The Great Debate
Those jeans were scaring Naruto.
No one could blame him. They were shameless jeans.
As a matter of fact, if he found out which store Sasuke had bought those jeans from, he would pay the place a little visit and SUE them for selling pornographic clothing items to minors. Or set up a shrine for them, because surely ass hugging brilliance of this sort requires worship and disciples.
Naruto just knew the bastard was wearing them on purpose to taunt him. What other explanation could there be? Uchiha Sasuke never stood before him in line in the cafeteria. As far as Naruto was concerned, Uchiha Sasuke never stood before him in anything. Period.
But no. Today of all the days, he was calmly standing before him, just a few inches away, wearing those jeans, tapping impatiently on his tray. He was so close in fact, that his stupid chicken-butt hair was tickling Naruto's nose, and also, incidentally, obstructing his view of Sasuke's denim clad backside.
Naruto didn't consider himself the smartest lion in the pride, but he knew a set up when he saw one, or given current circumstances, when it was tickling his nose.
So it didn't take long for understanding to strike. Immediately, he saw the situation for what it was.
Sasuke was trying to distract him so that he would make a fool of himself at the inter school debate Konoha High was hosting that afternoon. He was afraid that Naruto would make a better impression on the audience, so he was using his body to save his face. The cheater!
A small portion of his brain coughed uncomfortably at the analysis because 1) Naruto was, after all, in the same team as Sasuke and 2) he rarely ever made a better impression on the audience to render the brunette thus insecure.
Then Sasuke moved forward a little, so that the hair was no longer an obstruction, and that portion of Naruto's brain picked up the pitchforks, gave a battle cry and joined the mob.
The angry fumes he was emanating must have been particularly radioactive, because Sasuke looked back at him, lips turned down, one disdainful eyebrow raised.
'What?' he asked, tersely, looking for all he was worth, as though every breath he spared on Naruto was a breath wasted.
Naruto glared, and then realized that even though the jeans probably deserved it, glaring holes into them was probably not going to help his case. Then his brain processed the stray treacherous thought, and he abruptly turned pink.
Eyes, he thought, and dragged his glare up to meet Sasuke's narrow, obsidian one.
'Slut.' Naruto hissed.
Sasuke looked as though Naruto had dyed his hair pink and then tied it back into pigtails.
'You heard me. I called you a slut,' Naruto told him, eager to confirm that yes, that is indeed what he labeled ass whores like Sasuke.
Then there was a fist and before he knew it, he was lying on the cold cafeteria floor staring at the hems of the bastard's jeans.
Naruto smiled. Hems he could handle. Hems, he decided, were innocent.
With that comfort in mind, Naruto launched, teeth bared, blood rushing.
'Let me get this straight.' Kiba said between bites of his beef sandwich. 'You bit Uchiha's ankle?'
Naruto only glared at him, pressing his cool can of coke into what felt like the shattered remains of his cheekbone.
'No wonder you get along so well with Akamaru,' Kiba continued, suddenly contemplative. 'He does that all the time to people he doesn't like.'
As a punishment, Naruto stole the other sandwich from Kiba's tray. Let the idiot go hungry. Across the table Chouji looked at him with something akin to paternal pride, as though food napping was the formal testimonial of their friendship.
'Tsunade will probably call you to her office after the debate.' Shikamaru said, looking exasperated. He rested his head on one of his palms. 'How troublesome.'
'I'll handle the old hag,' Naruto assured him brightly, before his face turned serious again. 'Though I probably won't have to make much of an effort this time. She'll take one look at what he's wearing and understand.'
He threw a dark look at the offending piece of clothing which was currently seated at the other end of the cafeteria.
Kiba choked on his sandwich. It was probably because, Naruto concurred, he was trying to achieve the impossible feat of chewing and laughing at the same time. Kiba might have canines sharp enough to rival his dog's, but when it came to applying his mouth to more than one physical activity simultaneously, he was still a teenage boy.
