Leah: I BET YOU THOUGHT WE WEREN'T GONNA HAVE ANOTHER CHAPTER! WELL HERE IT IS IN ALL ITS SHINING GLORY! CAN YOU TELL IT'S 2:30 AM? WHEEEEEEE!
Claire: Umm I think they all actually noticed that we hadn't marked the story as "Complete" soooo maybe? Anyway, this is an Epilogue, not a chapter. So officially, I don't feel bad for making you wait…-gulp- four months for it. (Unofficially I feel terrible, as always). But there's a little surprise to look forward to at the end! So without further nonsense, we present…
Claire stared at the mirror. She was about to move, but then she decided to stare a little more, lest she disturb the seamstress who was working on the hem of her dress and end up a porcupine. "It's not working," she stated flatly. With a sigh she reached up and clawed the wilting plastic flower from her hair. Her mirror-staring had been a side-effect of its amazingly slow progress towards the ground, and she had finally decided to shorten the process by several years.
Leah sighed and walked over to her, combing her fingers through Claire's hair patiently. She tried to reaffix the little white blossom, but struggled with the knots that had formed. A knock on the door interrupted her failing efforts. "Hey, you guys are going to be late. There's a wedding, remember?" Eva said cheerily. Kisame, standing next to her in the doorway (not by choice, of course, but through their unfortunate joining of joints), smoothed out a few wrinkles in his suit new white suit and straightened his red tie awkwardly with one hand.
Claire turned around to look at him. "You're wearing a white suit?" she queried skeptically.
"And a red tie?"
"Yep. It's the dress code. I have to wear this if I'm going to stand next to Eva. Oh, I'm also wearing the red socks you guys got me for Chris—"
The shark man blinked at her sudden flustered appearance. "What?"
"You're blue! And you're wearing a red tie, and a white suit. You look like the freaking Fourth of July. Aughh." She slammed her head down onto the table, her red hair pooling over the shoulders of the wedding dress. The seamstress at her feet frowned, pulling out a few stitches of the elaborate lace décor she had been fixing. If Claire hadn't been sulking, she might have noticed how nice she looked in her silvery, beaded dress.
Eva looked at Kisame carefully and giggled. "It's true, you know. Oh!" she exclaimed, turning to Claire. "I saw Hidan. He looks really nice. And he's wearing a shirt, just so you know."
"I don't care. Why should I care?"
"It's a wedding, silly. People are supposed to look pretty."
Claire huffed and gestured to the frizzy clump she had left after pulling out the hair ornament.
"Eva, go get Jenny or Nicole. Or both. We're having hair problems," Leah said.
Kisame blinked as Eva nodded and led him from the room. "Hey, can you explain the Fourth of July reference…?"
"I can't believe this is happening," Claire muttered, staring at the mirror once again as Leah resumed her futile task. "I feel like…like…" Words seem to fail her.
"Like you're getting married?" Leah supplied helpfully.
"Yeah," Claire admitted. She sighed again. "I guess it was just inevitable. After all, I'm the only one that can do this."
"I think it's great. You're really helping out," said Leah with a small shrug.
"I feel really awkward wearing this dress. I just keep thinking 'The person wearing this dress is getting married. Today. To him.'"
"Just get over yourself, Claire. It'll be fine."
"O-M-G, we heard there was an emergency!" squealed a voice at a significantly unpleasant pitch.
Claire did not bother to hide her disdain for Nicole as she scowled into the mirror. "Uhh, not really. I just can't get the stupid flower to stay in my hair."
"Oh wow, she looks so pretty! Doesn't she look pretty, Nicole?" Jenny shrieked. Even the seamstress was cringing from the pitch of her voice. Claire heard her curse when she accidentally stuck herself with the needle.
"Can you stand up please?" she murmured politely.
Claire obliged and closed her eyes, imagining she could pair who, combined, probably had the intelligence of an eraser. "Will you just fix my stupid hair?"
"Don't you think you should worry about that after you change?"
This time Claire smiled with relief at who she saw in the mirror. "Rachel. Thank god, I can change."
"Thank you for doing this. I knew Linda would get here before me, and you're the only one who's my size," the bride nodded to the seamstress knowingly.
"Sure," Claire said.
Linda stood up, tucking the needle into a pin cushion on her wrist. "I'm all done. You can go get changed now."
Claire nodded gratefully and picked up her silky red bridesmaid dress on the way to the bathroom, careful not to trip.
Rachel took her place when she returned, and Nicole quickly sought to remedy the situation for which she had been called. She expertly pinned the faux bloom onto Claire's hair in a matter of seconds, giving a Claire a small hug when she was done. "There!" she said cheerfully.
"Thanks," the other girl managed to force out through gritted teeth, frozen in place from the unwanted contact.
"Don't worry, you're standing next to Leah, remember?" Rachel whispered, giving Claire an encouraging smile. "Shall we go, ladies?" she said aloud. "And Kisame," she added, gesturing awkwardly to the patriotic ninja.
Jenny and Nicole looked towards each other and squealed. "Rachel's getting MARRIED!"
"Wow…Look at all those people!" muttered Samantha, sneaking a look through the door to the people wedged into the pews of the church like sardines. Charli glanced at her cousin, who appeared to be related to her only from the neck up; even then, her blonde curls, lovingly hair-sprayed to perfection by Charli, Leah, and Jason's stepmother contrasted Charli's plain, straight locks. Their attire was different too. Although both girls' outfits were made of the same silk as the bridesmaids' dresses, Charli had insisted on wearing pants after all. She had, however, consented to the embellishment of the sleeves, so they were wavy and delicate like the ones on Samantha's otherwise poofy dress.
"Yeah," Charli muttered disinterestedly. "It's a big wedding." Behind them on either side of the hall stood the long line of bridesmaids and on the other side a congruent number of groomsmen. Charli pulled her new phone out of her pocket and checked the time. Immediately after she put it away, the organ started playing "Here Comes the Bride". Charli picked up her basket of rose petals, and Samantha hurried to do the same. The door was opened for them, and just as they prepared to take their first steps down the aisle, Charli whispered to Sam, "Remember, just…do what I do."
There was a chorus of "Aww"s from the crowd on both sides. Charli clenched her jaw into a devious smile and tossed flowers petals into their laps. Sam followed suit predictably.
When they reached the third row from the front, Charli heard a particularly loud "D'awww, what adorable little cherubs they are," from the stands. Unconcerned about appearances, Charli scowled and attempted to smash a particularly large handful into Pein's orange hair (which he dodged, of course, but sent her a glare anyway). Samantha did the same to an elderly gentleman reminiscent of a turtle on her side, but he didn't dodge. Both of the girls giggled.
