Title: Lucky Bachelorette Number Two

Pairing: Naruto/Sasuke

Summary: "Maybe he's angry that you made him the other woman," Sakura whispered frantically.

Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Kishimoto Masashi. Shippuden angst made me do it.

Lucky Bachelorette Number Two


About once a day, the sun would reach just the right angle in the sky to allow a single shaft of golden light to slice through the bars of his damp cell and pool into a soft spill of luminescence on the cold stone floor. The memory of warmth would wake something inside of him that had long been forgotten, and he'd reach for it, scrabbling on hands and knees.

Sun was rare. It was winter, and the serrated patch of sky beyond the tiny window was a hazy, unbroken shade of grey. He could smell the season in the cold draft that blew in—a crisp, clinical smell, tempered with the moss of dead leaves, chilling like a bone-rattle. He had no idea how long he had been locked up in this frigid hole, a day or a lifetime; time itself was beginning to slip away from him, along with his sense of self. All that remained was an aching hollowness in the pit of his stomach that spoke of some great despair, a retrograde life unfulfilled and now forever beyond his reach.

The sound of the heavy iron door swinging open broke the thick silence, the silence dripping with death, and faintly he became aware of another sharing the sour air of the small cell. Someone was standing over him, and once upon a time, he might have known that stature, might have recognized that face, but these too were things that had been taken from him by the long march of solitude.

"It's time to go," his visitor said simply.

He knew no more.



Sasuke swatted one arm feebly over his head, hitting mostly air.


He mumbled something into the surface directly beneath his face, which felt strangely soft.

"Yo, bastard."

"Fuck off!" he snapped, jerking his head up and feeling the tendons in his neck creak like an old screendoor. "I had it crappy enough when I was alive! Just leave me the fuck alone—"

He blinked twice, and the image that parsed before his eyes was definitely not the afterlife or any Powers That Be, but was actually Naruto, wearing his most shit-eating expression ever.

Sasuke jumped to his knees, and this time, his entire body protested. He also noted that he had been lying facedown on a narrow, nondescript bed, and that Naruto was sitting splay-legged in an armchair across the way, watching Sasuke's emaciated prisoner antics with a morbidly fascinated look.

"You!" Sasuke croaked, grabbing wildly for a table lamp and wielding it like a club. The brass length felt comfortably heavy in his hands. "Where the hell am I?"

Naruto continued to stare, and when he opened his mouth to speak it was with none of the urgency Sasuke had hoped to inspire with his scary floral-print weapon. "We're in a hotel in," he stopped, and seemed to consider something before lowering his voice meaningfully to say, "in Wave Country. We're in hiding. Yeah. So don't make any ruckus or they'll be onto you faster than instant ramen cooks."

Sasuke blinked—"In hiding? They?"—but in place of elaborating, Naruto just nodded solemnly, eyes huge and foreboding.

"Yes," Naruto said, a bit more firmly. "So you can see how we wouldn't want my brave and noble efforts to be wasted…"

"Putting a norovirus in our water supply was not brave and noble," Sasuke said through clenched teeth, tightening his grip once more on the table lamp.

Naruto did not appear at all panicked about his imminent concussion, and instead did something that looked suspiciously like rolling his eyes.

"Okay, one," he said, holding up his forefinger, "Sakura-chan and Tsunade-baasan cooked up the virus in their little voodoo lab, so that had nothing to do with me. And two," he held up another finger, "I bravely carried your limp, lifeless, projectile vomiting body back to Konoha and nobly resisted the urge to let you drown in your own puke on various occasions. So, in conclusion," he made air quotes, "brave and noble."

Sasuke freely admitted to being somewhat arrogant about his abilities—only because he had abilities to lord about—so it killed a piece of his soul having to accept that Konoha had defeated them using chemical warfare. The fact that Orochimaru had apparently screwed up didn't really surprise him, however, and this had little to nothing to do with his faith in the justice system and more to do with his unshakable belief that he was constantly surrounded by people too stupid to breathe.

Somewhere in his head, he realized that Naruto hadn't answered any of his questions at all. He wanted to press, but suddenly he was struck by a wave of nausea, and felt his weapon slip from his numb fingers as he slumped down onto the bed, feeling hot and dizzy and ceaseless, bone-deep exhaustion sucking him under.

"Hey, hey," Naruto said, suddenly beside the bed and putting his palm on Sasuke's cheek, forcing his face up to look up into Naruto's very blue eyes, and now Sasuke was digging his nails into his knees because his own eyes were blurring and it was hard to see straight.

