AN: Read too many songfics, and you simply have to come up with one of your own. Disclaimer: Kishimoto has NARUTO, but I'll always have this night!

Karaoke Night, Chapter 1: The Challenge

Five glassy-eyed young women slumped around a circular table in the smoky karaoke bar, the cubed ice in their glasses painted golden by the liquid sliding across the crystalline surfaces. Telltale blushes stained every cheek, but there was nary a smile to be seen among them.

(Author's View, clockwise from top: Ino, Temari, Sakura, Hinata, Tenten)

The cornsilk blonde appeared the worst off. Two empty glasses accompanied the one she currently guzzled, and her ice blue eyes were unfocused and bloodshot. Her normally impeccably styled hair fought its long ponytail, frizzy and entangled. The carefully-applied makeup surrounding her eyes smudged and blurred, giving her a raccoon-like appearance. She smelled of sweat, but only a flimsy sheen of perspiration coated her skin.

The sandy blonde to her left was in nearly as bad shape. The heavy fan she always bore lay at her feet, along with her poise. With one hand she clenched an empty bottle, while the other supported the weight of her head. Her cheek smushed against the fist that propped it up, billowing away from the knuckles; her cynical mouth hung partly open, frowning with her eyes at the dead air in front of her. The alcoholic flush extended from beneath her layered bangs all the way to her collarbone.

The pinkette on her other side was the most dejected of the bunch, though not the most intoxicated. Her bubblegum locks spilled over her shoulders onto the wooden boards of the table and the bare arms that rested upon it. Skilled, elegant hands lay flat with her chin on top of them, green eyes staring at the stem of her martini glass. A devastated expression of decided knowing masked her lovely features—she had the look of someone who was completely resigned to a heartbreaking reality.

The alabaster-skinned, raven-haired beauty next to the pinkette stirred her stout drink slowly, uncharacteristically solemn. She cupped her marble neck in one hand, the appendage disappearing in her shadowy locks. Her pale grey-blue eyes were as determined as the pink-haired girl's, but the stubbornness was nowhere near as disparaging. It was fed up, daring, and outstandingly courageous.

The last young woman at the table was brown-haired, brown eyed, and appallingly cheerful. She'd downed three shot glasses, with a fourth revolving counter-clockwise in her strong fingers, though her inebriation seemed to be a product of sympathy alone. A self-satisfied, "I'm deliriously happy because I can't believe this is happening to me" smile curled the corners of her mouth, and the blush coloring her cheeks resulted as much from pleasure as from liquor. Her hair was as mussed, her eyes as glazed-over, and her scent as sweat-soaked as her four friends, but because she alone was in a good mood (and the least wasted), the task therefore fell to her to form a structure for their night of healing.

"Why did I dump him?" Ino muttered desperately. "He was so good to me…what the hell is wrong with me? He was perfect."

Temari snorted. "Nobody's perfect, Blondie," she drawled. "Do you know how hard Shikamaru had to work to make you happy? He wasn't comfortable with you, even though he loves you to death. He wasn't being him."

Ino fell silent, her hazy mind laboring under this new information. Suddenly, her face screwed up with an accusation. "You're blonde, too."

Temari frowned with this new revelation; Sakura, Hinata, and Tenten giggled weakly. "You were fine with him," Temari countered, sobering the atmosphere immediately. "Fine isn't good enough. Fine is what you say to someone who you don't really know but who feels obligated to stop you on the street to ask how you are. It's not what you say to someone important."

Ino threw back her head, downing the last of her drink. "I should've tried harder," she insisted breathlessly. "I love him…"

"Not like you loved Kiba," Hinata said quietly. Her friends stared at her, dumbfounded that she would speak up like this. "Shikamaru is more than a brother, but different from a lover. We all saw you kiss him, and I know you didn't kiss him like you kissed Kiba."

"How did I kiss Kiba?" Ino wanted to know, seemingly under the impression that Hinata knew her feelings better than she did.

Hinata considered for a moment, but it was Sakura who answered. "Like, in spite of everything, kissing him told you all you needed to know about how much he cared for you."

"And what it said was that, in spite of you and him and the rest of the world, he would always love you," Tenten added dreamily. Ino and Temari stared at the three kunoichi.

"When did you take over my mind possession jutsu?" Ino queried plaintively.

"We know what it is to love," Hinata replied, the corners of her silvery eyes turning downwards mournfully. "And I know how Kiba feels about you."

Ino perked up. "Feels?"

"What?" Hinata asked, coming out of a daze.

"You said, 'Kiba feels', not 'Kiba felt'," Ino clarified. "That implies that he still cares for me. He doesn't still care for me, does he?" Hinata gaped at her ice blonde friend, her mouth opening and closing like a fish. "Does he?" Ino demanded.

Temari rolled her eyes, which Ino caught—even in her inebriated state, she was conscious of the actions of those around her. "What?"

"You obviously still care about Kiba, no matter if he cares for you back," the Sand kunoichi pointed out. "Why would you date Shikamaru if you still cared for Kiba?"

"'Cause I didn't know I did!" Ino exclaimed, burying her head in her hands. "I thought I was tired of the fighting, and the screaming, and…I thought Shika could make me happy. And he did, he really did, but it was so…tame. And I realized I don't like tame. I hate it, in fact."

Tenten sighed into her shot glass; her dislike of indecisive people was famous. Temari snorted impatiently. "Shikamaru is not tame," she protested incredulously. "He is lazy and unambitious, but he is NOT tame. He worked so hard to be who you wanted, he stopped being himself."

"But sometimes being the real you means betraying everything and everyone who loved and cared about him," Sakura put in bitterly. "And crossing lines you can't come back from."

"And sometimes he can't help himself and it's you who has to change," Hinata said. She, Sakura, Temari, and Ino lapsed into grim silence, contemplating their miserable love lives. Tenten downed the last of her shot glass and straightened up in her chair.

"Okay, ladies," she announced. "It's time for an intervention." Her friends turned and gazed at her balefully. "I propose a Karaoke Challenge."

Temari frowned irritably. "A what?"

"Karaoke Challenge," Tenten repeated patiently. "It's a little ritual of ours when we're down on our luck and end up here. If everyone accepts the Challenge, the one who proposed it gets to pick the order and who sings what—"

"That's not fair," Temari interrupted.

"But she also has to go first," Tenten finished.

"Oh. Well, okay then."

"Also, there has to be a recurring theme, a recurring artist, and no half-assing onstage. It's not about doing well up there; it's about achieving a cathartic state of being."

"Wha?" Ino asked fuzzily.

"You know all that pent-up energy you get when you're upset? Cathartic means you do something to let it out," Sakura explained. Ino nodded, mouthing "Oohhh."

"So, whadda you guys say?" Tenten demanded.

Temari sighed gustily. "Yeah, whatever."

Sakura waved her glass vaguely. "Why not?"

Ino stared blearily at nothing. "Okay."

Hinata leaned her forehead against her palm, not answering.

"Hina?" Tenten asked gently.


AN: Speak! Tell me your thoughts! I NEED TO KNOW IF I'M DOING THIS RIGHT! And, while we're on this topic, can anyone think of a better threat for non-reviewers than a visit from Kabuto-Orochimaru?