She and Sam took their spots on the opposite sides of the podium and were able to watch as the bridesmaids and groomsmen approached. As Kisame had said, all the men were clad in white suits with red ties, and the girls in simple but brilliantly colored red dresses. The couples split once they reached the stairs, taking their pre-arranged places. A girl Charli didn't recognize was Rachel's maid of honor, and Keoni, Jason's best friend since elementary school, was of course the best man.
Jason ruffled Charli's hair, apparently unsure what else to do with his energy now that Rachel was approaching, led by the revered, yet oblivious Roger. His grin was wider than hers as she kissed his cheek and took Jason's hands at the altar.
"They look really nice together," Konan whispered nonspecifically to her fellow Akatsuki members, who were all seated in the row beside her. "Kisame looks kind of uncomfortable standing with all the girls though."
"Why is he standing over there?" Tobi peeped from the edge of the row. By this time, the extraneous chatter had subsided, as the priest had begun reading
"Dumbass, he's handcuffed to the dumbass, un." Deidara remarked impatiently.
"Um…no he isn't…"
Kakuzu, irritated by the unnecessary chatter of his comrades, and with the intent to shut them up, pointed vigorously at the couple's wrists. "Just look, of course they ar—…Oh my god…What the—?"
As if to confirm the absurdity of that which Kakuzu had just observed, Kisame scratched his nose with his right hand. Neither he, nor Eva seemed to notice this for what it was. They were both respectfully watching the wedding.
"H-hey! Kisame! Kisameeeeeee," hissed Deidara, drawing disapproving glances from Jason's family members. "Mind your own business, ya old bat," he said to one of them, who 'Hrmpf'ed and turned around superciliously. "Kisame!"
"Deidara," said Itachi icily, "Be quiet."
"But I'm trying to tell him—"
"It can wait."
"Come on, he looks like a friggin' queer up there surrounded by all those hens—Do you think he hasn't realized it?"
"Deidara, shut the fuck up, seriously."
"No, you shut the fuck up, un. I'm serious. Did he not realize the handcuffs are still on?"
"Hey, come on, was that out of line, Leader?"
"All of you—"
"SHUT THE MOTHERFUCK UP, DAMMIT, I'M TRYING TA GET MARRIED," Jason roared, rounding on them.
This did in fact achieve the desired effect. Jason straightened his tux and turned back to the priest. "Carry on, Doug."
The man cleared his throat uncomfortably while Rachel suppressed giggles. "Um, thank you."
The after-party was to be held on a boat.
A yacht, specifically.
It was a lovely yacht, white and shiny, like new. The flowery lights it had been adorned with for the occasion sparkled brightly against the pastel sky, which was beginning to turn to hues of pinks, purples, and oranges. The palm trees set on it swayed gently with the characteristic sea breeze. The wedding-goers chattered happily and giggled like college students as they dashed across the dock, taking off their shoes to dip their feet into the cotton sand for a moment.
If only because they were so used to it from their many months together, the three girls and the Akatsuki members (also Charli and the ever-present Sam) walked together in a large, colorful mob. Most of the Akatsuki members were clad in classic black suits, perhaps with varying colors of ties and shirts. As for Tobi, Kakuzu, Kisame, and Zetsu, the girls had tiredly attributed their strange appearances to them being entertainment of various sorts.
"I can't believe we're un-handcuffed," Kisame said, awed. "Did you notice?"
"No," Eva replied meekly. She had been massaging her left wrist since they had left the church thirty minutes ago.
"How did we not notice? How much time do you think we've wasted following each other around?"
"I don't know. Uggh. I can't believe I had ykou follow me around SCHOOL. How embarrassing…"
"It probably would have been fine if you hadn't told everyone something different. Body guard? TV show host? Secret agent?"
"We should celebrate your freedom. Claire, marry me."
"How about no?"
"But there's a priest here already! And we're all dressed up—did you notice I'm wearing a shirt?"
"You're still a man-whore."
"I'M ON A BOAT!" interrupted Jason from the sun deck of the yacht.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my brother," Leah gestured dramatically at the crazy blonde doctor, who, despite being sober, had already torn of his tie and wrapped it around his head.
"See Claire, he's happily mar—"
"—Shut up, Hidan! Hey, what the—PUT ME DOWN YOU FUCKING BASTARD."
Irritated by and unyielding to Claire's objections, Hidan had decided to pick up the protesting girl and carry her onto the ship.
"Where are you going?" Tobi yelled to Hidan over Claire's elevated objections.
"I'm gonna find the priest!" he retorted.
People began filling the main room of the boat, a large, pleasantly decorated room, complete with a chandelier and several pillar-and-flower basket combinations lining the sides. There was a kind of stage at one end of the room, which Rachel stepped up on, staring down at the curious guests like a judgmental god. She ignored her newly acquired husband as he stampeded through the room, shouting the lyrics to "I'm on a Boat", and waited for all of her guests to turn their attention to her. Once they had, she cleared her throat and put on a big smile. "All right, ladies! I think you know what time it is!" She held her arm in the air, fist obscured by a bundle of flowers, and gave it a suggestive shake.
The female portion of the audience squealed while the males groaned and cleared off to the sides and back of the room. The majority of the Akatsuki members took the hint and removed themselves as well, with one exception. It wasn't Konan; Konan didn't want to be involved in whatever ritual involved lots of squeaking and jumping and other such debauchery. No, the exception happened to be Tobi, who was apparently too thick to notice that the population surrounding him was clad in all dresses. He had also apparently gone deaf at the moment Rachel had referred to her audience as "ladies".
"Okay, here it goes! Put your hands up!" Arms, gloved, bare, and bejeweled shot into the air as Rachel turned, still holding the curious bouquet above her head. Tobi, confused, added his to the fray, maintaining his obliviousness to the stares and glares he was receiving from his opponents. More shrieks rang out as she counted off, three, two, one—! And the bunch of lilies was soaring through the vastly available space in the high-ceilinged room.
Silky black fingers closed around the congregation of stems, stopping their frantic spinning. The victor held up his prize, grinning beneath his swirly orange mask. "What did Tobi win?" he asked amidst whining and complaints about his gender. Rachel shrugged off the grievances made directly to her, saying "He looks so happy…Well…You know, his body language?" but did not answer his question.
The one who did came in the shape of a small girl, clad in a frilly red dress, who rose up only to Tobi's mid thigh. She tugged on his sleeve. "Mister, you're supposed to ask someone to marry you!" she said. The masked man surveyed the crowd of rapidly dispersing and greatly displeased women and saw none that struck his fancy. What did strike him was an idea.
He spun around and bent his legs, now at face level with the little girl, his hands draped over his knees, bouquet still clutched in his right hand. "What's your name, little girl?" he asked. The phrasing made those supervising the situation (namely, the other Akatsuki members and Eva, Leah, and Claire) cringe and bring their palms to their faces.
The girl, nonetheless, giggled. "My name's Sam," she replied.
"Well Sam, do you want to marry me? I'm Tobi, by the way," he added as a bit of an afterthought.