"Probably your blood sugar dropping," Naruto muttered, and shoved something into his hand, cellophane crackling faintly. "Put that in your mouth and chew on it for awhile."

And when Sasuke continued to stare at his face, unmoving, Naruto made a frustrated noise and tore the wrapper off the item before placing it in his slack grip again. "Eat."

This time, Sasuke made himself take a large bite and swallow. It tasted a bit like rancid sawdust. "What is this crap?" he asked weakly through a mouthful of crumbs.

"Some sort of energy bar," Naruto shrugged, throwing himself down next to Sasuke on the bed and letting his long legs swing over the side. "Glorified soldier pills. Vile, but it works."

He still had one of his hands on Sasuke's knee, and for no good reason, Sasuke felt compelled to watch Naruto's fingers, thick and brown and drumming slightly, like they couldn't remain still for two seconds without breaking out into seizure.

Just when he was about to pick up on the vein of conversation that his faux-hypoglycemic attack had so conveniently interrupted, there came the sound of knocking from the door, and Sasuke was truly tempted to yell at the heavens, "Okay, seriously, what gives?"

"Are you expecting someone?" he asked out of the corner of his mouth, keeping his voice barely above a whisper.

Beside him, Naruto's shoulders tensed visibly, and the movement of his eyebrows indicated he was on the horns of some huge inner conflict. Presently, he shook his head.

"Get over there," Sasuke mouthed silently, inclining his head toward a corner of the room that had strategic attack location potentials, and grabbed for the fallen lamp. Naruto's face was very white, and he looked to be biting his lips, hard enough for it to be painful, which made Sasuke's heart thud wildly in his ribcage, but the energy bar had replenished enough of his strength to make moving possible if not entirely comfortable.

The knocking had grown more insistent. Taking a steadying breath, he reached for the handle, and even as the door swung open he had struck out full-force at the person on the other side, who deflected the lamp with one bare fist and shattered it on impact.

"Sasuke-kun," Sakura said, sounding unruffled if homicidal. "What the fuck?"

Behind him, Naruto could be heard making a hysterical noise before bursting out laughing.


There was a confusing moment in which Sakura manhandled Naruto out of his hilarity and Sasuke tried to kill them both with his Chidori Nagashi, but mostly failed due to a severe shortage in chakra and had to lean against the doorway Sakura had vacated in an effort not to fall down, sapped of adrenaline in a crucial moment when his body hadn't yet caught up.

"What the hell?" Sakura demanded, looking from Naruto to Sasuke, then snapping back to Naruto as comprehension dawned on her face. "You didn't tell him?"

"Tell me what?" Sasuke asked, frowning.

Naruto's expression sobered quickly from on the verge of cracking up again to sheepish. "Well, it was kinda fun watching him go all paranoid-narcissist like that. Ow, Sakura-chan, OW!"

Sakura looked like she wanted to claw the skin on her face off in frustration. Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "Tell me what," he repeated, lowering his voice ominously.

"Sasuke-kun," Sakura began, shooting Naruto venomous glances that promised seven circles of violent hell. "You're not being pursued. You've been released into our custody."

"Congratulations," Naruto chirped, earning himself a gratifying smack upside the head.

All things considered, Sasuke was appropriately confused. "If we're not in hiding, then why are we in Wave Country?"

Sakura looked at him with crazy, crazy eyes. "Wave Country? We're not in Wave Country—this is the outskirts of Konoha. I'd have thought the lack of, you know, ocean sounds would have made it obvious."

Now he just wanted to die—or break someone's neck.

The look on Sakura's face softened quickly, faltering into worrisomely maternal, and she barreled on with, "Well, but of course you haven't noticed, you're shaking like a leaf. Get over here and lie down immediately before you hurt yourself."

Sasuke knew he was six kinds of insane not to take the God-given opportunity to bolt out the door, but he allowed Sakura to grab his elbow anyway and frogmarch him toward the bed. He blamed the debilitating fatigue.

"But," he tried again, desperately coordinating his thoughts, "I was—I was locked up."

The muscle at the corner of Sakura's mouth twitched—guiltily. "Yeah," she said in her dispute management voice. "I'm sorry about the quarantine, but we had to be sure. The norovirus had been developed to be… extra persistent, and we didn't want to take any chances."

They hadn't wanted to take any chances. He had been locked up for something like an eternity, slavering at the sight of sunshine, feeling as though time and his very sense of self had been slipping away from him, all because they hadn't wanted to take any chances.

