Orochimaru slept for a long time.

He just wasn't content to get up at that point; he just wasn't. It wasn't like there was anything to do, anyway. Every time Orochimaru woke up, he turned right back over and went back to sleep. Every now and then, Kabuto would come in to check on him, but for the most part he was left alone.

Until four in the afternoon.

"Orochimaru-sama, get up…up. Now. Come on, I know you're awake."

"No I'm not."

Orochimaru couldn't care less the reason Kabuto had for waking him up: he wanted to sleep, and that was that! Kabuto insistently poked him in the ribs, though, resulting in a high-pitched whine from deep in Orochimaru's throat-and a strong, but blind, kick. Kabuto evaded it easily and threw one leg over both of Orochimaru's, capturing the powerful thighs beneath his own. "Now stop that," Kabuto scolded, leaning forward over Orochimaru's back. "We both know you didn't mean it."

Orochimaru growled this time; more a warning, but Kabuto still paid no heed. "Come on," he whispered, setting both of his hands on Orochimaru's shoulder blades, "Admit it."

Orochimaru sighed. "If I do, will you go away?"

"Of course not." Kabuto's hands began to dig into Orochimaru's muscles, and then moved back and forth in a slow, circular motion. "But it never hurts to tell your lover you're sorry for trying to knock him out."

Orochimaru shrugged. "Whatever." Kabuto smirked and dug in the heels of his hands again, pressing at a knot of tension in Orochimaru's shoulder. "What could you possibly have done to stress yourself out this much?" he asked lightly. "You've done nothing but sleep for something like three days." Even so, his words were soothing to Orochimaru. The sannin found comfort that Kabuto was still unafraid to scold him when need be, and also to comfort him when that was due as well. Kabuto's hands were gentle on Orochimaru's back as he moved down its smooth surface, much to the contrast of his words. A small smile crossed Kabuto's face as he brushed Orochimaru's hair out of the way. The sannin was almost back to normal, but he would never be the same.

Orochimaru would gently hitch his shoulders now and then, but for the most part remained still as Kabuto worked out his sore muscles. Kabuto, in turn, made no movement other than to calm Orochimaru and occasionally shift positions to make sure he wasn't cutting off circulation for either of them. The silver-haired teen knew that Orochimaru had nothing on but boxers, but somehow, he was trusting Kabuto to be where he was: in a position of complete power over Orochimaru. And in such a personal way! Well, time to find out just how far Orochimaru was willing to let him go. Kabuto leaned down, his hands halting for a moment in Orochimaru's lower back, and pressed his lips to the back of Orochimaru's neck.

The sky didn't fall.

The earth didn't break open.

A flood didn't wipe out the entire earth.

And Orochimaru remained still.

If Kabuto had sensed even the slightest distress in his master he would have stopped, game over, everyone back to normal. He would have just left at that point. But Orochimaru was acting calm and relaxed, so Kabuto continued gently kissing down Orochimaru's back. Orochimaru arched away from Kabuto's kisses at one point, but Kabuto knew it was his cue to continue. Kabuto made a mental note of the sensitive spot on Orochimaru's back. Twenty-second vertebrae…Kabuto continued down into the small of Orochimaru's back, moving his hands down towards Orochimaru's ass. He ran his hands over the firm muscles he found there, using his mouth to place gentle nips on Orochimaru's skin. Kabuto heard the gasp Orochimaru released, but he also felt the sannin arching into his touches. Smirking, Kabuto gently slid his hands around Orochimaru's hips, lifting him with one hand and sliding his boxers off with the other. He shoved the sheet back and tossed the boxers aside-there was no reason for them anymore. Kabuto leaned down again and began sliding his hands down further between Orochimaru's legs, touching him in ways Orochimaru would have never allowed a day ago. Kabuto still ran his hands up and down Orochimaru's ass, caressing firm muscle and smooth skin. Orochimaru was withering under Kabuto's touches, letting off gasps, whimpers, and moans of pleasure as Kabuto touched him beyond all pleasure. Finally, Kabuto took one hand off Orochimaru's addictingly-hot body and pulled off his gloves, one at a time. He turned Orochimaru over and held out three fingers to Orochimaru, who took them into his mouth immediately. Kabuto shook off hi headband, sash, and shirt while he was waiting, removing his hand from Orochimaru's mouth to pull off his shirt and throw it aside. Turning Orochimaru back over, Kabuto parted the man's legs with one knee, and Orochimaru lifted his hips just enough for Kabuto to slide one finger into Orochimaru's entrance. Orochimaru gasped at the feeling of being penetrated, then let out a breathy moan as Kabuto pushed in his second finger. Kabuto leaned forward over Orochimaru's body, placing a soft kiss on the side of the pale neck. "You're doing fine," he encouraged. "If you ever want me to stop, just tell me." Orochimaru's response was the thrust himself down onto Kabuto's fingers. Kabuto smirked and focused chakra into his fingers, pulling them in and out of Orochimaru's passage. Finally, he pulled his fingers out for good and began massaging the area around Orochimaru's passage, trying to relax the tense muscles with short bursts of chakra. Orochimaru let out a short cry of pleasure, and then a lengthy groan.

"Kabuto," he whispered, leaning back and moaning again, "Please…please, just take me…"

Kabuto grinned and pushed his fingers back into Orochimaru's entrance, scissoring his fingers to stretch Orochimaru enough for easy passage later. Orochimaru continued to moan in pleasure and agony, waiting for Kabuto to continue with his ministrations. Kabuto finally took his fingers out of Orochimaru, noting the small noise of disappointment that followed. But not for long-Kabuto pulled off his pants and boxers and threw them aside, revealing his own aching need. He positioned himself at Orochimaru's entrance and pulled back before thrusting forward again, shattering Orochimaru's control like a weakened window.

