First off, IMPORTANT, this includes guys. Who. Like. Guys. Sasuke and Naruto; Neji and Gaara. So if it bugs you, screw off.

I've been petitioning to own Gaara for a really long time. :nods: However, I'm going to have to settle for owning the van, Murphy the van, as well as Gaara's obsession with the van. Murphy the van. This is, in case you didn't gather, Alternate Universe. That means...well, no ninja-power-things. That, and Orochimaru is a child molester. Feel free to say 'WTF' at any moment.

A/N: I sympathize with Naruto and gang in this fiction. I went through road-trip from hell also. What is slightly important is that it is set in America, considering I live in America and have been through basically the same route as Naruto and Gang.

I would like to thank FastForward (Sarge) for having confidence in me, motivating my writing habits (which are icky), and being an all-around superb, stupendous, amazing, youthful person.

Uchiha Sasuke sat on the edge of his bed, swinging his feet back and forth. He heard the front door slam and the car that was inevitably in the garage start up. He heard the creak of the garage door opening and the car drive away.

He stood and walked slowly out of his room and into the bathroom. He reached into the scummy shower and turned on the faucet. Icy water poured down from spigot and the pale boy slipped under the spray. He ran fingers over his arms, wiping away whatever blood was left over. He massaged shampoo into his black hair before rinsing off the soap. He stepped out of the shower and onto the turquoise bathmat, toweling off with a matching towel before returning to his room.

The phone rang. The raven haired boy reached over and picked up the off-white receiver and slammed it against his ear. "Hello?" he asked the person on the other end. There was a bit of background noise before Sasuke heard the person on the other end reply.

"Hey Sasuke!" cried the person on the other end. Sasuke glowered at the phone.

"You have damn good timing Naruto. Orochimaru was here just a second ago, and you know what would have happened if he picked up," he growled.

"I know, I know, I'm sorry. I just thought I'd tell you I'm driving cross-country--" Naruto started. Sasuke snorted.

"You're telling me this why?" he interrupted. He swore he could hear Naruto shrug.

"Just wondering if you could come. It would be really fun!" he cried bouncily. Sasuke heard the creaking of bedsprings on the other end of the line. In his minds eye, he could see the blond boy bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, talking into his phone. Sasuke shut his eyes.

"Orochimaru wouldn't let me go…" the dark-haired boy muttered.

"You haven't even asked yet!" Naruto argued. Sasuke rolled his eyes.

"I don't need to," he replied. "Why are you calling me anyway?"

"Because! You need a life! Come on…us and a couple of friends, picking up chicks, driving down the highway, you know? It'll be fun!" Sasuke could imagine Naruto jumping around his room in excitement. 'Probably grinning that stupid grin too,' he added to himself with a smirk.

"Whatever. How long will we be gone?" Sasuke asked. He rolled over and sat on the floor cross-legged, examining one of his many new bruises. He prodded it with the edge of a pencil, winced in pain, and decided not to do that anymore.

"Three days, tops. Come on, just ask Orochimaru. Please? I don't want to go with Neji…he's mean…" Naruto said. Sasuke could imagine him pouting on the other end of the line, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. "Please?"

"Fine, he left ten minutes ago, he'll be back in five. You're at work, right?"

"Yeah," Naruto confirmed.

"Whatever. I'll call you back in five minutes." Sasuke hung up without waiting for a reply. 'If he thinks I'm really asking Orochimaru, he's dumber than I thought,' Sasuke thought with a smirk. He turned to his closet. 'Because asking is for weaklings.'

Uzamaki Naruto stared at the pizza. It stared back. It was greasy, drooping, and more disgusting than usual 'Someone is going to blame me,' he thought miserably as he slid it onto a plate and maneuvered out of the kitchen. The restaurant where he worked was in a lull, and only two pizzas had been ordered that hour. By the looks of this one, it would appear the oven exploded. Naruto rolled his eyes and found table nineteen. He placed the pizza on the table and scurried away before the people could complain at him personally. 'That pizza is now officially their problem. Any complains go to Sakura. And I'm not Sakura.'

The phone on the wall next to the calendar rang. Haruno Sakura picked it up with one hand, tapping manicured nails against the stucco wall.

"Is Naruto there?" Naruto heard the voice filter from the other line. Sakura's face brightened.

"Is this Sasuke? When you going to run away with me?" she asked brightly. Before Sasuke could answer, Naruto grabbed the phone away from Sakura for fear the stoic boy would hang up.

"Sasuke? You there still?" he asked. He heard Sasuke grunt. "Take that as a yes. What did that bastard guardian of yours have to say?"