"You were only quarantined for, like, three days," Naruto piped up from the background. In a significantly lower tone, he muttered, "Geez, drama queen much?"

It was possible that their current proximity allowed Sakura to see past the cold detachment in his eyes and spot the urge to smite rising, rising, rising behind his grey irises, because she laughed in an entirely prevaricating manner and said, "Well, I'm sure it seemed much longer since you were mostly delirious. Anyway, the good news is that in spite of your absence, your defending counsel did a most admirable job at your trial!"

For some obscure reason, Naruto's face pulled suddenly into an ugly scowl.

"What?" Sasuke boggled, honestly befuddled.

"Your defense counsel," Sakura said brightly, at the same time that Naruto stage-whispered, "Oh God, she's going to start talking about due process any minute now," which garnered him another sound blow to the head.

"I didn't think it was going to be simple getting you out," Sakura soldiered on, virtually gushing. Sasuke recognized the sweetly affectionate glaze in her eyes as the same look that had often been directed at him in the past, and suddenly the term 'defense counsel' gained a new, interestingly suggestive nuance to it. "But Aoki-san just constructed this whole defense based on your mental instability, arguing that your defection and subsequent actions were products of a temporary lapse in sanity manifesting from PTSD that had been irresponsibly allowed to go untreated. Then he threatened to sue the Council! It was glorious!"

Naruto's and Sasuke's responses were, respectively, "How do you get oxygen when you talk like that?" and a carefully phrased, "You seem on close terms with this Aoki-san person."

Sakura blushed, at the same time that Naruto said, "He took her out to dinner."

"It was a business meal," Sakura protested, beet red. "With—celebratory champagne!"

"They also went back to her place afterward," Naruto supplied breezily, and turning to Sasuke, added, "Seriously, don't you think a doctor dating a criminal defense lawyer is maybe just this side of revoltingly smug?"

Sasuke gave him a withering glare that conveyed precisely how little he cared.

"Anyway," Sakura snapped. "I'm not here to talk crap with you, Naruto. I'm supposed to discuss Sasuke-kun's treatment plan."

"Treatment plan?" he echoed hollowly.

"Yes, ordered by the court," replied Sakura. "Since we insisted the reason for your excusal be medical in nature, a treatment plan had to be drawn up. I've been put in charge of monitoring your progress..."

"What exactly do you mean by treatment plan?" he snapped, fearing the worst.

Sakura's expression turned contemplative. "Well, at first we debated psychotherapy, but that would only end in tears. So instead, we drew up a concrete plan of action, since it was deduced that it was the lack of proactivity that caused the, um, psychotic break."

"I didn't have a psychotic break," Sasuke pointed out.

"Right," Sakura said distractedly, voice bordering on exasperation but thankfully falling short. "My point is, there's got to be a way to go about this to avoid heartbreak for everyone, and it was decided that—"

"—we would help you get your brother," Naruto continued, with the air of a person making a grand revelation.

Bracing himself, Sasuke said, "I don't need your help."

"Well, you don't really have a choice," Sakura explained slowly. "Your only options are us, prison, or Orochimaru—and Aoki-san made sure he got a restraining order slapped on him."

"But also," Naruto added helpfully, "dead."

"He's lucky to be dead," Sakura said vehemently, her expression that of a steel baron contemplating a vicious takeover. "If he were still alive, we could sue him for emotional damage."

For lack of physical strength to wreak bodily harm, Sasuke arranged his face into the precise measure of blankness that meant he was completely furious, which neither Sakura nor Naruto seemed to notice in light of their absorbing meditative discussion on the floor. Through his murderous haze, he vaguely heard Sakura say, "Actually, this is probably going to be more difficult than we previously thought. I mean, usually the Akatsuki just kind of mysteriously come to us when we least expect them—it figures that if we actually try to look, we won't find them."

"We could always invite Shikamaru," Naruto muttered darkly. "I bet he'd be just thrilled to blow up some more supervillains for us."

"Oh my God," Sakura said, throwing up her hands in frustration or complete disgust. "Are you still bitter about that? You don't see me walking around complaining about having to accept Chiyo-baasan's help to defeat Sasori, do you?"

Sasuke was unforeseeably glad he was lying down, because it granted him the opportunity to bury his face into the pillow and drown out their obnoxious voices. He drifted into unconsciousness praying for sweet, sweet death, and woke in a wet spot of his own drool an unspecified number of hours later, his neck-crick killing him, stomach rumbling in hunger.

