NOTES: Hahah. Um. This story is no way meant to be serious. If you couldn't pick up on that by the second chapter... I'm sorry. :( You're beyond my help.
"And so, that is how it is." Gai finished his dramatic speech with a flaring sweep and crossing of his arms.
Tsunade blinked owl-eyed at him, standing across from her desk. Shizune immediately reached out and poured her a cup of warmed sake. Good girl, Tsunade thought improvingly. I knew I could count on you when the going got tough. "So," Tsunade began as she took a bracing sip of alcohol (although, in all honesty, she probably needed to be completely and utterly plastered to make any sense of what she had just been told), "let's see if I've got this correctly, but did two of my best younger shinobi go and get themselves abducted by aliens? Is that what you've been trying to explain all night long?"
Gai frowned unhappily. "Abducted is such a strong word, Hokage-sama. As I've said, my past dealings with them lead me to believe that Neji and Ino will remain unharmed during their absence, and shall be returned with very little damage. Physically," he added as an afterthought.
"Well, that narrows down possible injuries," Tsunade announced dryly. Neji's mental state was hardly questionable – at least, in comparison to the average shinobi, he was downright normal in many aspects – and neither was Ino's, but she didn't look forward to strong-arming them into a psychiatric ward. Nor was she was all that familiar with aliens, other than how they really weren't supposed to exist. And then, "Why have you never mentioned any such past dealings before?"
"It wasn't an issue concerning security or safety of the village and fellow ninjas. The aliens are quite polite and would only take Neji and Ino if they thought there was no other way."
"No other way for what?"
"I don't know. We'll just have to ask Ino and Neji when they return."
"And I suppose it wouldn't be a good idea to send a search and rescue mission."
"Not unless Konoha has recently developed techniques to transport us to the moon. As I haven't heard anything, I will assume we haven't."
Tsunade made a mental note to ask the Research Department. They'd been working (rather unsuccessfully) on time-travel, but she wouldn't put it past them to try meddling around with traveling to the moon. Although she didn't know why anyone would want to travel to the moon when everyone knew there was only just a rabbit up there. (Someone had recently postulated though that the moon was made of cheese. "Just think!" he had cried with great enthusiasm, "An entire planet made entirely of cheese! We could be rich!" Tsunade, quite frankly, wanted nothing to do with cheese that had been left out that long. It was unsanitary, it was.) "So, we wait."
Gai nodded his head and crossed his arms. "We will do that."
Zetsu poked his head up out of the ground and sighed in disgust. The weather just wasn't behaving the way it was supposed to be. First it was too hot and too sunny a couple weeks ago, and then some asshole went and parked a mucky swamp right where he liked to gather the hollow mushrooms when it was his turn to cook, and now there was a raging blizzard overhead.
In July. Which meant that the usual rains in Lightning country had probably turned to snow. Deidara would no doubt be building an army of snowmen to ambush and explode into slush all over the hideout, leaving poor Kisame and Itachi to literally mop up the mess.
Zetsu really hated it when Deidara did everything he could to spur on Kisame's obsessive-compulsive cleaning sprees and Itachi's general anal-retentive habits.
Sometimes, the Akatsuki member thought as he ducked back into the ground and slid away, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. (And because Zetsu wasn't in the best of moods when the weather wasn't behaving the way it was supposed to, he grabbed some heavy mushrooms with which to lace Deidara's meal. He was sure that Kisame and Itachi would be quite thankful for his consideration upon their receipt of blackmail material, as any good ninja ought to take advantage of. And while, technically, Akatsuki weren't good ninja in the whole moral sense, they were good in the whole skill sense.
I really ought to stop getting to philosophical with myself, the other side of Zetsu told himself.
Sometimes, Naruto thought resentfully, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. Even if bed happened to have been down by the riverside with his pants inside-out and wrapped around his shoulders like a cape. But still. Even then, it didn't pay to get out of bed.
"This is soooooo nice, shinobi!" Kura Nala declared with unholy glee. "You're so warm! And soooooo hard!"