"Okay!" she agreed. She took the flowers from him and put her other hand in his, and they skipped off to find the priest.
"What just happened?" Leah asked. She had a bit of a vacant smile on her face that made her look slightly horrified.
"Your cousin just got pedophiled by Tobi," Claire responded shortly.
"That's what I thought. Okay."
Keoni, much like Jason and always one to make a scene, boldly stood up on his chair and tapped his glass loudly, accidently chipping it, to quiet the guests and gain their attention.
Everyone went silent and stared at the Hawaiian man. Someone yelled at him to take off his shirt and the comment was applauded by some of the ladies but Keoni ignored it completely for he had a task to accomplish.
He cleared his throat. "Okay people, I'm going to make a best man speech because I'm the best man so I'm obligated to," a few people laughed and he smiled awkwardly since he wasn't trying to be funny. "So, I didn't write anything down because I knew that at some point I'd have to make it up as I went. I've known Jason since I was in elementary school and in some ways he's still very much like the fifth grader that I've grown to respect, love, and trust. He's always been the class clown but he's one of the most intelligent men I know," he smiled and looked at his feet, "when he isn't being a lazy little shit," he muttered and suddenly turned his attention back to the audience as if he hadn't paused. "But then, in middle school, Jason got a little competition when the ever so lovely MacElliot family moved to California and the Rachel you see before you today gave little thirteen year old Jason a run for his money. Personally, I believe it was love at first sight by the way they bickered and argued two old coots—"
Simultaneously, several heads turned towards the direction of Hidan and Claire.
"And this arguing continued until the day they graduated high school. Personally, I think Rachel won most of the battles, pushing him into a pool after Homecoming, having a man in a gorilla suit kidnap him during English, and other pranks that I cannot say in certain company. I knew it was meant to be when fate brought them back together when, despite the separation we all face when we take those final steps off of the high school campus into the real world, they unexpectedly found each other again just four years ago. And now," Keoni paused, wiping his eye dramatically, "they're getting married. Like we all knew they would…" he raised his glass. "So here's a toast that they will continue to be friends, to be in love, to keep each other entertained, and, most of all, be happy for the rest of their hopefully long lives. Here's to Jason and Rachel!"
The guests all clapped respectfully as Keoni sat down. To his right, Rachel took advantage of the audience's already alert attention and stood up to take her turn. "Now, there's a reason we haven't served the food yet." There was a collective murmur among the guests due to her apprehensive expression. "As a compromise—because marriage is all about compromises—to me picking the yacht and organizing the wedding, Jason requested that he get to pick the food that was served. You all know Jason…he picked…" she hesitated before saying the name, "Fuddruckers."
The murmur was replaced with an awkward silence, a few coughs, and some not-so-carefully disguised groans. Jason stood up, tie still wrapped around his head, and yelled, "FUDDRUCKERS!" Keoni, with an apologetic look to Rachel, along with all his other groomsmen stood up and shouted the same. Rachel giggled and sat down as the boys paraded around the waiters chanting the name of the toxic restaurant.
"Hey," whispered Eva to Kisame. Despite their realization that they were no longer handcuffed together, they seemed to periodically forget and follow each other anyway, and were thus sitting together. "You'd probably know this better than I would…but…isn't that Suigetsu?"
Kisame stared at the male to whom she was pointing. He had blue-ish white hair, and when he smiled—yes—pointy, shark-like teeth. Before anyone around even know what was going on, Kisame had gotten up and taken his food with him.
Aw, though Eva, He's going to go sit with his cousin. How sweet. But unless Eva's definition of "sweet" was the thrusting of a plate of potato salad into the face, this sentiment was incorrect. "That's for what you did at Grammy's wake, you little twit," Kisame told him calmly. The girl to whom Suigetsu had been speaking shied away from him, who was dripping bits of pale mush onto his napkin.
Kisame returned to his seat as if nothing had happened, politely asking the stunned woman to his left if she would pass him another plate. Eva couldn't decide between staring at him incredulously and watching Suigetsu, whose presence still baffled her, leave. "Thou shall not ask. Eth," he stated simply.
Eva gulped and glanced around the room at the others who shared her baffled feelings. "Okay," she conceded meekly.
Leah's stepmom sat next to Itachi at the table and saved the seat next to her for Leah's dad with her purse. She turned to Itachi and smiled, "Hey! You're one of Leah's friend's, right?" she extended her hand cordially, "I'm Julie, Leah's stepmom."
Itachi shook hands with her. "Itachi," he inclined his head respectfully.
"So you're Itachi! It's so nice to meet you. Leah's said nothing but good things about you," Julie took a sip of her wine but kept her focus on the Uchiha.
"She's spoken of me?" He could not think of what Leah could say about him. He hardly talked to her.
Julie waved her hand dismissively. "Nothing bad, hon," she laughed lightly, "You really are gorgeous…I thought Leah was exaggerating when she said you're one of the most handsome people she'd met. Not to sound like a cougar or anything," she laughed again.
Itachi, who was in rather good spirits this night, offered a rare smile at her compliment. "Oh…" He did not know how to respond to compliments otherwise. Social skills were not his strong point.
"She says you're wicked smart too. What subjects do you like?"
Itachi quickly thought of a few non-ninja subjects he was good at. "Math and physics," he felt awkward being the only one answering questions and decided to ask one, "Leah says you're a fitness instructor…" Not really a question, but a topic he was slightly curious about. He wanted to get an idea of what physical training was like in this dimension.
"I am," she sipped her wine again, "been one for nearly five years. Maybe if you come to visit us when the girls move I'll let you join in a class for free," she playfully touched his arm, "though I don't think you really need it," she laughed again. "From what I can tell, you and all your friends are in great shape. You must work out a lot; maybe you could give me a few pointers."
"Julie," Leah's dad took his seat next to his wife, "Why are you hitting on the poor boy? He's half your age," he was not jealous or angry with her, just amused.
"What? Hitting on? Pshh, we were just talking," she dismissed the comment.
Itachi suddenly felt more awkward, an emotion he was most unfamiliar with. "Excuse me," he said, getting up. He planned to use the bathroom as a pretense to hide until he could think of a better way to escape the situation. On his slightly hurried way out of the room, he bumped into the small child that had been "pedophiled" by Tobi earlier. He vaguely remembered she was Leah's cousin, meaning Julie had to be her mother.
She looked up at him, her eyes round with apology. He blinked, still feeling awkward, and especially not wanting to cause a scene by making her cry. "There's a spot over there by your mother," he told her pointedly.
Sam immediately brightened, a huge smile splitting her face. "Okay, thanks mister!" She hurried off to take the seat.
Crisis avoided, Itachi thought with relief.