"He said," Sasuke paused, "yes. When can you pick me up?" Naruto grinned.

"When the shift is over…now actually," he replied.

"Orochimaru will be leaving again in," Naruto heard the door slam in the background, "now is great. Talk to you later." Naruto heard Sasuke hang up. The blond boy leaned against the wall and sighed. His best friend of six years, Uchiha Sasuke was never one for sentiments. Or thank yous, for that matter. The dark haired boy was always so quiet, and mostly left alone. His brother…he didn't like his brother, to say the least. His brother had killed their parents. His brother had beaten Sasuke into the ground every day for five years. Even after the bastard left, Sasuke's brother had given him nightmares every single night from the time he was nine until now. For eight years, Sasuke hadn't gotten a decent night's sleep without waking up in pain, screaming as loudly as he could, until Orochimaru showed up and beat him back into silence.

Naruto knew this because he was used to calls in the middle of the night from a frantic Sasuke. He was used to talking to the nearly emotionless boy, telling him it would be okay. Naruto was so used to it, in fact, that he didn't even mind anymore when he had to rouse himself from sleep to answer the phone, to glare at his legal guardian when he was angry at Naruto for having someone call at four in the morning. Naruto just didn't mind.

The raven's current guardian wasn't much better. The beatings had yet to stop, despite who they came from changing. A tall, snake-like man, Orochimaru was almost as much of a bastard as Itachi, with his harsh, degrading words and disgusting outlook on discipline. 'You just don't starve a seventeen year old boy for a week and a half for slamming a door. Well…Orochimaru does. And the courts let him have Sasuke?' Naruto demanded, sizzling with anger. 'That,' he reminded himself, 'is why Sasuke and I are getting the hell out of here, even if it's just a month out of our lives.'

The blue clock above the refrigerator clicked to four. Naruto waved goodbye to Sakura and Ino, his partners in the art of crafting pizzas, and bolted out the door. He located the car, a rather beat-up beige VW bus that belonged to his friend Shikamaru, and launched it down the street. Actually, it was more like rolling, considering Naruto had to practically push it down the street. Not really, but that was the basic idea.

Five minuted later, the van turned around. "What did you forget?" Naruto asked. Sasuke shrugged.


"For what?" Naruto asked perplexedly.

"Orochimaru. Just telling him I'll be gone the weekend," Sasuke replied. "Not that he'd care, but still, I thought I should tell him. You know, that his punching bag would be gone for a couple days." Naruto didn't reply. It was the taboo subject: four in the morning was the only time you ever talked to Sasuke about his past or present home life. Ever. Naruto remained silent as his friend walked into the house.

"Hey Sasuke," he called. Sasuke turned. "If you're not back in five minutes, I'm going in after you." Sasuke shrugged and walked inside. He opened the front door carefully. 'Please let him not be home, please let him not be home,' the dark-haired boy whispered to himself. He really didn't want to be held up, especially not by Orochimaru, especially not now.

"Sasuke," came a low, growling voice. Sasuke turned slowly. Orochimaru was reclining comfortably in a chair in one corner. "Where have you been?" Sasuke glowered.

"With a friend. I thought I'd come back to leave you a note. I'm going to be leaving for the weekend. Go beat up on someone else for a couple days." Sasuke held out a slip of paper with neat, printed handwriting sprawling over the surface. Orochimaru stood, almost graceful, and took the slip of paper from his charges hands. His eyes flicked over it before he turned a stony gaze on Sasuke.

"You're not going anywhere." The words bit through the cold air of the house. It took the snake-like man a half second to pin Sasuke under him and hold the dark-haired boy still. "Never, ever, ever," he hissed, almost as an after thought. Sasuke struggled under Orochimaru's weight. Orochimaru, who was never one for resistance, smacked Sasuke with the nearest object, which just happened to be a glass paper weight. Before Sasuke could scream, Orochimaru had already made sure the boy's lips were occupied.

Before he could get another smack in though, Orochimaru fell forward. Sasuke took this opportunity to wriggle out from under his legal guardian. 'What the hell?' he stared at the unconscious man. 'What--' his thoughts were cut off when he realized what had led to the opportunity of his escape.

Naruto was standing there, holding what looked like a crowbar. "You alright?" the blond boy asked. Sasuke snorted and stood up, dusting himself off.

"Fine," he replied. He knelt beside his caretaker. "Did you kill him?"

"No," Naruto said. "Come on, let's forget about this entire situation and get going already. We're driving across the US and back in a month."