When he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, he saw that it was after dark, that Sakura had left the room at some point. Naruto was somehow still sitting on the floor.

"Hungry?" Naruto said without looking at him. "Sakura gave you some kind of shot, so you should be alright for a bit. There're some more energy bars on the bedside table."

Then he turned and shook a curvaceous glass bottle at Sasuke's face maniacally, sending the scorpions at the bottom astir. "Then you can wash down the ass-taste with this. I've been saving it up for a slow night like tonight. Authentic bai jiu."

"Should you really be imbibing?" Sasuke asked waspishly. "Aren't you my guard?"

Naruto made a dismissive noise. "If you'd rather run away than stay here and help me polish off this excellent, excellent liquor then you deserve whatever jailtime you'll get when we catch up with you."

It turned out to be a very good thing that Sakura had left them to fend for themselves for the night, because when they got shitfaced and woke up the following morning on the floor without their pants, there was no one around to laugh at them and take incriminating pictures to use for blackmail.


"What the fuck are you doing?" Sasuke snapped, and instantly regretted it when his head felt like it was spinning in two different directions.

Naruto continued to shake his hips around disturbingly. "Checking to see if my ass hurts."


"Which—thank God—it doesn't," Naruto continued. "That means we didn't have sex."

Sasuke scowled at him and tried to sit up, but was prevented from doing so by an assault of needlelike pain shooting up his backside. He winced.

"Okay," Naruto said, completely deadpan. "So we may have had sex." He sounded entirely too calm about this.

Seeing Naruto stand up and casually shrug his boxers back up his smooth, golden thighs as morning light streamed in through the window only made Sasuke decide that the situation was dire. "Where the hell do you think you're going?"

Naruto blinked. "To the shower. I shower in the morning. Especially after, you know…" Here he leered suggestively, and really, the only thing worse would be if he had followed it up with an invitation for Sasuke to join him.

Sasuke didn't try to clobber him to death with the table lamp, and he wasn't sure this was because said article was still lying in pieces by the door where it had lost its battle with Sakura's fist, or because he was very Japanese and more than slightly socially retarded, and his mama taught him better than that.

"There is no you know," he said desperately, half-crazed. "We did not have sex. This was some sort of—alcohol-induced homosexuality."

"Huh," Naruto said, cocking his head sideways, and apparently alcohol-induced homosexuality lasted well into the hangover stage because Sasuke found cutely befuddled an extremely good look on Naruto.

"I'm not gay," he said, for lack of anything else to say, really.

"Are you sure?" Naruto asked skeptically. "Given the way you dress these days? And you did seem pretty happy to see me in Grass Country."

Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "What part of me trying to skewer you with my sword indicated reunion-related joy?"

And then Naruto said, "Well I said happy, not ecstatic," and Sasuke was immediately compelled to tackle him to the ground and throttle him senseless.

"Do I even want to know?"

Sasuke whipped around to see Sakura watching them from the doorway, eyebrows nearly touching her hairline. And while Sasuke had spent the better part of his formative years schooling his facial expressions to remain masklike and emotionless on all occasions, Naruto clearly had not, as indicated by the way all the blood in his body rushed immediately to his face.

"Oh my God," Sakura muttered, eyes huge and horrified and evident of the fact that she was still the most perceptive kunoichi of their generation, even when her powers were being used for evil. "I should have known. Leave you to your own devices for one night, and surely you'd get up to canoodling. It's so male it makes my brain hurt."

Then, inexplicably, she tilted her head to the ceiling and bellowed at the top of her lungs, "And you! You complete, ravening pervert! Get out here!"

There was a loud pop, accompanied by a swirling cloud of chakra smoke, and, horror of horrors, it cleared to reveal Kakashi, hands in his pockets and clearly diabolically mirthful.

Naruto opened his mouth. Then he closed it. Then he opened it again and pointed a shaking finger at Kakashi wordlessly, making choking, fishlike noises. Sasuke would worry about permanent brain damage, but he was too busy fighting the urge to bury his face in his hand and make keening noises himself.

Sakura closed her hand around Kakashi's wrist like an iron clamp, and through gritted teeth, said, "I should have known you would just sit back and let them go at it. Unbelievable."

"Sakura, you wound me," Kakashi said in a clear attempt to be murdered in his sleep. "You should know that I didn't just sit back—I also became politely fascinated by other things in the room."

"Be quiet," Sakura ordered. "Your speaking privileges have been revoked for incompetence."