Rachel and Jason got up from their seats when most of their guests appeared to be through with dinner. There was a slight squeaking sound as a large black podium was wheeled into the room. A few moments later, it was plugged in and was playing a soft dance song. Jason offered Rachel his hand, which she took. He pulled her close to him and they started swaying back and forth to the music. There were "awws" of all sorts from the audience as she put her head on his shoulder. Everyone was respectful enough not to intrude on the moment, and kept their seats as the married couple danced.
The DJ scratched the records together and a ripping sound filled the room. Then, at full volume—
"'CAUSE EVERYTIME WE TOUCH, I GET THIS FEELING, AND EVERYTIME WE KISS, I SWEAR I COULD FLY!"
Keoni jumped from the crowd onto the dance floor, pumping his fists viciously into the air and bumping his hips from side to side as he moved towards Jason. Jason shrugged apologetically to Rachel and stepped up to Keoni, flailing in an equally wild manner, a mirror of his movements. The bride waved her hand in the air dismissively and retreated to the sidelines, crossing her arms, an amused look on her face.
An elderly woman leaned into Rachel's zone of hearing and said over the music, "Aren't you bothered, dear? Your husband is leaving you on your wedding night for another man!"
Rachel smirked at her. "No, I don't care, it's hot. Look, Jason got Keoni to take off his shirt."
It was indeed true. Keoni's tanned and muscular chest had been freed from the confines of his white shirt, and he was now waving it around in the air. Jason, with a triumphant yell, ripped off his shirt as well, possibly losing a few of the buttons in the process.
The chorus came up again and the two of them started singing the lyrics loudly and off key, running their hands over each others' naked torsos randomly and suggestively.
The girls, from their ideal vantage point at the front of the crowd, laughed and shook their heads with varying intensities, surrounded by slightly disturbed Akatsuki members. "You have a strange family," Kakuzu said to Leah.
"I know," Leah giggled.
"It's really loud upstairs," Leah remarked nervously, staring at the ceiling as she, Eva, and Claire were taking a break from the commotion of the dance, which had admittedly died down since the fiasco with Keoni and Jason, but was still frantic enough to merit departure.
"Dunno," Eva answered. "Want to go check it out?"
"Sure. Don't have anything better to do. Except be harassed by Hidan. I can't believe he thought the priest would agree to marry us when I was yelling about kicking him in the nuts," Claire said nonchalantly as they climbed the stairs.
They followed the sound of the commotion to the lounge on the upper deck just in time to hear the captain announce, "Aaaaaaallright, mateys! It's LIMBO TIMEEEEEEE. Please make your way to the second floor to participate. The winner will receive a special prize!"
The three girls giggled at the ridiculousness of the idea and hurried into the room where the heavy bass of the DJ's music was causing the ship to thump and rumble the hardest. An incredibly corny disco ball hung from the ceiling, and multi-colored strobe lights accompanied it from various corners of the room, occasionally falling on the long line of people who were parading one by one under a long bamboo pole.
"Explain the game again, un." They heard Deidara's distinctive dialect from somewhere to their right, and noticed the blonde artist along with a few of his fellow criminals had gathered around Tobi.
"As far as I can tell, you just walk under the pole."
"Why is that 'fun'?" Zetsu's white half inquired innocently.
"Because the pole gets lower and lower and it's a contest!" The masked man peeped happily, trotting off to join the line.
"You guys are doing the limbo?" Claire asked them incredulously.
"Apparently," replied Kakuzu, though he seemed most irked.
"Someone told him the prize was money," Zetsu's black half whispered to them.
"What about you, Zetsu?" Eva asked conversationally.
"I'm not participating." He clarified by moving a few inches to the right of the line.
"But even Itachi and Hidan came up here to limbo! Right guys?" Eva asked the two as they approached.
Hidan looked around, settling on Eva after a small delay, aware in the back of his mind that his name had been mentioned. "What? Where's the bitch?"
Leah and Eva turned to face the spot Claire had been occupying until the Jashinist had arrived. "She's hiding behind the Acanthophoenix rubra," Zetsu offered, gesturing towards a small potted palm.
"Why, Zetsu, why? What did I ever do to you?" the girl whined, emerging from behind the plant.
"You were crushing its leaves quite cruelly."
Claire hung her head as Hidan smiled triumphantly. "Can't I just glue a piece of paper to your face that says 'no' so I can save my breath?"
"If you marry me."
"That would defeat the purpose."
"I know." His magenta eyes darted around the room, as if he had only now become aware of his surroundings. They took in the strange line of people, along with the mysterious bar they were crowding around, the flashing lights reflecting off his contemplative face. "What's going on?"
"Limbo," Itachi supplied.
"He knows everything," Hidan complained, throwing his hands up in exasperation.
"It was on the loudspeaker, dumbass. How could you not have heard, the way that dork said 'speshul puhrize'," Claire emphasized the last fraction of her sentence with ridiculous hand motions and accompanying expressions. She crossed her arms and looked away from him, pleading with her eyes for Eva and Leah to come up with an excuse for them to leave. Unfortunately, the two seemed to be relishing in her displeasure. They watched the display eagerly and without oppositional interference.
"Hey," Hidan said, twitching towards the announcer's voice, "I got an idea."
"Spare me," Claire muttered.
"If I win this dumb contest, you gotta marry me."
Eva and Leah giggled. Zetsu glanced at Itachi, who blinked in his usual emotionless way.
"Come on, what are the chances I'd win? Deidara's a shrimp, he's way more likely to win than I am. And that dude over there, damn, he's like three feet tall, seriously."
"Dude," Leah said, uncharacteristically energetic, "Do it. At least to watch him fail."
"Shut up, Leah," she snapped.
"He's not going to win!" agreed Eva.
Claire looked at her suitor, who had a stupidly eager grin on his face. He nodded in the direction of her friends, as if they were the most reliable and trustworthy sources around. To be fair, they should have been, but under the circumstances, they were being unusually sadistic. Or fangirlish. It was hard to tell.
"Fine," she consented. Before the three of them could cheer though, she held up a hand. "On one condition!" They looked at her expectantly. She pushed past Eva and a few other people and took hold of her target's arm, warily, as if he may explode. "Itachi has to play too."
The befuddled Uchiha was glaring at Claire in an unusual show of emotion for several seconds before Hidan had proclaimed it a "done deal" and whisked him off to the front of the line, along with Zetsu, inexplicably.
Tobi and Deidara, who had "crossed to the other side", so to speak, spotted the three other Akatsuki members after overhearing the protests from the crowd regarding "cutting". Tobi immediately began cheering for his teammates, and Deidara, giving in to the apparently infectious jubilance of the party, joined him.
The onlookers, curious in regards to the duo's frantic cheers, assumed a sort of mob mentality and began cheering as well. Hidan had pushed Itachi in front of himself, and was dangerously egging the Uchiha on. An incredibly menacing aura of silence was accumulating around the Uchiha, something Hidan either didn't notice or chose to ignore. Zetsu attempted to back away from the line, but was blocked in by the crowd, which was achieving a higher and higher state of entropy in anticipation.
