship, that someone was looking for their absentee companion… But none of it stood out any more to him than if someone were walking through a busy market place and catching snippets of information as they passed.
The only person whose mind Rin couldn't seem to push to the background was sitting right next to him. Rin found himself glancing at Ganten again. He was trying to avoid thinking about Tenmar and, as a result, was making lists of things they would need to purchase once they got off the ship. At the same time he was calculating how much longer they were likely to be on the ship, taking into account wind resistance and the like. Rin felt his blush, which had almost disappeared, return as he watched Ganten stand and begin to pace. He wasn't sure what he found so enrapturing about the white haired boy, but he couldn't tear his eyes, or his mind, away.
Pausing his pacing, Ganten leaned down over the flustered Rin, placing his hand on the boy's forehead. "Are you feeling alright? Your face is still so red."
Naruto sighed as he paced across the deck of the ship again. So far he'd had no luck in locating his wayward eldest son. What he had constantly found himself catching wind of was a scent very similar to Sasuke's. The thought was driving him crazy as his attention was divided between locating Tenmar and locating the source of that scent, and if necessary, forcing the owner of it over the edge of the ship. He couldn't abide by other people having the same scent as someone so precious. Anyway, as it was, for the rest of the trip the blonde was certain he'd drive himself crazy looking for a Sasuke that simply couldn't be on the ship.
Finally, by use of sheer willpower, Naruto managed to focus on Tenmar's scent long enough to lead him to a young man, holding a small girl by the railing. The two were silently watching the sea roll by. As Naruto moved closer, he gritted his teeth. Also clinging to the man faintly was the Sasuke-scent. Almost immediately, Naruto found himself disliking the man.
"Hey, you." Naruto approached the man, about to grab his arm, but the man turned to face him before Naruto reached him. There was a dark, almost insanely unpleasant look on the man's face for an instant, but then, as if it had never been there, the man smiled in an almost innocent manner.
"Can I help you?" Thomas asked, eying the man before him. He'd not been in the mood to be interrupted. But then he'd recognized this man as someone who had been around Tenmar the night before and his mood cleared slightly.
"I'm looking for a boy, around 20 years old? Looks a lot like me." Naruto replied without even the slightest hint of his normal jocular self. Behind him he could feel Gaara also scowling at the man. Although Gaara still scowled at most people, Naruto took the boy's displeasure as a sign that Gaara also sensed something amiss about the man. He'd been afraid that he'd been biased against him from his conversation with Fetch the night before - Naruto had no doubt that this was the man Fetch was talking about, the one that wasn't quite right.
"You must be… one of Tenmar's brothers?" Thomas asked, acting as if he hadn't noticed that both men were glaring at him. "I'd recognize that height and stunning blonde hair anywhere." He glanced around Naruto to Gaara, unable to pick out even the slightest hit of Tenmar in the un-charming boy. He shrugged, holding out his hand. "My name is Thomas, and this little one is my daughter, Olivia." The small girl he indicated squirmed uncomfortably in the face of two such aggressive stares.
For a moment Naruto considered grabbing the man's hand and tossing both he and his daughter over the edge of the ship, but the insane moment passed. Holding out his own hand, he grudgingly accepted the handshake. "Naruto. Can you tell me where Tenmar went?"
Thomas nodded, eyes widening in surprise. "A sailor came by and grabbed him only a short while ago. He indicated that he'd be taking Tenmar to your cabin. Where is your cabin, by the way? I'd love to stop by and see Tenmar, perhaps greet his - er, your father…" Thomas trailed off as Naruto, having gotten the information he needed, turned away from him. The angry redhead followed suit. Thomas watched for a moment as the two headed towards the stairs to the cargo hold of the ship. "Interesting."
Olivia stared after them, frightened mannerisms suddenly dropped. "What an unpleasant man."
"No," Thomas replied, shaking his head. "No. He's usually a very happy man. Didn't you notice the laughter lines around his face? He just doesn't like us."
Olivia looked down at her cute dress and pouted. "Who couldn't wike me?" She asked innocently.
Thomas glanced skeptically at the girl in his arms, "Do you really want me to answer that?"
Before she could reply, another unwelcome interruption appeared before them. Sasuke walked up to him, crossing his arms and leaning against the rail. "You shouldn't go off on your own all morning, you'll blow our cover." He said in a low voice, so no one else could hear him.
