A/N: It has been a really, really long time since I worked on this story. Hopefully, y'all enjoy it just as much.
In the land of Fairy Tales
Once upon a time, in a land far, far, far away from reality, Naruto and Sasuke were in love and all was happy. In that far, far, far away land, Sasuke hadn't teamed up with his lover's eternal rival, Sakura, to ambush him. And, in that perfect reality, Naruto wasn't tied to a tree and starving because his teammates wanted to know what was wrong with him.
So far, Naruto decided, lunchtime was going horribly wrong. The problem with acting out of character, Naruto was realizing, was that people noticed. It wasn't that he was opposed to it, but it really, really didn't work too well when they started asking questions, which was dumb in Naruto's opinion because if someone was behaving differently, then they weren't going to tell you just because someone else asked that the someone, and said someone probably had tons and tons of good reasons anyways, so it didn't even matter in the end.
His day, which had started out as merely traumatizing and terrifyingly awful had soon degenerated into worse. Kakashi, the sick, sadistic bastard, had divided them up into teams. Naruto naturally was not happy with the arrangements. "I don't see why we need to divide up into pairs to pick gum from surfaces," he had objected loudly and at length.
Kakashi had remained implacable as always and merely smirked in that way of his (where his one visible eye twinkled of all things and the mask pulled weirdly over his mouth and made Naruto think bad, bad things about silk gags and ribbons). Naruto, after mentally going through all the odd facts he now knew about Kakashi (thanks to his stint hiding out behind the laundry machine), merely said (demanded), "Why do always pair me with Sasuke? If you want team cohesiveness," (yeah, those haiku books really came in handy sometimes), "then you should pair me with Sakura." Naturally, his logic worked on the wrong person.
"Actually, I think that would be good idea," Sakura chimed in brightly. Naruto took one look at her (hands held together, earnestness vibes—fake ones at that—pouring off of her in large quantities) and was immediately swamped by images of a gleeful Sakura tying him up to a park bench through lunch break—lying about him having gone home because he'd forgotten something—then coming back at the end of practice to interrogate him on what was happening and why he was using big words like "cohesiveness" and thinking even bigger words like "earnestness." This thought was of course followed by visions of a bloodbath, where Sasuke's fan club would stone him to near-death and poison the medication in the hospital so that he turned ugly and blue and foamed at the mouth (this would also prevent him from making a death bed confession to Sasuke) and then they would stage a riot on the day of his funeral so that he would be buried alone and have no flowers on his grave.
His was mentally chanting no, no, please, no and was about to say something to that effect when Sasuke snapped at him to "Shut up, we get the idea." Of course, this led Naruto to question exactly how much of his mental thought processes had not been contained to his own mind. Deciding that this was a futile train of thought because nobody would ever, ever tell him, Naruto settled for bribing his teacher.
"I promise not to bleach all of your clothes next Tuesday if you make this a not-team oriented activity," he offered. "Or at the very least not pair me with Sasuke." There was a pregnant silence as everyone considered this. Kakashi stared at the sky and Naruto considered whether or not he should promise to watch over the laundry as well so that the other residents didn't steal it.
"Alright," Kakashi said. "You two will cover the South and West and Sakura will cover what's left." Naruto nodded vigorously, because hey, a deal was a deal and really, he hadn't said that he would never bleach Kakashi's clothes, just next Tuesday and the park was huge and he could hide; he was good at hiding.
Unfortunately, hiding was only an option until lunch time when he had to go join the others because he was a growing boy who had to feed a demon in addition to sustaining his physical body and he wasn't masochistic enough to deny himself the simple pleasure of food. But, of course, the Gods hated him. Sakura, it seemed, had no such qualms about growing bodies and had simply tied him up to a tree after knocking him unconsciousness.
Naruto stared mournfully at the ground and wandered if his teacher would come save him and what kind of payment the bastard would extract out of him. "You could just tell us what's wrong with you," Sasuke pointed out. Naruto tried to look anguished, which wasn't all that hard anyways given his current predicament. Sasuke looked disappointed and went back to eating his food. Naruto's stomach growled.
Sakura twitched and muttered to herself, then cheeks reddening, she finally blurted out, "Are you lusting after Kakashi-sensei? Is that why you're stalking him?"
A series of terrifying images involving Kakashi and himself tumbled through Naruto's mind, leading to its unfortunate breakdown and inability to communicate to his tormentors the true despair he felt at such an idea. Unfortunately, the silence had lasted long enough by this point that Sakura had started to look at him with something close enough to disbelief and horror that Naruto's mind revolted even more.
"Gnargh," he offered, but this only confounded the problem because now Sasuke was looking at him in interest.
"Well," Sakura temporized, "he isn't that bad, and I mean he's certainly not the worst person to fall in love enough." Naruto's mind offered up even more mind-meltingly horrendous images.
"Um," he said. "Look. It's not like that," he tried again, which only prompted both Sasuke and Sakura to regard him their patented you-are-a-moron-beyond-telling-we-can't-believe-you-became-a-ninja-what-was-iruka-thinking expression. "You could just tell us," Sasuke pointed out again in his watch-me-be-reasonable tone, but this was all a filthy vicious lie because Sasuke had let Sakura tie up his one and true love, i.e. Naruto. (Naruto was working on the assumption that Sasuke would accept that they—Sasuke and Naruto—were meant for each other and was only waiting for someone (aka Naruto) to clue him into their eternal love for each other. He refused to contemplate the idea that Sasuke might reject him).