Finally, he stepped under the pole, ducking only about an inch to accommodate his height. Claire gulped, but retained her scowl. She added to it a new intensity of hatred, which she directed towards Itachi. If she ended up married to Hidan, she decided it would be his fault.
Hidan, on the other hand, was grinning as sinisterly as ever. He motioned for Zetsu to follow under the bar. This suggestion was met with a stare. This stare went unnoticed by the other inhabitants of the room, who were even more excited by this new contestant, due to his strange anterior appendages. "Come on Zetsu, it's just a silly stick. Not even a plant, it's plastic, see?" Hidan flicked the limbo bar, practically knocking it off its setting. However, his point was proven; the bamboo-like exterior was false, compared to the plastic ting that had echoed off Hidan's fingernails.
Now that they knew his name, the crowd had something to chant. Hearing his name repeated en-masse seemed to degrade Zetsu's firm resolve. He sighed and leaned slightly to clear the bar, a simple feat that was met by disproportionately huge cheers.
Having bullied his two victims into performing their intended deeds, it was now the initiator's turn. He winked at Claire, eliciting childish "oohs" from the congregation and a furious blush of anger from the girl. Then he bent unnecessarily low and cleared the rod by at least four feet. He stood in a dramatic flourish and smoothed his silvery hair back, ignoring the compliments he received from bystanders.
Claire kicked the nearest wall.
A clinking of heels on the wooden floor of the deck warned him of her approach. She leaned against the railing with a sigh. For a few minutes, they just stood in silence, watching the black waves crash against the anchored boat's side, and she scratched nervously at her nail polish, chipping off large bits easily and scraping off the little ones with determined vigor. "So…are you mad?" she asked tentatively, once all the polish on her left hand was gone. She didn't dare to look at him, but she could sense how tense he was.
"Seriously?" he said after what seemed like forever.
"Well, yeah," she mumbled.
"Yeah, I'm fucking mad. You threw a freaking ostrich burger at me. A really soggy ostrich burger. What the hell did you do to that thing?"
"It's Fuddruckers," Claire answered, wrinkling her nose with disdain. "I didn't do anything. They probably cooked it in the grease fryers." She paused. "I'm the one who had to touch it anyway. You should feel bad for me."
He chuckled a little at this. "What a wimp. You think that's gross? Try being elbow deep in some poor bastard's guts."
"Did that happen to you in Rome or something?"
"What the fuck? No. The asshole swallowed a coin and Kakuzu was whining like a bitch about it, so I ripped it out of him."
They watched the water a little more in silence. Claire relaxed some and let her mind wander off, the gentle rocking of the yacht slowly lulling her mind to sleep.
"Look," he said suddenly, shocking her out of her numbed state. She snapped her head towards him, surprised to see he looked rather flustered. "I know it's not your problem and shit, but I really need you to…you know…marry me and stuff," he finished lamely.
Claire frowned deeply, suddenly angry. "I can't stand it when people let their dumb religions dictate their lives."
"Don't insult my religion, bitch," he growled.
She rounded on him. "Well explain it to me then! Why is it so important that we get married?"
They stared at each other for a long while, intense irritation mirrored in their eyes and on their faces. "Fuck that," he muttered, turning back towards the water.
Claire scoffed. "Just tell me, you coward. I'm not saying it's going to make a difference or anything, but you might as well tell me why I'm being harassed."
He continued to scowl at the ocean as if he hadn't heard her. She thought she might be imagining his face turning redder and redder until he shocked her by swearing and kicking the railing. "Fucking dammit, FINE. Don't laugh though, seriously."
"I'll laugh if I want to laugh."
He growled again, adding his usual insult of "bitch" as if he no longer had to think about it. His face was still really red and Claire figured his hands must be hurting at least a little if he was gripping the bar that hard. She waited a few moments before clearing her throat, thinking he might have forgotten he had agreed to tell her. "Okay…you know…Jashinism is like…really serious about things."
"Uh huh…" she assented dully. That was kind of obvious.
"Your sarcasm isn't helping, so just shut up," he said. "Look, the thing is…auhh…" He shut his eyes and pushed his fingers forcefully against his temple. "K-kissing is viewed as a very personal thing."
Claire had been expecting him to say more than that, but his apparent silence dictated otherwise. He seemed to be waiting for her to react in shock or anger or something dramatic, because he was still tense. "Yeah?" she said, forgetting what he had said about sarcasm.
"That's it, okay! It's the idea that you kiss someone and…that's it! You marry them to preserve their purity! Because it's an intimate, deliberate thing!" he rambled.
"But you said it wasn't deliberate."
"It still counts."
Hidan shook his head with exasperated, pained disbelief. "Forget it. It wouldn't make a difference if I told you."
Normally Claire would have pursued the topic until he'd told her every detail regarding the situation, if only so she could argue him out of his conviction to marry her. But the unusual fact that he had been this open with her already held her back. That, combined with his very strange demeanor. If what he said was true, she could only suppose he'd never been in a relationship or kissed anyone before or anything. She vaguely wondered with a slight wince what that meant to him, being a man and all.
She shook her head as if to say never mind to something he hadn't asked and turned around. "I'm going inside. I'm freaking freezing and these shoes are uncomfortable," she informed him distantly.
She was half-way to the door when she felt a heavy warmth descend upon her shoulders. She jumped and wheeled around again, almost falling, but was caught by Hidan. He was missing his jacket, she realized, because he had given it to her. "Even if you go inside, you're still going to be cold," he explained, not looking at her. "The venting system fucking sucks, seriously."
Claire nodded, blushing a little herself and hoping he couldn't see it in the dark. She pulled the fabric closer around her, relishing in the soft silky lining as she went back inside.
The sound of her clacking heels was replaced with the measured thunk of men's dress shoes. Hidan tore his eyes away from the spot Claire had disappeared from to see Keoni, Jason's strange best man. The Hawaiian man had put his shirt back on, and his red tie was, as Jason's had been earlier, secured around his cranium. He was staring where Hidan had been moments before, a puzzled look on his face. "That's…Jason's sister's friend…right?" he questioned, turning to face Hidan with a serious expression. "She's a bitch, dude."
"I know," Hidan responded, his tone uncomfortably longing. That hadn't been intentional.
Nonetheless, it gave him away. "You like her, don't you!"
"Nothing like that," the Jashinist corrected quickly. "I just need her to marry me."
"How long have you been going out?"
"What? No, I said—"
Keoni held up his hands. "Wait, you want this girl to marry you and you haven't even asked her out?"
Hidan blinked. "Is that bad?" Immediately after he'd uttered the words, he realized why he had been failing all along.
Keoni felt it necessary to narrate his revelation. "Look man, I don't mean to patronize you or anything, but this is Dating 101. Before you marry someone, you ask them out. Girls like being asked out. Besides, you don't want to rush into anything," he said, clapping Hidan on the shoulder bromantically as he made his exit.