"I thought you said three days," Sasuke replied flatly. Naruto rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

"I lied?"

"I still can't believe I went along with this, loser," Sasuke groaned. Naruto pouted.

"It's going to be fun! Come on! Now, let's get some food. I'm starved." He stopped the truck and jumped out on the gravel. They were barely three hours out of Ventura, California and the blond could already feel his stomach rumbling. The others in the car, Shikamaru Nara, Kiba Inuzuka, and Temari and Gaara Sabaku all sighed in unison. They cast their glances to the mini mart, which was set neatly against a gold background of rolling hills and craggy mountains. Sasuke rolled his black eyes in annoyance.

"They don't have ramen here…" he said. "They have stuff like beer and jerky."

"Damn…beer and jerky is fine," Kiba said loudly. Naruto grinned and shoved the doors open and bounced out.

"What about ID?" Sasuke asked. "Loser, you never think ahead." Naruto shrugged. He never thought ahead. He did, however, have his father's ID. It was more for sentiment, but the instant he laid eyes on it with that intent, he saw a totally untapped gold mine.

"Ooh! It's like we're spies, with the fake identity…we'll sneak in, be all cool and show them the ID, and then--"

"Or I could just buy it," interrupted Temari.

"You're condoning underage drinking," Shikamaru said, giving Temari a look out of the corner of his eye.

"Do you really want to go with their idea?"

Fifteen minutes later, Sasuke, Kiba, Temari and Naruto had three cases of beer, a bottle of cognac, and some vodka. Shikamaru watched.

"You're not going to drink and drive, are you?" Sasuke asked Gaara, staring straight at Naruto. Naruto stopped abruptly. He kept his head down for a few more seconds before slowly turning his gaze on Sasuke.

It was the other taboo subject. Naruto's mother had been killed in a drunk driving accident. "Screw you," hissed Naruto, tossing the stash of alcohol into the backseat. Sasuke stared impassively forward, a few meters back. He sighed and waited for his friend to calm down a little. 'Great, now we're going to be stuck here another ten minutes.'

Naruto was sitting in the driver's seat when Sasuke walked up. "Ready to go now?" he asked stoically. Naruto responded by turning the ignition and kicking open the opposite door. Still not looking at his friend, the blond haired boy slammed down on the clutch.


"What did you do to my baby!?" Gaara asked, glaring at Naruto with such intensity, it frightened even Temari. "I mean, Shikamaru's baby," he quickly corrected. Naruto glared back.

"I didn't do jack to it, bastard! It just flipped out!" he glared. "We passed an auto repair shop a half mile back. How hard can it be to get this piece of junk back there! It's all downhill!" he shrugged and jumped out of the car. "Let's go!"

It's a lot harder than one may think. The six teenagers were hot, sweaty, and completely exhausted by the time they had pushed the VW van to the auto repair shop. Actually, five of them were, and one was muttering 'troublesome' under his breath.

"You know, you could help," Kiba said angrily. Shikamaru just shrugged and kept walking. At the threat of being kicked out of the van and made to walk beside it for the remainder of the road trip, the lazy teenager 'helped'. Granted, 'helping' mainly consisted of putting his hands on the bumper and leaning against it, staring at the beige back of the van. 'Troublesome,' he thought.

The mechanic was engaged in a staring contest with Sasuke.

"All we need you to do is look at it," the Uchiha growled. The mechanic shook his head.

"I don't go back on duty for another six minutes."

"Well we need it now. Look at it now," Sasuke argued back. His black eyes were bulging, and next to him, Gaara was looking at the mechanic very, very, vengefully. The mechanic shook his head and leaned back in his chair.

"I still have five and a half more-- hey!" he shouted as Gaara poured gasoline on him. He sputtered. "What the hell? That's--" he was cut off as Gaara moved to pick up the lighter that sat on the table next to hm. "Okay, fine, I'll look at your van. Kids these days…"

"You know, you didn't need to try and kill him," Kiba shot at Gaara. Gaara shrugged, ignoring his friend. Kiba glowered. 'You know, I've known him since first grade. You'd think I'd be used to it.' Having a homicidal maniac for a friend was still a little weird, even after a decade of it.

They had all been best friends since first grade, when they met at the elementary school in a predominately Japanese student district.. Well, except Sasuke. He had transferred into their school in third grade, and it wasn't until fifth grade that they actually took a liking to him. Mostly it was Naruto who liked him, and the rest followed, however begrudgingly. Gaara's sister, who was four grades above them, took a liking to Shikamaru and quickly joined their happy, albeit dysfunctional family.

