Seemingly unfazed by the loud yowl, Sasuke calmly twitched his tail to the side, removing it from the ever present danger of the kitten's claws. He continued grooming himself with broad licks of his tongue, the only sign of his annoyance being the prominent vein that ticked in his jaw.
This time a paw, with claws extended, stopped the rambunctious kitten's lunge and Sasuke fell back with a satisfied smirk as howls of pain filled the courtyard. He cleaned meticulously between his toes before moving up his haunches, completely ignoring the death threats being thrown in his direction.
"Sasuke-teme!" This time the childish voice was a high, petulant whine. Sasuke pointedly turned away as a blond bundle manifested itself at his side and extracted his claws quickly as a silent warning.
But it seemed that the kitten had reached his pain threshold for the day, as he did nothing but mew piteously and curl closer.
"I was only playing," he whined. A plump bottom lip stuck out and wounded blue eyes looked at him reproachfully.
"Go play with Kiba."
"Eww," the kitten wrinkled his nose in acute distaste. "Kiba's a dog, teme."
"Not that far from you then, is he."
Furry blond ears flattened as Sasuke was faced with a narrow eyed glare. "Are you callin' me a mutt?!"
"You certainly smell like one."
The kitten raised himself on his haunches and opened his mouth to no doubt let loose a war cry the likes of which Sasuke had never heard before, but the deafening slam of a door made both of them freeze.
"Uzumaki Naruto!" The thunderous voice echoed throughout the courtyard, and several pets poked curious heads from behind trees as the evening's entertainment played out before them.
The pet in question, however, squeaked in fright and leapt behind Sasuke, grasping his twitching, sleek black tail and holding it over his head as a pitiful attempt to shield himself. Sasuke growled in irritation and yanked his tail away from the blonde's grasping paws, causing Naruto to whine sharply and attempt to burrow closer and tuck himself entirely underneath Sasuke's body.
It was to no avail, however, as chaos was upon them in the form of a slight, young man with mousy brown hair, a scarred face, and flashing eyes. He also happened to be covered from head to toe… in flour.
"Uzumaki Naruto," he repeated, stomping over to stand in front of the quaking Naruto with his hands on his hips. "Are you, or are you not responsible for this mess?!"
Sasuke nimbly moved out of the way as a large, tanned hand shot forward and grasped the squirming kitten by the scruff, lifting him into the air and then proceeding to box his large, furry ears roughly. Both Sasuke and the man seemed unmoved by the kitten's yowls of pain, this being a regular sort of occurrence.
"Ow, ow, owwww, Iruka-sensei!" Naruto mewed wretchedly, flattening his ears in an attempt to spare himself the pain of another boxing.
"How many times," Iruka growled, lifting the kitten up so that he could look into his large, watery blue eyes, "have I told you not to play in the kitchen?!"
He emphasized his scolding with a quick shake, before placing a flour dusted hand underneath the kitten's rump so the loose skin on the back of his neck wouldn't be stretched out too painfully. He released his hold on Naruto's ears and brushed the flour off of his nose gently, fighting the urge to remain stern as Naruto sneezed twice in his direction.
"It was an accident, honest."
Iruka scowled into the outwardly angelic face and turned his attention to Sasuke, who had resumed his painstakingly thorough grooming.
"Didn't I ask you to look after him, Sasuke?" Cool black eyes flicked up at him nonchalantly before the cat went back to laving his tail. Iruka's fingers twitched with the need to box his ears too, but he didn't dare. He had raised his trouble making Naruto from what seemed like birth, but Sasuke was a different sort of cat altogether.
He had been found a few years ago in a forest nearby, surrounded by carcasses of what could have only been his clan. Iruka had adopted him into his already bulging home readily, but he had no doubts that any attempt at touching his person without permission would result in having his eyes clawed out.
"Sasuke," he prompted again through gritted teeth, and petted Naruto's head absent-mindedly as he glared at the insolent black cat.
"He smells revolting."
Iruka had to grab Naruto with both hands to prevent him from leaping at the blunt response. As it was, several shrill yowls and hair raising hisses assaulted his ears before he could calm the kitten down.
"Now, Sasuke." He sighed, suddenly feeling downtrodden and tired, and left wondering why he had taken these pets in the first place. "I know Naruto can be a little—all right, a lot—annoying, but that doesn't mean you can insult him for—"
"I'm not trying to insult him." Narrowed black eyes glared at him reproachfully and Sasuke tossed his head in a decidedly arrogant manner. "It's the truth."