To them, she said, "And if I slip on any used condom on the floor, you will truly know the meaning of suffering," which made Sasuke come to the slow realization that the only reason she had used to be unfailingly polite to him was that she had been cowed by his genius as well as madly in love with him—apparently, Sakura's only two settings were love and bloodlust.

Naruto finally seemed to have conquered his speech impediment. "What the hell is he doing here?" he yelled, equal parts embarrassed and outraged.

Sakura rolled her eyes. "He's the Jounin part of the custody team. Did you really think they'd let us do this by ourselves?" She glared at Kakashi, and added, "A fat load of good it's done so far."

Naruto seemed on the verge of a massive coronary. "You didn't tell me he was going to be here!"

"Oh, because you were so forthcoming to me about your plan for athletic hatesex," Sakura retorted. "I can't believe you two—there must be at least five codes of guardian-prisoner conduct being violated here!"

"I had nothing to do with this," Sasuke protested loudly, at the same time that Naruto muttered, "Well I'm sure it's nothing your new lawyer boyfriend can't handle," and Kakashi mused, "Actually, it was more like drunken and sloppy hatesex—your acrobatics are getting very off, Naruto-kun."

Sakura made a mute hand gesture that basically amounted to clawing at air in pantomime rage while Naruto sputtered weakly in the background. The situation had spiraled so rapidly out of control that Sasuke was sure at least one of them was this close to committing justified manslaughter. He was also pretty sure it was himself.

"And you," Sakura barked, rounding on Naruto. "What about Sai?"

Naruto's lips jutted out petulantly. "What about him?"

"Don't you think it's a good idea to end one relationship before rushing willy-nilly into another?" Kakashi—who clearly didn't talk much for a reason, the reason being that he was evil—interjected mildly.

"It's not a relationship if he spends most of his time insulting my masculinity, and then sometimes insults my masculinity while naked," Naruto said sullenly.

"Manwhore!" Sakura accused, and Sasuke instantly wished he'd been born a deaf-mute.

"Oh, you're one to talk," Naruto hissed, waving his hands around excitedly, and added, "You let a civilian touch your breasts. He can't even throw a kunai," somehow managing to make the words breasts and kunai sound like grievous insults to Sakura's family and entire lineage.

Whether or not this whole argument escalated into a hissy slapfight, Sasuke didn't know, because he chose that moment to stalk into the bathroom and slam the door shut loudly behind him.

The sound of arguing on the other side of the door died down for approximately 3.5 seconds before it flared up again.

"I think you might have upset Sasuke-kun," Kakashi could be heard to observe.

"What? What?" Naruto said with exaggerated amazement. "Come the fuck on, this cannot possibly be my fault."

"Maybe he's angry that you made him the other woman," Sakura whispered frantically.

Sasuke sank to the bathroom floor and methodically planned their slow, agonizing death. He closed his eyes and thought Curse Seal Level Two as hard as possible.

"Alright, that's it," Naruto was saying in the other room. "I'm coming in. For all we know, he could be having a fit of rainbow dramatic freakout and slashing his wrists in there or something."

Sasuke gave up on the curse seal, and settled for Spontaneous Combustion instead.


He buried his face in the crook of his arm.


He made a vaguely hopeless noise into his skin.


"Oh for God's sake," he said, and pulled the door open and grabbed Naruto by the front of his shirt to haul him into the bathroom. The door had barely swung shut behind them when Sasuke threw a vicious punch at Naruto's face, which missed and hit the wall behind him instead. This was—of course—cue for Kakashi to thump on the door and say, "Keep it vanilla, guys. Sakura's about to develop an aneurysm any moment now."

"I don't know why you're so freaked out about it," Naruto said, narrowly avoiding a kick to the head. "It's not like you're ugly or anything."

"Thanks," Sasuke said dryly, stepping around the sink to get better aim at Naruto's crotch. "Thanks a lot."

"Look, if you think this is about me scoring some pretty ass—" Naruto began, and was cut off when Sasuke made an enraged noise and lunged for his throat.

"—then you're looking at it completely wrong WILL YOU STOP THAT FOR A MINUTE?"

And the thing Sasuke had kind of always known was that Naruto wasn't just frightening when he was angry: he was beautiful, raw and horrible and glorious, a force of nature. He could make the world stop in an instant, and so Sasuke stopped too, and listened with detached turmoil as Naruto lowered his voice into a controlled hiss, saying, "It's taken a lot of shit to even get this far. If you still don't know that I care by now..."