"Now that we're past the Point, we don't really need to worry about it as much…" Thomas replied, hoping that he wouldn't be forced to fight the young ninja for his privacy.
Sasuke shrugged, not really caring. His real reason for approaching the man was something very different. "Who were you just talking to?"
Thomas stared at him blankly for a moment, wondering if he'd heard any of his conversation with Olivia. His reason for bringing the boys on the ship was so they could pay his way. He was hoping they wouldn't make him regret the decision.
"I thought I caught a glimpse of a tall, blonde man." Sasuke replied to Thomas's confused stare. His eyes held an intensity that told Thomas this was not just an idle question.
"It was no one." Thomas lied, turning back to the ocean. "Just a sailor." It wouldn't do to have Sasuke and Shikamaru interrupting Tenmar and his family during their last hours together.
Tenmar finally yanked himself out of Fetch's heady embrace as the man began to grow a little too passionate for the inexperienced blonde. He realized dizzily that he'd just received his first, second and third kiss, all in one moment, without any thought on his side as to whether he wanted it. Glancing up, Tenmar's eyes caught on Fetch's own dark brown eyes, filled with desire and passion. Before he could get pulled in again, Tenmar yanked his eyes away, forcing them to stare at the ground. He fought desperately to clear his head, to calm his pounding heart, to slow his rapid breathing.
Fetch was determined not to be so easily set aside. Putting all his emotions into one word, he stepped closer to the blonde, "Tenmar…" But Tenmar persistently refused to look at him, turning his head away. Undaunted, Fetch closed the distance between them, laying gentle kisses on Tenmar's cheek, his ear, his neck, his collarbone.
Mustering more strength, Tenmar once again pushed Fetch away. Steeling his resolve, he glared at Fetch. "No."
Surprised by both the shove and the glare, Fetch fell to the ground, bumping the back of his head on a crate. "Ow." He rubbed his head, standing. The bump was also clearing his mind, and he remembered, he hadn't intended on any of this. He had simply intended on telling Tenmar to stay away from Thomas. The kiss had been… Well, the kiss had been amazing, but Fetch really hadn't meant to do it. He glanced at Tenmar, sheepishly, praying the blonde hadn't already began to hate him. "Look, I didn't mean…" He trailed off, not liking the way his words were about to sound. "I only wanted…"
"I'm sorry." Tenmar broke in quietly, walking behind Fetch and examining his bump with shaking hands. "I didn't mean to push you so hard." The bump was already swelling, Fetch's head may very well look deformed for a couple of weeks, until he started to heal.
"No. It's my fault." Fetch replied, turning around suddenly, as Tenmar continued to gently prod at the growing lump. Realizing how close he was now standing to the blonde, Fetch took a step back. "I shouldn't have jumped you like that. I just - Controlling myself has never been a strong point of mine." He looked down, aware that Tenmar was expecting him to continue with his apology. "It's just, when I saw you talking to that man… Tenmar, stay away from him. It's not just that I'm jealous," Fetch added, slightly uncomfortable at having to admit his feelings like this, "but there's something not right about him."
Fetch watched as Tenmar's face went from confused to a look of shocked remembrance. With a sad snort, Fetch leaned gingerly against a crate, taking special care not to lean his head against anything, "Now, unless you wanna continue where we left off," he offered without much hope, "you'd better get back to your friends. I'll be here finishing out Pearson's shift for the next few hours, if you need me."
Tenmar, finally remembering that he was annoyed at Fetch, and, in fact, hadn't liked the man very much until just a few moments ago, shot Fetch an angry look. "Me? Need you? I don't think so."
"That's what they all say, Princess." Fetch replied, slipping back into his annoying sailor persona. "But it's always them that come looking for me, come nightfall."
For a moment Tenmar wondered how true Fetch's words were. The man obviously had some skill, if his kiss was any indication. That meant lots of practice, didn't it/How many girls have there been?/ Tenmar wondered, but his reply was simply, "Don't flatter yourself." And with that he walked out of the storage room, slamming the door behind him.
End Chapter 11
Well, as you might have noticed, there was still no connection between Naruto and Sasuke... Also, there wasn't much screen time for Naruto or Sasuke... This is a problem, and I know it. BUT, rest assured, next chapter will have very little awake Tenmar time. hint, hint Please, mail comments and criticism about the chapter to me (psychicking at gmail dot com)! I need to know if anyone still cares... (As I wallow in my own, undeserved self-pity).