He found himself staring off into space again as Keoni left him alone on this region of the ship's deck. Hidan then slowly smiled to himself, put into a good mood by his obvious yet recent discovery. Then he dashed off to execute his new plan, with a little extra jump in his step.
Claire and Leah had mysteriously disappeared, so Eva was left to her own devices. She decided after a moment of contemplation over another piece of cake (thankfully, catered separately from Fuddruckers), that these devices included going back upstairs, where the limbo party had been replaced by a regular dance-type arena. Eva did like to dance, after all.
It had gotten significantly more crowded since she had last been in the room, and Eva vaguely wondered if it was safe to make the boat so top heavy. She also wondered with slight irritation why Jason and Rachel had invited so many people to come to the after-party. She had assumed it would be a more exclusive event than the wedding, which had already had to be held in one of the largest churches in La Jolla, but it appeared that this was barely so.
In a rare moment of mental clarity, she had the idea to go to the opposite end of the room, away from all the entrances, where people would most likely not have migrated. It was human nature, or at least American nature, to be lazy, after all.
Her theory turned out to be correct, but with an unexpected twist. Getting his groove on, in the most hip of ways, was a person of a familiar shade of blue.
"Kisame!" Eva half yelled, half whined. He ceased his semi-wild movements at the sound of her voice. "No offense, but after so many weeks of being handcuffed to you, I'd kind of like to…not…see you."
Kisame shrugged, frowning. "It's not like I want to see you any more than you want to see me. Or don't, rather." He shook his head, confused slightly by his own words. "Anyway, you're the one who showed up in my dancing spot!" he pointed out.
"It's less crowded over here," Eva mumbled. "Anyway, you're the 'gentleman', you should be the one to leave."
Kisame held up his hands, an act of concession, apparently unwilling to argue. "Fine with me. Just…don't come near me and I won't come near you."
They were both filled with noble intentions to keep their mutual promise, but unfortunately, this didn't happen. Shortly after Kisame departed, Eva shrugged off her less-than-chipper feelings and decided to partake in the activity she had come here for: dancing. She realized to her satisfaction that she knew and very much liked the song that was playing, and began to move in time with the music. Her steps were anything but practiced, but she managed as well as any of the other participants, if not slightly better. Despite her heels, she was able to move fairly freely across the floor, getting into the path of the strobe lights or the rays of the disco ball.
Without noticing, she had made her way to the center of the room.
And so had Kisame.
They bumped into each other violently as each practiced one last dramatic movement at the end of the song, each hurriedly uttering an apology, then an "Oh," of disappointment and realization.
"Don't say anything, just go back. I'm going too," Kisame said before Eva could complain. Also not in the mood to complain, she obeyed his command and marched back to her starting spot, convinced that this had been a fluke. She was determined not to move so far this time, so everything would be fine. She would not have to see Kisame again until the end of the party.
Except it happened again.
"Oh, this is ridiculous!" she exclaimed, thrusting her fists dramatically towards the floor. Kisame agreed, crossing his arms sourly. The people around them gave the couple angry looks for hogging space on the crowded dance floor while not dancing, so Eva grabbed the other's arm and towed him out into the hallway.
"You have to be following me! This couldn't possibly have happened four times unless you were following me," she insisted.
"Maybe you just have some innate attraction to me," Kisame countered with a sly smirk.
Eva blushed, but the blue man appeared not to notice. Nor did he notice the slight stutter when she spoke, "N-no. If I do, then you do too. There's no way a one-sided attraction could cut through that crowd."
"Maybe we're just doomed to be together forever."
"I hope not," Eva lied.
Kisame's face softened, and he looked a little hurt. "Oh come on, it wasn't that bad, being stuck to me, was it? I mean, I think we managed pretty well. Except for the part where you got hurt on the mission…"
"I told you not to worry about that," she said, her voice only a few levels above a whisper. "It was my fault. I'm just glad you didn't get hurt because of me."
"Still, it was my responsibility—"
"—Just stop, okay? Stop blaming yourself. No one else does. The point is, you're right, we made a good team."
He thought for a moment, apparently put at ease some by her words. "Maybe we just shouldn't stop hanging out with each other cold turkey, you know? Like, we should ease out of it."
"I agree," Eva nodded. "Would you like to link arms and skip off to find the others."
Kisame chuckled, and was reminded of why he liked Eva. "Sounds lovely."
"Why didn't anyone want to hear about the red socks? I mean, I'm not going to try to tell the story anymore, but I'm just curious," Kisame appeared to be genuinely curious, "It's like you all just zone out or get pissed off when I mention th—"
"Oh my god, Kisame, shut the fuck up about those socks!" Hidan snapped expectedly. Sure, he had planned to ask Claire out as soon as he next saw her, had planned to initiate a long-term romance that would eventually end in their marriage, but for some reason, when he had tried, words had failed him. Now he had decided to take his frustration at having become a pubescent teenager out on Kisame.
"See!" The distressed man pointed at the jacketless Jashinist. "I mentioned the socks and you got pissed off!"
"I think he's just perpetually pissed off…" Claire quipped, thinking she knew the other reasons for his more-irritable-than-normal mood.
Kisame dismissed the comment. "Deidara, you saw that right?"
The artist jerked suddenly, as if awoken from a trance, "I'm sorry, what?"
"You were right here! Hidan got mad at me when I mentioned the socks! And I just proposed at theory that people zone out or get pissed off whenever the socks are mentioned!"
Deidara blinked. "I missed it, un."
"SEE! You zoned out, Hidan got pissed off! It's all coming together now!"
Deidara felt his hand being held by another. He smiled and turned to Leah, lacing their fingers together. "What brings you here?"
"I heard Kisame spazzing and I had to check it out," she shrugged. They awkwardly watched Kisame muttering and gesturing unintelligibly like a mad man. He did not seem to notice. "And I have to talk to you about something. Well, two somethings actually. It's kind of important…actually, not too important but it's nonetheless something I need to discuss with you in private. So…" She tugged on his hand.
His heart quickened its pace and he stared at the expression on her face, a peaceful smile. "Now?" He tried to remain relaxed, but he had a foreboding feeling that he was in trouble.
"Yes, now," she laughed and began to lead him out of the crowded room. Their friends glanced curiously at them when they left, but none of them bothered to say anything because Kisame was more interesting. Said blue man then made the loud proclamation: "Yes I understand, Almighty Red Socks. I will keep your secret. Yes I will." Most assumed he was either drunk of a little loopy from being handcuffed to Eva for so long. Either way, people outside the Akatsuki-and-Friends circle did not question his sock worship.