"Easy," he whispered through Orochimaru's cry of pain and pleasure, "Easy…" Orochimaru gave a low moan of impatience and pushed himself back down onto Kabuto's member, extracting a grunt of discomfort from Kabuto. "Calm down," the silver-haired ninja purred, gently stroking Orochimaru's ass. "You're so impatient now." Just the way it used to be…and, just the way it used to be, Kabuto fell into a comfortable rhythm, managing to hit Orochimaru's sweet spot every time. Orochimaru finally came with a long, drawn-out moan of pleasure. Kabuto came a moment later, grabbing Orochimaru's hips and yanking him back as he shot his load up the other's ass. Both lay panting for a minute in the middle of the bed, Kabuto still with Orochimaru, regaining their breath. Kabuto slowly and reluctantly pulled out of Orochimaru, falling next to him on the bed with a soft moan of pain. His muscles ached, but it was a pleasant ache. Kabuto reached down and found the sheets again, pulling them up over Orochimaru's body and his own. Orochimaru turned onto his side, facing Kabuto, and put his arms around the other's neck. Kabuto, in return, wrapped his arms around Orochimaru's waist, pulling him close in a tender embrace that felt so familiar and pleasant.

Just how it used to be.

Orochimaru had finally seemed to have gotten over his fears. No longer was he going to be used; no longer was he going to use in return. Orochimaru felt complete; more so than he ever had in his life. Maybe it was better to live and to lose than to never live at all. Or maybe he had just never seen what it was like to live. Either way, Orochimaru thought that if he was given the chance to do it all over, he would do everything exactly the same way.

It was better to live and to lose than to never live at all.

OOOOOOOOO

When Orochimaru and Kabuto finally woke up, it was the next morning.

Orochimaru woke up to find himself still wrapped in Kabuto's arms, with his own arms around Kabuto's neck. He slowly maneuvered himself out of Kabuto's grasp, then untangled himself from the sheets. He remembered many mornings past like this one, the sweet scent of incense in the air; Kabuto usually woke up, lit some, and then got back into bed. Orochimaru sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, shaking his hair out of his face and getting his bearings, then stood up and reached for the silken kimono next to the bed. He threw it over his shoulders, grabbed the boxers underneath the kimono, and slid them on. He left the kimono open as he made his way to the kitchen part of the apartment, and began to make himself coffee.

"Morning."

Orochimaru glanced up at the sight of Kabuto walking in, dressed in only a pair of pants from what Orochimaru could see. "Morning," he replied, pouring his coffee into a mug and slowly taking a sip. "Nice to know one of us is semi-awake."

Kabuto gave Orochimaru a smile and a gentle kiss on his way to the fridge, pulling out two mangos and tossing one to Orochimaru. The sannin caught it one-handed and glanced down at it.

"Just eat it," Kabuto said. "These are good ones."

Orochimaru shrugged and sat down at the table with the mango, slowly peeling off the outside skin and biting off chunks at a time. "Nice," he commented. "Very sweet."

Kabuto nodded wordlessly, sitting down with a plate and a knife. He painstakingly cut off the skin, then began slicing the mango into pieces. "I managed to sneak this out of Jiroubou's room," he said with a grin. "I don't know how he managed to get it, but it was there, so I grabbed it." Kabuto seemed rather pleased with himself; he wore a smug grin that clearly spoke for itself. Orochimaru smiled.

"Well, I'll have to thank him later," he commented. "I mean, after he finds out they're missing. Wouldn't want to tip him off, now would we?"

"Kabuto!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Kabuto had to laugh at the sudden outburst that sounded very much like Jiroubou. "Oh, I think he's figured it out," he said with a grin. Finally, life was settling in again-Tayuya and Jiroubou were back to fighting, Kidomaru was fussing over his webs again, and Sakon was still trying to get along with Ukon.

And Orochimaru was back to being a tyrannical beast.

OOOOOOOOO

Pein sighed and kicked his feet up on the desk. "Well, that's it," he said. "I am officially giving up. It's costing us too many to go after Orochimaru. We lost Zetsu, Sasori, and Hidan. And Tobi, but he never contributed much anyway."

Itachi smirked. He didn't feel that Pein needed to know it was his idea to sneak Tobi out on that mission. "Well, if you ever need help with him, let me know," he concluded, standing up. As Itachi walked to the door to leave, he heard Pein standing up and saying, "Hold up there." Footsteps travelled across the floor to Itachi, and a hand fell to the Uchiha's shoulder.

"Itachi, I know you're disappointed that you didn't get Orochimaru," Pein whispered. "But he's too much trouble than he's worth. Wouldn't you agree?"

Itachi gave a soft sigh through his nose, turning this over in his mind. Pein made a valid point, that Orochimaru was a lot of trouble, but they also needed the demon he carried.

"Forget the demon," Pein went on, as if he had read Itachi's mind, "We have almost all the rest; just concentrate on the Kyuubi. The snake-thing will be drawn to all the rest of the demons, and as a free-standing demons, she will come."

Itachi sighed again, but this time through his mouth. "Very well," he muttered. "I'll go for the Fox."

Pein nodded once. "Good," he said softly. "And Itachi-!"

Itachi briefly turned around.

Pein's lips were suddenly pressed to his.

A/N: Who wants Epilogue? Review, por favor!!