The trouble with repetitive altercations was that after awhile they started to become predictable. In a weird way, this thing between them was already like a relationship, complete with estranged partners and questionably domestic abuse, and since Sasuke was clearly the less committed of the two, the fact that he could practically sense the changing wavelengths made his skin crawl. Naruto was about to go full-scale whiny and self-righteous, and he was about to close up like a clam, which were not their best sides.

But all Naruto had to do was lay one hand on Sasuke's shoulder and corner him, locking him in, push and push and push until the edges of the universe closed in on them so tightly that it was difficult to breath. Sasuke hadn't really noticed how small the bathroom was until he had Naruto's hip bone digging into his side and Naruto's serious expression pinning him to the spot.

"God, you're thin as a rail," Naruto said, palming the angular bone of Sasuke's shoulder blade, and suddenly he sounded sad, sad as though of all the people in the world, it was Sasuke that perpetually broke his heart.

This was probably at least a little bit true, but Sasuke wasn't ready to accept that. Things were still wrong, so horribly wrong—sitting cross-legged in a hotel room discussing his destiny wrong—and Sasuke was focusing on the wrong things because he couldn't find the words to articulate what he really wanted to say, things like this, too, shall pass, and that heartbreak wasn't the end of the world and he should know. He wasn't ready to accept. Not yet.

So he said, "I'm so sorry I'm not pretty enough for you."

"Oh God," Naruto muttered. "Are you really going to make me say it?"

Sasuke raised one eyebrow expectantly, just to be totally contrary.

"Fine. I am saying I love you, asshole," said Naruto, rolling his eyes. "Flowers, candy, romance, all that jazz—please be my naked boyfriend."

Sasuke began moving his fingers in a significantly seal-like manner.

"Or, you know, the naked part can be left up to negotiation," Naruto backtracked, laughing nervously. "But boyfriend is still good, right?"

"So instead of somebody who insults your masculinity, you want somebody who will insult your intelligence, fashion sense, and general worth as a human being?" Sasuke asked acerbically.

Naruto beamed, and leaned in to breathe moistly into his ear. "Oh, it's alright. It's hot when you do it."

"I'll kill you," he said, but it was mostly without heat.

Naruto smiled indulgently, and said, "And I'll survive. Again. And now we can do this song and dance for about ten more rounds, or you can just shut up and let me kiss you against this bathroom counter for twenty minutes."


When they finally emerged from the bathroom roughly twenty-three minutes later, the edge of the counter had cut a hard line into Sasuke's back, and his hair was slightly flattened from when their awkward fumbling had accidentally set off the faucet and made it spray ice cold water all over the place. Naruto, walking slightly ahead of him, had a vaguely self-satisfied swagger in his steps, which Sasuke had previously found attractive but was now reconsidering because it was driving him to homicide.

They found Kakashi and Sakura—Sasuke rolled his eyes—sitting cross-legged on the floor and engaging in what for all means and purpose appeared to be a heated discussion. Neither looked up until Naruto cleared his throat loudly at them. Sasuke self-consciously readjusted the collar of his shirt.

"What are you two talking about?" Naruto asked, folding his hands behind his head in a revoltingly sated way.

"We're just discussing various strategies to get to Itachi," Sakura said by way of explanation, before she turned back to Kakashi and said, "Anyway, my point is you're not making any sense whatsoever—that's like arguing death by autoerotic asphyxiation is marginally better than death by autoerotic asphyxiation while the porn is still clutched in your hand."

Sasuke merely raised an eyebrow, but Naruto looked deeply confused. "Is that what you're going to use on Itachi?" he asked, scratching his head. "Because I could always get Ero-sennin to do a special commission—he still owes me a ton of money."

"I don't know," Sakura said, concerned. "Sasuke's brother seems to me like the type who'd have, you know, discerning taste."

"If by discerning you mean homosexual," Naruto chuckled, and Sasuke nearly herniated something, but very, very quietly.

"We can send him a home video of you two," Kakashi said brightly, and Naruto abruptly stopped laughing, turning instead a shade of red not found in nature. Sakura's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets, and she stuffed a fist into her trembling mouth in haste. Sasuke just felt slightly doomed.

"It'll give you the opportunity to practice and improve your—ah—techniques," their teacher continued, grey eye twinkling.

Sasuke's and Naruto's unanimous cries of "Chidori!" and "Rasengan!" were effectively drowned out by the shrieks of Sakura's hysterical laughter as she fell wheezing to the floor in a crumpled heap. They were all so, so lucky business was slow in winter and the hotel managers hadn't decided to put any other unwitting guests on their floor.