"Alright!" the mechanic said. "I figured out what was wrong."

"What was the problem?" Shikamaru asked, leaning against the van lazily. The mechanic sighed.

"The clutch…look, sorry to break it to you guys, but you guys will need a part that I have to order."

"Do you have it?" Kiba asked anxiously. "Come on! We have deadlines to make!"

The mechanic started protest that he had to order it. Gaara stared emotionlessly at him, shutting him up with a quick, "Do I need to light you on fire?" The mechanic sighed, eyed Gaara, and stepped away, out of reach of any gasoline that might find its way onto him.

"Erm…actually, if you can get the van moving, go from first to second while it's in motion, then switch third to fourth, you don't really need the part…it'll go if you shift from third to fourth." Gaara seemed satisfied and walked away.

"Wait…how are we getting it in motion if we can't start it?"

"No way," Kiba said. "No. Fucking. Way. This is all your fault Naruto, we should have taken my car. At least my car goes. At least my car doesn't break in the middle of NOWHERE!"

"It's not the middle of nowhere," Naruto protested. "But we can see it from here!" he giggled to himself. "Lighten up you guys, have some fun!" Five dusty teenagers just scowled at the bubbly blond boy. Five dusty, angry, bitter teenagers. 'Pushing a car through Central California is not my idea of a 'fun' experience,' Sasuke muttered to himself. Naruto ignored the hateful looks he was receiving from his 'friends' and started pushing the car slowly, by himself, down the road.

"Shikamaru better help," Kiba whined. Shikamaru didn't even bother to scowl at the boy. He just leaned against a nearby tree and watched impassively, chewing on a small piece of jerky and fiddling with a leaf.

"Troublesome," he said, as stoic as usual. "I'll just help the first one in. After that…too much work." He opened one of the sliding doors and lounged in front of it. "Ready when you are." Naruto nodded, and the five not-so-lazy teenagers pushed. Well, technically four of them pushed.

"You're first Sasuke, since we know you can't push worth shit," Kiba laughed. The van was already in motion, and Sasuke was eyeing it with distaste. More like hate, actually. 'No way. I'd rather walk than jump into the hunk of metal while it's moving. Naruto, you loser…who else can get us into this situation? Who else, in the world, can get us into a situation, WHERE WE HAVE TO PUSH A VOLKSWAGEN ACROSS THE COUNTRY?!'

"You want me to run after that?" the raven asked flatly. He gave his comrades a 'are you possessed by demons' kind of look. Gaara and Naruto returned with a 'maybe, maybe not' look.

"It's either that, or you push."

Sasuke jumped.

The rest of them followed. Gaara first, then Kiba, then Naruto. Temari pushed it by herself a few more seconds while her brother found his spot behind the wheel. Naruto grabbed the edge of the door and offered a hand to Temari. She grasped it and hoisted herself into the van.

"We got it!" Naruto exclaimed happily as Temari fell inside with a resounding thunk. Kiba slammed the sliding door shut as he dug around in the back, looking for alcohol. Naruto bounced jovially on the balls of his feet. The group just glared at him. Just as they began to relax, Shikamaru's phone began to ring. He fished it out of his pocked and flicked it open, pressing it to his ear.

"Hello?" he asked unenthusiastically. The sound of voices came form the other end. Shikamaru listened for a couple of minutes, the sound of frantic apologizing, the sound of a crash, followed by more apologizing. Shikamaru's face turned progressively angrier, from pink to red to purple with rage. In act, by the time he was done, he looked a bit like Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies.

And then, Shikamaru went mad. No one in that van ever thought they would see the stoic, lazy boy go absolutely insane, but he did. Shikamaru Nara glowered at the phone, yelled at the phone, shrieked at the phone, and when he hung up, he chucked the phone against one metal side of the van. It fell to the floor with a clatter. Shikamaru was going to smash it into a million little pieces with a crowbar, but that phone was damn expensive. He settled with just glowering at it, shouting angry words at it, and then telling it that it was a worthless, troublesome object.

"Shit," he said when he finally recovered his senses enough to actually speak in coherent sentences. "We lost tonight's room to some 'happy couple' with more money than us." His eyes were narrow little slits. Gaara looked absolutely murderous, but underneath that anger was true, pure hopefulness. 'I hope they choke on their champagne,' he thought gleefully. 'I hope they choke a lot.'

Kiba was furious. "What the hell are we going to do now? WHAT THE HELL?! We have to pay for the van, we have to push the van, we have to sleep in the van…I have an idea, let's burn the van! We'll sell tickets to passerby so we have money to buy food, and then we will BURN IT! Maybe the damn van will survive, just to spite us!"