Several thoughts ran through Deidara's head, mostly of what he could have done in the past few weeks that possibly could have gotten him in trouble with Leah. Maybe it was because he was being annoying during the wedding ceremony, thus disrespecting her brother. Maybe it was because she thought he was a better artist than her. Maybe this, maybe that. No definite idea of what she needed to speak with him about. Nonetheless, he felt that he was going to get in trouble for something (even though he also recognized that Leah was not the scolding/lecturing type, this fact did nothing to reassure him).
Leah led him into a small, unoccupied room on a lower level of the yacht. The room was very beige: beige walls, beige bed sheets, beige carpet, beige armchair, beige lampshade. He resisted the urge to say "ew" at the horrid interior.
Leah, however, did not resist the urge to comment on the room. "Whoa, I think they ran out of colored paint when they got to this room."
"And colored furniture," Deidara sat on the beige bed, noting how comfortable the mattress was. He told Leah this and she laughed.
"Really?" she turned and locked the door, wanting to make sure there weren't any intrusions while she spoke to him. That was the reason she hadn't talked to him earlier, every time she tried she'd get interrupted.
She sat on the bed next to him and clapped her hands together before placing them into her lap. "I'm just going to get straight to the point: why did you lie to me about what happened on the mission?" Her tone was sincere, no hint of repressed anger or anything about the subject.
Diedara pushed his bangs out of his face and stared at his knees. First course of action: fake innocence. "I…lied to you?"
"I am ninety percent sure you did. According to Tobi, I was serving as a distraction for the dude, you two messed up on your half of the mission, the dude kissed me and things got a little…um…farther than intended, which is where I got the hickeys," she tapped the spot on her neck where the hickeys had once existed. "Then you two came in, killed the guy, and in the fight I got knocked out and lost some of my short term memory. Tobi told me the day after we got back…"
Thank God that Tobi's story was at least plausible and conveniently left out the fact that it was Leah who had killed the man (a fact that was rather pathetic on his and Tobi's part). "Well, I just thought it would be better if you didn't know that a total stranger did that to you…" he led off with no intention of discussing that particular topic any further. "Also I didn't want to risk triggering your memory of us killing the man. Witnessing something like that can be scarring, un."
Leah nodded, accepting this answer. "Okay, good to know," she kissed his cheek. "I just wish you told me sooner," she smiled.
He laughed, feeling relieved. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "What was the other thing you wanted to talk to me about?" he was confident that he was not in trouble so the nervousness he had before had subsided.
"Well," she smiled and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Jason and Rachel are staying downtown tonight because they have to catch a redeye flight to Fiji and it's not worth it for them to drive back, Charli is going home with Mom, and Claire and Eva are going home with their parents..." she blushed, "I was wondering if you'd possibly like to spend the night at my house."
A broad grin spread across Deidara's face. "'Spend the night', eh?" he hummed in mock thought, still smiling. "Now what could we do with the house to ourselves?" He had plenty of ideas in mind, but one seemed particularly favorable.
Leah shrugged and giggled. "Anything you want," she pressed her lips against his. "But we should probably get back to the party before we're missed."
Deidara took her hand and helped her stand up. He kissed her forehead, "I'm holding you to the 'anything you want' comment."
"Yeah, I thought so," she pulled him towards the door and unlocked it, escaping the hideously beige room.
An elderly man who neither of them knew happened to be walking past when they exited the room and gave them an odd look. He rolled his eyes dramatically at the suspicious couple, "Kids these days," he muttered, and staggered along with no further comments.
They returned to the upper floor of the yacht and attempted to regroup with Claire, Eva, and other Akatsuki members but were intercepted.
"LEAH!" Jason popped up in front of his sister and Deidara, seemingly out of nowhere. He was sweating, his shirt was off, and his tie was still wrapped around his head. He dragged his hand down his face to try to remove some of the sweat. "Hokay, whoo," he panted, "crazy party!"
"I'll say," Leah took a step away from Jason. He smelled like alcohol and sweat and it was not very pleasant.
Jason straightened up as if the gesture gave him some more authority. "Anyways, are you sure you're going to be alright by yourself tonight. We don't want what happened last time—"
Deidara draped his arm around Leah. "Don't worry, Jason. Leah invited me to sleep over so she'll be fine, un," he smiled at Jason.
Leah blushed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Deidara…" She shook her head, smiling.
Jason, however, was silent. He stared at them.
Not a word.
The smile faded from Deidara's face.
Jason remained silent. He looked from Leah, to Deidara, to Leah again, and back to Deidara. He sighed and clamped a hand on Deidara's shoulder. He looked him straight in the eye. "Please use a condom."
Leah's face turned bright red and she covered her mouth, laughing. "Dear god, Jason!"
The blonde doctor playfully ruffled Deidara's bangs. "Seriously though, if she gets pregnant or some weird disease, I know four different ways to neuter a man, so keep that in mind." He clapped Deidara on the shoulder again. "Have fun!" With that, he ran off to dance with Keoni some more.
"I heard the word 'condom'," Eva said. She had apparently wandered over to get away from Kisame.
"Are you sure that's not just your mind being in the gutter?" Leah asked.
Eva puckered her lips and stared at the ceiling in thought. "Eh, it probably was."
Leah giggled. "I'm just kidding, Eva. Jason was giving us a hard time because Deidara is spending the night."
Eva's eyebrows rose considerably and Deidara's smirk returned. "Oh. Oh. Well. I was going to talk to you guys but I guess if Deidara's spending the night, you're all buddy-buddy now. I guess I'll give you some alone time," she said with a wink, skipping back off to find someone to entertain her.
Leah sighed and turned to rest her head on Deidara's shoulder, smiling ever so slightly. "What have we done?"
Somehow, Eva, Kisame, Leah, Deidara, Claire, Hidan, Pein, Konan, Charli, and Suigetsu had managed to congregate on the front deck of the yacht. Eva had sought out her friends, and Kisame, despite his best efforts, had unintentionally followed her. Leah and Deidara were of course now on good terms, and were strangely unwilling to part, and Hidan was sticking to Claire like a kind of helpless, neglected puppy. As for the other guests, it was a large boat, but not so large that they were completely incapable of ever running into each other. Proven, of course, by the fact that they had.
As Suigetsu had been the last and least welcome of the members to arrive at their little congregation, Eva immediately rounded on him, determined to interrogate him before his cousin could douse him in another dish. "Suigetsu!" she exclaimed.
The still damp silver-haired boy froze, having apparently been on his way to a conversation with…someone other than Eva, for he looked surprised. "Yes?"
"What are you doing here?"
"I was invited."
Eva gave him a questioning look. "How do you know Jason? Or Rachel? You're from another dimension! How did you even get here?"
Suigetsu shrugged. "I don't know what you're talking about, Miss…?"
"That's a joke, right? It's me, Eva."
"I've never met you before in my life," Suigetsu insisted.
The blonde girl scowled and suddenly grabbed him by the wrist, pulling him over to the others. "You're telling me you've never met her?" She pointed to Leah, "Or her?" then Claire.
