Title: Table Manners Optional
Series: Naruto
Rating: T
Warnings: Language? Some tiny manga spoilers, and people not acting their age
Pairings: Naruto/Gaara, Sasuke/Sakura, Shikamaru/Temari
Setting: canonverse, futurefic (Naruto and the gang are in their early-to-mid twenties)

It was the eve of Chuunin Exam finals, and the dinner at the Kazekage's residence was, for Sai, a confirmation of many observations on friendship.

He had come to know that friends were nice to each other and had fun together. They supported each other through difficulties and were allowed to see sides of each other most strangers wouldn't bother to or be allowed to discover.

They were also allowed to act rude and disrespectful towards each other, because they knew the other didn't mean any real disrespect by it. This had been one of the most confusing aspects of friendly bonds for him, but on more careful consideration, it made sense in light of how come he still had this many friends himself.

His old teammates made for good study material, he had noticed the moment he had sat down across from the three of them. At the moment he was watching Ugly irritate both of the men she was sitting between by moving food from one's plate to the other's and then nagging back at them when they complained.

Dickless was whining about how he hated vegetables and didn't need to eat any more of them. He also mentioned something about 'emo cooties', but Sai couldn't be sure if that was a complaint, because he didn't know what they were. Not a vegetable he had heard of.

Duckass said Dickless could die of scurvy for all he cared, and Ugly declared that she would not be the one to heal him if things turned out that way.

Name-calling, and other variations of regressing into bickering 5-year-olds followed. Yet Sai knew they were the best of friends, and two of them more than that.

After a while their host decided to interfere with a seemingly absent-minded contemplation that if they had so much catching up to do, he could perfectly well change the sleeping arrangements so that the whole classic version of Team 7 could share a room. Knowing that Duckass and Ugly's kid was having a sleepover with his idols –the brats his father had somehow managed to train and considered ready enough for becoming chuunins– and that Dickless hadn't spent a night in a Suna guestroom in years, he wasn't surprised to see a peaceful settlement on how to share the tomatoes be quickly formed.

He had mostly given up calling his friends by nicknames by now, but that didn't keep him from doing so in his head. Some names he had never even used outside it, due to his better understanding of 'proper' when meeting the people those names were for.

He found, however, that they were another thing that said something about bonds.

He had stopped calling Sakura Ugly after Duckass had less than politely suggested doing so, but not immediately. It seemed people liked having their spouse defend them from things like nicknames they deemed offensive, and just as well they liked getting to be the defending one. Who was he to deny them their simple pleasures?

A very similar case was that of the young Hokage. Granted, the tone Guyliner had used was less defending and more bragging, when he had seen fit to inform Sai that the nickname Naruto had gained as a 15-year-old was based on severely outdated information. But you could never really tell with him.

At least he could trust the correction came from a valid source, being privy to just how close Suna and Konoha were behind the backs of the grumpy old farts of the former's council (As for the latter –well, as Dickless tended to, he had found a positive side even to having to rebuild your village almost from scratch. Namely, he could have a fresh, personally hand-picked council consisting of people he didn't have to do anything behind the backs of).

Naturally, their friends and family knew. So did the friends and families of their friends and family. In other words, nearly everybody in both of their villages knew, and so it was the most public secret ever that the Hokage and the Kazekage were as good as a married couple.

Then there was of course Troublesome, who just found it too troublesome to mind what Sai called him or his wife. But Thistlehead already called him worse despite of apparently loving him, and he didn't argue to that either.

He could hear Ganguro (The first time Sai had met him, he had worn what looked like a cat costume and had paint all over his face –how was he to know that almost was his real name?) tease Guyliner about something he couldn't quite make out, and the response was a grumble of 'shut up or I'll kill you'.

He was informed well enough of that about ten years ago it would have been a serious threat, with every intention of carrying out the act behind it. Apparently about ten years was enough for the words to become a harmless joke on their old context, and Ganguro only laughed, having hit the nail on the head with his teasing.

Sai's fellow ANBU escort was picking on their Hokage after a similar fashion, as he often did, and Dickless seemed to be attempting to resist the urge to reach across the table and punch him, which also wasn't all that rare. Despite of all this he knew Wannabe looked up to Dickless at nearly everything, and was in turn considered a dear little brother (and a potential successor) by him.

And considering their ages, that made Duckass his twin brother, then. And he thought he had heard Dickless refer to Ugly as his sister a few times, too. Quite an adopted family.

He briefly wondered how Ugly and Duckass being married fit into that, but he wasn't going to ask. Every family was supposed to be a little complicated in its own way, after all (or so he had read).

And actually, it didn't end there. Guyliner and his siblings were family, too, and through them, so was Troublesome. Sai suddenly realized that out of the people present, he was the only one who couldn't unquestionably claim he belonged at this gathering that was now revealed to be nothing short of a family occasion.

"…don't you think so, Sai?"

The sound of the name he had adopted as his permanent one alerted him back to the more detailed contents of the table conversation. It seemed Ugly had thought of appreciating his opinion on something while he had been caught up in the analysis of it.

Duckass explained him instead, pointing at Dickless. "That Naruto's shirt is not 'awesome'. It's 'outrageous', and not in the good way."

"I don't take style tips from Mr. Turtleneck T and Armwarmers," snorted Dickless, who was wearing what was probably the most Will of Fire-filled shirt in the whole world, apparently having taken more than just a liking to the flame motif after getting his first Sennin cloak.

"I was twelve, Naruto. Who doesn't dress like an idiot at that age?"

"Gaara didn't."

"Agreed, he dressed like a hanger for all the extra belts and linen in Suna." This earned a raised would-be eyebrow from Guyliner, but otherwise his only contribution to the argument was giving Dickless a smile and a shoulder-pat.

"One word: assbow."

Ugly snickered.

Duckass rolled his eyes. "It wasn't even on my ass, Dobe. Come on, just because you're gay doesn't mean you're a fashion genius. Your shirt is stupid, okay?" He looked at Sai questioningly.

"I must agree," he nodded.

Dickless crossed his arms and gave him a measuring look, down his nose. "Nah, not trusting your judgment either. You wear crop tops."

Sai shrugged. "You're just jealous because you would make them muffin tops."

Dickless had to quickly glance down at the shirt-covered sixpack as if to assure himself that he wasn't getting fat. His response was the one finger salute other than nice-guy pose, but he was smiling.

Sai smiled back a smile that hadn't been fake in years now, as he decided that apparently he was, at least, a cousin if not another brother.

I hope you recognized the characters whom I only called by their Sai nicknames.
'Ganguro', by the way, is a japanese street fashion style that involves a lot of facepaint/makeup (not the kind of kabuki designs Kankuro has, but I couldn't resist the name similarity xD), and crossovers a bit with 'kigurumi', which means wearing animal costumes.

Credit for Temari's nickname goes to Gaawa-chan, who used it first in a fic of her own ('Something to Say' in her deviantART gallery, under that screenname).