Naruto gritted his teeth. He tried to ignore Kura Nala, but that was a little difficult as she wriggled around in his arms. "I thought I said you were being loud and obnoxious," he grumbled. And that was just rich, coming from the guy in orange with a reputation of having some of the healthiest set of lungs and vocal cords in Konoha.
Kuro settled with a huff. And then she started wiggling around again. "I must say," she announced brightly, "releasing this blizzard from that rubber balloon horse was the best idea you had this entire trip!"
Naruto wished he could go back into time and kick his own ass for that super-dumb move.
"I haven't shared a bed with a man in years!" She paused a moment. "Well, I guess you'll do."
He also considered kicking Kuro. And then reconsidered, because she was only a civilian – even if she was a spry acrobat – and probably as old as dirt. It would probably be better to bind and gag her.
Except she might actually find that kinky, and the thought of that made Naruto's mind come up with something absolutely ridiculous to save itself.
He imagined Sasuke with bunny ears, and then grinned from ear to ear. That wouldn't be such a bad prank to play on the bastard. And then Sasuke would no doubt chase Naruto for half a day, intent on revenge, and they could be almost to Konoha before he managed to wise up to Naruto's intentions! Oh, it was a brilliant scheme!!
"Do you have to cackle like an evil maniac?" Kuro asked with some uncertainty in her voice.
Naruto clamped his lips together, and vowed to resolutely wait out the blizzard. "By the way," he muttered, "what happens in this tent stays in this tent."
"Excellent!" Kuro cried.
Naruto blocked a sly, wandering hand that was gnarled with age. "Do you mind!" he snapped.
"Not at all, shinobi. Not at all. I firmly believe in walking on the wild side, and-"
Oh, that was it. Naruto had had enough. He reached around her shoulders to slap his hand firmly on the ground to summon a toad, and was promptly deafened by Kuro's resulting scream of horror.
Sasuke looked up from the small fire that Kabuto had built, and looked around. "Did you hear something?" he asked his companion.
Kabuto arched one inquiring silver eyebrow at him. "Besides the wind and the snow? No."
"Ah." Sasuke rested his chin against his stiffly folded hands and brooded as Kabuto hunched further in his cloak and tried to stay dry.
No assurance in the world couldn't prevent the shiver of apprehension race up and down Sasuke's spine. He had a bad feeling. A Naruto-is-creeping-up-on-you bad feeling, and those kinds of feelings were always the worst, because Naruto had an unhealthy obsession with creeping up on Sasuke. Usually in cahoots with some sort of half-baked, cockamamie scheme of dragging Sasuke unwillingly back to Konoha. Gads. Sasuke still couldn't get over the whole scheme two years back that involved chakra-propelled origami toads. Although that, in and of itself, wasn't such a bad idea. He made a mental note to send chakra-propelled origami cats after his brother the next time they crossed paths. It was definitely something that Itachi wouldn't expect.
Even better, if he made the origami snakes out of exploding tags…
"Odd how this blizzard came right upon us," Kabuto said, distracting Sasuke from plotting Vengeance Attempt #398.
Sasuke shrugged. "It's only unusual because it's the Fire Country." And July, but that was rather obvious. Kabuto was smart enough not to need the obvious pointed out to him – not like Juugo or even Suigetsu on occasion. Thank goodness they had left the rest of Hebi behind to suffer alone, and made sure that Hebi would stay behind. (Sasuke made a mental note never to ask Karin where she found those strangely-familiar padded handcuffs.)
"Hmm. Well, thankfully the blizzard won't make any difference to the hot springs we're going to."
Sasuke said nothing. He didn't need to. Brooding is best done in silence, after all.
Silence, thought Naruto, is for the birds. But at least he couldn't hear much with the ringing in his ears. Kuro's struggles to remove herself as far from poor Noodles the toad had resulted in collapsing the small tent on them and getting the three of them hopelessly tangled. Right now, Noodles was caught between Naruto and Kuro, the latter two knotted so tightly together from the blanket that Naruto suspected he was going to have to cut them loose.
"Wazza big idea, boss?" Noodles demanded resentfully.
Kuro shrieked again and kicked and struggled before giving up, breaking into weepy little sobs. Naruto almost felt sorry for her.