"You know, I think the van needs a name. If you're going to think homicidal thoughts like that, the object of those thoughts needs a name," Naruto stated firmly. Gaara looked up.

"It's got one," said Shikamaru. Everyone stared.

"What is it?" asked Naruto. Shikamaru smirked.


"What? Why?!"

Shikamaru looked around the bus. "Murphy, as in Murphy's law. Because all that can go wrong, will go wrong. We have our proof." He rolled over and went back to sleep on the seat. Sasuke nodded.

"Alright, Murphy it is. Now for suggestions as far as new plan for tomorrow, as far as driving goes. Tonight too, for that matter, if you factor in sleeping. Naruto, you don't count. Not a word out of you. Not even one. It's your fault."

"How is it--"

"That's three words. Shut up." Sasuke held his head in his hands. 'How do I get myself into these messes? A month? A month?' he groaned and rolled over. 'At least he's not Orochimaru.' "Okay, new plan: we sleep in the van tonight, we make sure our reservations don't fall through at our next stop, eat somewhere, and then move on. We'll reach San Francisco tomorrow afternoon and stay there a few days before moving on."


"I thought we established, Naruto, that you were to remain silent," Sasuke growled. Gaara, the only one of the group who hadn't consumed any alcohol, drove on, tuning the rest of the group out. Naruto kept fixing his eyes on the pad of paper with 'hangman' written on it until Temari and Kiba got the hint.

"I hate that game," Gaara said, almost cheerfully. "I'm so glad I'm driving." 'That's scary,' Kiba thought. 'He looks like a cat that swallowed a canary. A cat who swallowed a canary, a baby, a fish, a muskrat, and a dog.'

"Is it 'fox'?" Kiba asked. Naruto nodded. The only part of the hangman drawn was the head. Kiba groaned. "You do that every time. Why not branch out? Alright, my turn." Kiba drew out the lines and the hang tree.

"Is it 'dog'?"

"Damn you Temari. Damn you."

Gaara finally stopped the car around ten thirty. He pulled over and drove off the highway about a hundred meters, turned off the engine, and flicked on the light. Shikamaru, who had been napping, opened on eye lazily before shutting it again.

"Alright, who brought blankets?"

It is a little known fact that in Northern California it is very cold at night. It is also a little known fact that neither Kiba, Gaara, Naruto, or Sasuke can remember blankets. Temari remembered a blanket. Of course, the operative word is 'a'. A blanket.

"No way!" Kiba slurred as he glared at his friends. "I am never, ever, EVER going to share a blanket with all of you! No!" He fell over. Gaara sighed. Temari giggled. Lush is her middle name,' Gaara muttered wordlessly. 'And I'm related to her?' The seats in Murphy lined the walls, so there was plenty of space to sleep on the floor.

"Oh yeah, I can't wait to touch you guys. It's a dream come true." The sarcasm nearly choked the occupants of Murphy. Murphy made a little coughing noise out of his exhaust pipe and got decidedly colder, as if in response to Gaara's bitter, bitter tone.

"How big is the blanket?" Sasuke asked. Temari surveyed.

"Looks like a king sized," she replied. Gaara sighed in what could have been taken as relief.

"Good enough I guess. Okay, everyone is going to have to huddle together." Everyone just stared at Gaara. Kiba reached up and pinched the red-head's ankle.

"You sure you're really Gaara?" he slurred. "Because Gaara would never tell us to huddle up. Ever. It's like the bloody freaking apocalypse." Kiba rolled over, crawling towards the blanket, and burrowed under the covers. "Night all."

"Murphy hates you," growled Gaara.

"Whatever." Shikamaru and Temari attached themselves to each other and crawled in next to Kiba. Gaara sighed. He never really slept anyway, so it didn't matter where he slept. The only plus of never sleeping was not being woken up when Sasuke awoke. 'And he will wake up. Isn't that right Murphy?' The comment was more directed at Murphy's law than the truck, but Gaara soon realized that he had become attached to the hunk of junk. In fact, he even called it by name when he wasn't referring to the law. He patted the aluminum side lovingly and leaned against it, finding a spot in the front seat. 'I could keep driving…be in San Francisco by tomorrow.'

"Gaara!" Shikamaru's groggy voice spilled from the covers, startling Gaara out of his car-driving-San-Francisco related thoughts. Aforementioned red-head looked up.


"Stop molesting my car."

A/N: Do review.