"I know him," Suigetsu admitted with a sour expression, pointing to Kisame. "The bastard smashed a bowl of potato salad onto my skull earlier."
Kisame sighed and muttered something about 'every time'. "Suigetsu, if you don't drop the act I'm going to kick you where the sun does not shine," he threatened.
He considered this for a moment. "Oh right, Eva," he said, leaning casually against the railing with a smirk, "The chick who couldn't find wood in a forest!"
This did not to alleviate Eva's scowl, but elicited giggles from Claire and Leah, and curious smiles from those who were out of the loop. No one seemed to notice the shortest member of the group fuming below their eye level, fists clenched, teeth gritted. But then Charli took a step forward and either over or underestimated the trajectory of her kick, for she essentially Sparta-kicked him straight in the spot where, indeed, no sun did shine. Before his hand could shoot protectively to the severely battered spot between his legs, it needed to thrash out to side and grab the only thing available in an attempt to keep him on board the boat—Pein's arm.
Unfortunately, this achieved nothing except pulling both men overboard.
"Charli, why did you do that?" Leah exclaimed in horror as Eva dashed off to get help—at least for the Akatsuki leader.
"Because he kidnapped you and Eva and Claire and put me through hell…But I didn't mean to kick him there…Or for Pein to fall off! Oh god…" She started muttering apologies that no one really heard, for all eyes had turned to the direction of the loud ripping sound.
Konan had torn off her dress a few seconds ago to reveal black shorts and a tank top, a holster strapped to her leg complete with kunai and shuriken. Before anyone could even comprehend what was going on or ask any questions regarding the nature of her outfit, she had leapt up on the railing and completed a swan dive over the edge of the boat, into the freezing water below. The six remaining members of the group stared dumbly into the black depths of the sloshing water below. What had previously seemed to be peaceful ambience to complement a lovely evening now seemed to be the soundtrack for an ocean-themed horror movie.
"Konan…is macho…" Kisame stated eloquently.
"Damn straight," Hidan agreed absently.
She surfaced a few moments later (although it felt to the concerned onlookers like a day's worth of waiting at the DMV), trailing Pein behind her, who still had a stunned, Suigetsu-shaped growth attached to him, and swam towards the edge of the ship. She hooked her fingers into the links of the boat's anchor's chain and waited for the crew to pull the three of them up, generously sending Suigetsu first.
Eva returned with the crew members' appearance, and quickly made her way over to the railing where her friends were gathered. She peered over the edge cautiously. Now awakened to the fact that it was possible to fall off the boat, they were all being extra wary. "What did I miss?" she asked. "Is that Konan?" She spun around, the image of the black dress on the deck surfacing to the top of her memory from when she had seen it mere seconds ago. "Is that Konan's dress?"
"Yes to all, un." Deidara was obviously still distracted.
Eva huffed and leaned against turned around to press her back against the railing, aware that she wasn't going to get anything out of these people. "And I still don't know how or why Suigetsu is here," she complained.
Around midnight, the yacht journeyed back to the dock, covering the few miles it had been from shore in a few minutes without much incident. The only exception had been Eva finding Suigetsu once more, demanding he tell her the reasons for his presence, and shoving a plate of cake in his face when he refused to do so.
The group had come together again right before they prepared to exit the boat, and they did so together, silently, for they were all very worn out from the night's activities. However, when they were all on the dock (a safe distance from the water, at Pein's insistence; he didn't think the Captain of the ship had any more dry clothes he would be willing to lend out) a man approached them, whom Leah immediately recognized and identified as "Dad".
The others started to walk away slowly as he gave her a hug, assuming it was father-daughter time they were intruding upon, but Leah's father called them back. "Hello," he said, "My name is Ray Filipowski. Nice to meet you all." He shook each of the Akatsuki members' hands individually. "Leah and Charli and Jason have told me so much about you all. I understand you're very good friends with my children and Eva and Claire. I just wanted to make sure you knew my address so you could come and visit when they go to college."
"Wait, college, un? What college?"
"I'm going to Virginia Tech, Leah's going to James Madison, and Eva's going to William and Mary," Claire answered. "We were going to tell you…"
"Yeah, it just kind of…got lost, what with finals and people getting married," Leah agreed.
Eva hunched sheepishly. "I forgot you didn't know."
Ray raised his eyebrows at the girls, obviously feeling for the confused and distraught criminals, but chose not to comment on their absentmindedness. "Well, in any case, I've written out my address and phone number, and here's my card." He offered a piece of paper and a small cardboard square to Kakuzu, who appeared to be the closest, who accepted it numbly. Satisfied, he left the girls to what promised to be an awkward conversation.
"You forgot?" was Zetsu's first question, obviously directed at Eva.
"Well it just seemed so obvious to us!" she retorted.
"This is certainly an interesting development," Itachi said.
Hidan gave him a sideways glance. "'Interesting'? That's all you have to say, seriously?"
"Well, it's not like we can't still visit them. We have the address, we just need to readjust the jutsu."
After a moment of shared silence, "Why didn't that occur to me, un?"
"Maybe because you're an idiot, un," Kakuzu mocked.
"Oh shut up, Kakuzu."
"You shut up, blondie."
"Guys, please don't fight!"
"All of you better shut up or I'm docking your pay."
"Is my pay still reduced from destroying the cure for the common cold?"
"It wasn't until you reminded me."
"Would you like some ice for that burn, Zetsu?"
"I will eat you."
"I'd be scared if I were you, seriously."
As they walked to their cars, the girls smiled to themselves, tuning out the bickering of their friends in the background. Maybe they weren't the perfect friends. Maybe they happened to be criminals—murderers, thieves, arsonists, general terrorists; maybe they were a little bit crazy sometimes. But they were still friends. They had still changed the lives of the three girls and their families. And those three wouldn't be able to imagine a life where they hadn't—not now, now that they had been through so much. So many kidnappings and threats and seemingly pointless transportation jutsus. So many mornings, afternoons, and evenings of happiness, sadness, anger, and silliness. The point was, the Akatsuki were there to stay.
Nothing could get in the way of that.
Leah: So, we were thinking of posting some drabbles relating to this and the previous stories. In no particular order, but just a little collection of one shots that we couldn't find a place for in the original stories so be on the lookout for those!
Claire: Essentially it will be a collection of a bunch of randomness chapters, or things we got ideas for but weren't really…involved in anything . Don't expect them to be up for a while, but we will be posting a new story in which to put our one shots. We already have at least 3 ideas…Yes, one of them is the 4th of July thing that someone requested so long ago. I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOU! –sob- Although I don't remember your sn and I don't really want to sort through the hundreds of reviews to find it, I'M SORRY PLEASE DON'T HATE ME I LOVE YOU ALL.
Leah is sitting one foot away from me but for some reason wants ME to tell you WE ARE OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS FOR STORIES. Um. I don't think this necessarily means we will use all of them. But of course, feel free to suggest :D