"Just trying something new," Naruto mumbled around a mouthful of tent that he hadn't quite been able to clear completely from his own mouth, unable to free his own hands to do anything useful.
"Next time, use Shaker or Baker."
"Chill, Granny," Noodles said.
Noodles stiffened in offense. "Warts! I shall have you know that I am secretly a prince in disguise! A mere kiss from me will remove the curse I am currently under!"
Kuro wasn't paying any attention. Naruto nudged Noodles with his knee. "You serious?" Naruto asked. There was a long, considering silence.
Naruto didn't know if he should believe his toad or not. But since he had no intention of kissing Noodles to see for himself what the truth was, he figured he might as well wait out the blizzard.
And Kuro's constant whining and whimpering.
Naruto rolled his eyes and wished he could be anywhere else. He doubted that any of his friends was as miserable as he was.
"What's this?" Ino asked, holding up the offending garment.
"To preserve what little modesty you may have. You certainly can't be seeing the King like that," the floating hairball replied before flitting away with a final announcement that it would feed them when they were considered suitable for company. Ino glared at Neji, who was holding one similar to her own. He merely looked at her, absolutely unwilling to risk her temper. It wasn't his fault that she was standing in front of him in nothing but mismatched underwear. (Neji was disgusted that she had absolutely no qualms with displaying her rather shapely assets in front of him. Had she no shame? No pride? Must she flaunt her hips and her – erk. Neji hastily pulled his garment over his head to prevent him from further study of her…knees.)
"I can't believe this!" Ino seethed as she pulled and tugged on the hem of the garment, which turned out to be a long, white T-shirt. "Was that blob insinuating that I have no modesty? Does it honestly think I enjoyed prancing around in nothing?" Then she turned an evil-looking glare on Neji. "Don't you dare say anything, Hyuga!"
Neji, who had a very healthy sense of self-preservation, had absolutely no intention of saying anything. Or thinking anything. It was all just a blank white-out in his mind, senses and intentions directed towards their hostile environment and strange abductors. Just hair and round angles. Right.
Hair… (long, shining like spun gold)
…round (and perky)…angles (just the right size)…
Neji inexplicably cursed his three-hundred and sixty-degree vision.
So, he decided to do something useful, especially when Ino began fussing with the hem of her T-shirt and declared, with a slightly panicked voice, "Oh god! I completely forgot about shaving my legs!" And here, she gave him such a withering look that he was astonished the metal paneling around him hadn't melted.
Neji tried to study the panel that the hairball had exited through. It slid open and shut so smoothly, so mechanically, and so swiftly that he didn't know what to think. Although he really couldn't say that it slid open and shut. It was more like… it dematerialized, seem to become transparent with a ripple of blue that allowed the hairball to pass through undeterred, and then returned to being solid. He didn't know if it was a talent or ability exclusive to the hairball, or if the panels were meant to dematerialize at the right moments to allow passage.
Earlier, exploring, kicking, poking, and finally smacking that wall open-palmed in frustration and with enough chakra to make his skin burn hadn't done anything but make the palm of his hand hurt.
"You idiot," Ino said with some exasperation. She then wordlessly snatched up his hand to inspect the damage, sarcastically tutted about his impatience with clearly not enough sympathy. She even had the audacity to press her lips against his burnt skin in some sort of mock-kiss that ought to make him feel better! "There, all better?"
Neji snatched his hand back and twisted to keep it out of her reach.
"You're welcome," Ino added snidely.
Neji gritted his teeth at that. What had he done to deserve to be stuck in half-naked captivity with Ino?! He would have been better off with just about anyone he could think of – including Naruto!
And as he looked at Ino with that thought (she was tugging again at the hem of her garment, perhaps bemoaning how unshapely it was, and even Neji had to admit that it was certainly quite unflattering on her, because it hardly did justice for her nicely-curved… knees…), again he felt the oddest sensation. It took a moment for Neji to finally realize what it was.
He closed his eyes and silently cursed.
Now, captured by creatures they had no information of and in enemy territory (no matter how his usually-reliable shinobi senses seemed to scream that they weren't in any real danger) was a very bad time for Hyuga Neji to realize he had hormones.