Iruka opened his mouth to refute this statement, clearly intent on informing the cat that he didn't smell anything wrong with his precious Naruto, but a playful bark made him turn.
"He's right." Kiba loped towards him from the bushes in which he'd been dozing before the commotion woke him. "The pussy smells awful."
The glint of sharp teeth as Kiba bared them in a grin gave no doubt to what he truly meant. Naruto bristled furiously in his hands and Iruka felt a migraine knocking politely on his skull as the kitten bared his teeth in return.
Sasuke's "Like you can talk, mutt," was quickly followed by Naruto's "Go suck it, Kiba you fuc—"
Iruka hastily covered Naruto's mouth with his hand to prevent the obscenity from being expelled, though privately he was amused that Sasuke had deemed the blonde worthy to defend.
He removed his hand from Naruto's mouth as the kitten licked at his palm and fixed the dog boy with a stern stare. "I don't know where you've picked up that kind of language—"
"The telly," Kiba provided helpfully, his tongue lolling out as he butted Iruka's knees with his head.
"Well." Iruka straightened and looked around with an air of one grievously affronted. "Then let me address all of you." He noted several ears perking above the bushes surrounding the courtyard and continued. "If I hear one more curse word out of any of you, the telly will find its new home at the bottom of the lake."
Several pets gasped and even more growled dangerously at Kiba at the threat of losing their one true source of entertainment. The dog boy looked around with dread and then hung his head and grumbled lowly, kicking at the ground with his hind legs.
"Good," Iruka said, feeling surprisingly cheerful now that balance had been restored. "Now what's this about Naruto's… smell?"
Obviously no longer trusting Kiba to give an appropriate response, a sleek Siamese with hauntingly white eyes stalked forward. "It's heavy,"hHe murmured, his voice low and smooth. "Thick."
Iruka blinked in surprise. Neji was one of the few cats with which Iruka had not yet formed a bond; he was silent to the point of being mute, and the times he did speak were to subtly insult his fellow pen-mates. Iruka had yet to have a straightforward conversation with the cat boy – he had a gift for leading people around in circles, and one could almost never get a straight answer from him.
"Say that again?" Iruka said, still a bit lost in his thoughts.
Neji sniffed impatiently and settled himself besides Sasuke, though still a respectable distance away. Birds of a feather, those two, Iruka thought in amusement as he watched them silently nod to each other in greeting.
"He smells… full." Neji returned his attention to Iruka, and his forehead crinkled as he struggled to find words to describe that particular smell. "Or-no. He's empty. Waiting to be full."
Iruka blanched at this cryptic remark, silently urging Neji to continue. Naruto squirmed in his grasp and Iruka turned him so that he could face the two cats that were pondering his scent. He mewed questioningly at Iruka, worry clouding his face, and Iruka hummed softly under his breath and petted his ears in reassurance.
"It makes my stomach hurt," Sasuke spoke up suddenly.
Iruka frowned. "Like you want to throw up?"
Sasuke shook his head impatiently. "No. It's… knotted. Like the stomach ache I get from eating your blueberry pies—" Iruka's eyes twitched at the obvious insult to his cooking, "—but worse."
"I see," Iruka muttered, though it was obvious from his wrinkled forehead that he actually didn't see at all. "Well, how long has he been smelling like this?"
"A few days," Neji said with a loose shrug.
"Five," Sasuke countered, mouth turning down sharply. It was obvious that the mysterious scent had affected him the most – but that wasn't anything out of sorts; it was common knowledge that Naruto trailed after the proud black cat day and night.
"But I just gave him a bath the day before yesterday." Naruto licked Iruka under the chin at an attempt to quell his obvious irritation at this new development. Iruka looked down at the kitten, whose ears were perked in shameless curiosity and started to make his way towards the house.
"Alright," he sighed. "I'll just have to give you another bath—" He pointedly ignored the way Naruto squeaked and wriggled in his arms at that statement. "Who knows what you've been rolling around in."
He looked back and waved shortly over his shoulder. "Come along now, it's almost dinner time."
He counted quickly as pets emerged from the bushes and trotted past him and into the house. He raised an eyebrow at Sasuke's frosty glare before he realized it was directed at the kitten in his arms, who had been oh-so-maturely sticking his tongue out at the black cat.
"Come on now, Naruto." He sighed, stepping into the house and locking the door behind him, smiling as Naruto looked mournfully behind him at the courtyard. "We have to wake up the girls from their nap too. Day's not over yet."