His stomach growled again. He opened his mouth to say something, but Sasuke chose that exact minute to show compassion and stuck some food in his mouth. In his defense, Naruto had tried to speak. He really, really, really had, but Sasuke had thwarted him probably to give Sakura to plot her next move. He decided he was going to be the better person here and clear up this confusion before it got even worse. "He's like my father," Naruto blurted out, rice particles spraying out in front of him.
Sakura's eyes widened and her blush, which had died down some point during Naruto's attempt to better the situation, was back in full force again. "Naruto," she began, and this was when Naruto realized the true extent to which he had just screwed himself over with his ill-thought out statement.
Sasuke made a hand-gesture that must have meant 'shut-up, let us go discuss this in private' because Sakura cut off her speech and they both wandered off into the distance, leaving Naruto tied to a tree and contemplating ritual suicide. After a brief struggle with his bonds, Naruto (wisely) utilized this brief interlude to list the pros and cons of Sakura and Sasuke thinking that he was in love with Kakashi. The cons obviously were that Sasuke now believed that Naruto was in l*** with Kakashi (his mind refused to even contemplate that word in conjunction with Kakashi anymore), and this would eventually hurt Naruto's attempts to confess to Sasuke in the future. On the other hand, it might get Sakura to leave him alone, which would be for the best all things considered. Before he really got around to deciding whether the con out-weighed the pro, Sakura and Sasuke returned.
"Sometimes these things happen," Sasuke said in a tone resembling comfort. Naruto's mind boggled at this. "We just want to help," Sakura added. "We're your teammates…and friends," she stated in her supportive voice. Lies, Naruto thought. Vicious, filthy lies being told by a vicious filthy lie-teller who could fake earnestness at the drop of a hat.
Someone sighed in the background. "Liar, Naruto. And, no, we're not lying. We really do want to help," Sakura soothed. "Look, we're going to come up with a plan of action."
"I don't want help, you. You. You home-wrecker. I just want to be left alone." Sakura looked shocked at that, which was bizarre because he had certainly called her worse, but clearly it was already too late. "Just accept our help, and we'll forget that what you just called me," she told him while untying his bonds. Sasuke nodded in agreement and finally, finally offered Naruto a lunch box.
Four hours later, the park was clean, and Naruto had sunk into a pit of total and utter despair from which there was no way out. Sakura had taken the time to go out of her way and had checked up on Naruto periodically. "Chin up, Naruto," she'd said the first time around. The second time she had come by, it had been "With me and Sasuke on your side, it'll work out." And, "How're you holding up?" and "It's a good thing he already knows you so well, it'll be a definite advantage."
The awful thing had been that Sasuke seemed to be in on it as well. He had shown up two and half-hours into their work and silently started helping Naruto with his gum-picking endeavors. When Naruto had tried to inform Sasuke "I don't need any help. I'm not a girl you know," Sasuke had smiled grimly and said, "You're going to need all the help you can get." Naruto had tried very, very hard not to burst into tears at that and had maintained a stony silence the rest of the day.
They were gathered again on the rooftop again for a post mission debriefing, which was something that Kakashi had obviously made-up on the spot to torment Naruto further. Not that Naruto was going to accuse Kakashi of it and give away his secret. He was contemplating if stealing Kakashi's underwear and hanging it from a tree in the center of town would shame the man appropriately when he realized that everyone was staring at him. "What?" he demanded.
"Share with us what you learned today," Kakashi prompted him. Naruto stared at the man and tried to come up with something appropriate to say. Clearly, telling him about how Sakura and Sasuke had tied him to tree and tortured him with starvation was out of the question. So was admitting that he had been so distracted that Sasuke had finished first. "Okay. Well, you clearly learned a lot. Thank you for sharing, Naruto. I will see you all two days from today," Kakashi said, dismissing the entire class. Naruto tried not to feel too betrayed by the fact that he had spoken out loud again without intending and made a mental note to learn better control over his mouth-brain connection.
Sakura coughed in the background before cheerfully declaring, "Naruto has something to tell you," and dragging Sasuke off with her. Naruto stared after them in hatred and tried not to hate her too much. Mostly he failed, but he gave himself points for effort anyway. Sighing, he turned back to Kakashi only to find the man looking at him with that damned twinkle in his eye. Naruto tried not to be too terrified (and failed).
"They might have accidentally gotten the impression that I'm in…in." He took a fortifying breath. "Inlovewithyou," he forced out. Kakashi continued to stare at him. "THEY STARTED IT. BLAME THEM," he added for clarification. Kakashi blinked a couple times before looking at the sky for inspiration. He finally came up with "Do my laundry and I won't tell them the truth" which led to excessive yelling on Naruto's part ("YOU BASTARD. NO. REALLY. BASTARD"), some throwing of kunai, some ducking of reciprocal kunai-throwing, and Naruto storming off in a huff.
Naruto slipped in through his bedroom window pissed off and dirty from the day's work. He had already stripped out of all his shirts and was working on his pants when he heard someone clearing their throat. Apparently, Kiba (and his damned dog), Shikamaru, and Neji had all broken into his apartment and were lying in wait for him. Naruto gaped at them and tried not to feel too much like a maiden while he scrambled for something to cover his exposed chest with.
Kiba was the first to break the silence. "We think you should do laundry," he said. Shikamaru and Neji nodded. Kiba's dog barked in agreement as well. Really, Naruto thought, the audacity of them breaking into his apartment and offering him advice on his house-keeping skills. He reacted in the most rational way possible: attempting to kill the three lying, hypocritical, traitorous ex-friends.
When the smoke cleared, Naruto became aware of two very important things. The first was that he had no clean laundry to wear anymore. The second was that he no longer had a place to live. "Crap" he thought looking at the blackened, gaping hole that had been his apartment. Shikamaru merely sighed in dismay.