Naruto momentarily shifted his glare to another teenage boy he happened to know, another teenage concubine, with clothes which belonged to the wardrobe of a porn star, and thought, maybe not every teenage boy, because this particular specimen defied every given rule in the galaxy of ….teendom.
Because Naruto had seen Sasuke dab at his mouth with a tissue after he had finished the burger Sakura chan had brought the two of them from the canteen (which Naruto told everyone Sasuke had eaten with his pinky finger sticking out even though it was a complete lie.) one afternoon when they had missed lunch while researching a turncoat topic. He had pointed it out to Sakura chan only to find himself sporting a lump the size of a watermelon on his head, while she rattled on about how not every guy is oblivious to the concept of hygiene, Naruto, it might surprise you, but a few actually even know how to spell it.
He would have, of course, restored his pride the very next second with the aid of his flawless verbal prowess, but then he had caught sight of her fist again, and hastily asked Sasuke if the bastard could spare a paper napkin.
When the humiliation failed to kill him, Naruto had given all the credit to his survival skills.
His place was not in this world. Naruto had always had it in firm belief that he should have been born a ninja.
Vaguely, he noticed a hand being waved in front of his face.
'Earth to Naruto,' Kiba said, wiggling his fingers a little to better catch his friend's attention. 'Look at us. Not the jeans. Friends good. Jeans bad. Come baaaaack to us.'
'Shut up,' Naruto snapped, and threw a nut at him.
But hard, fatty food items were not to deter Kiba. 'So,' he said, mouth curved into a leer, and Naruto was suddenly very, very afraid. 'Uchiha's jeans, huh?'
It sounded to Naruto like a yes or no question, so he answered accordingly. 'Yes.'
'What about them?'
'That pair happens to be the main protagonist of a plot, conceived and hatched by an insecure git with all degrees of social problems, in order lessen my chances of winning the trophy for the best speaker, which will be awarded following the debate this afternoon.'
Shikamaru sighed, muttered, 'Drama queen' and closed his eyes to the painful activity that was watching Naruto. Kiba, on the other hand, leaned forward. 'Naruto,' he said very slowly, very surely. 'Why would Uchiha's jeans lessen your chances of winning?'
'Because they're a scandal,' Naruto explained, equally precisely. 'A denim scandal. This afternoon, they will be a denim scandal on stage!'
'Yes, but why are you so bothered by what Uchiha is wearing?'
'Shouldn't I be?' Naruto asked, feeling a little hunted. Confusion always made him panicky. 'He's wearing them to bother me, obviously.'
Kiba made an exasperated noise and leaned back into his chair. 'I give up,' he said, looking at Shikamaru.
Shikamaru shrugged noncommittally, and replied. 'You owe me ten bucks.'
'Yeah, yeah,' Kiba muttered darkly, throwing Naruto a dirty look, and fished out his wallet, 'I still don't agree with your "let him discover himself" theory though. I mean, this is Naruto we're talking about. Flying cars will be out of fashion before he realizes.'
'Can the two of you,' Naruto felt obliged to ask. 'Not talk about me as though I'm not sitting two feet away from you?'
Expectedly, he was treated like a block of wood; Kiba passed the money over to Shikamaru, and the only sound that reigned the momentary silence was the crunch of Chouji's teeth on his crackers.
'The two of you fought again?' Sakura asked, incredulously, staring at their bruises as she entered the library.
Sasuke scowled, and turned back to the scenery outside the French windows that covered a majority of the west wall. He had been studying it diligently for the past ten minutes, and had led Naruto to wonder if it was guilt that kept the other boy from meeting his eyes. For no matter from which angle he tried, he couldn't find anything interesting enough about the swimming pool below that would call on his attention so. No one was swimming. No skin on display. Nada.
It must be guilt, Naruto thought. He's probably just realized that there's no I in team.
Secure with the knowledge that the bastard was repenting, Naruto felt slightly benevolant. So he made an attempt at conversation.
'So, asshole,' he said, grinning his assurance that it's okay to be seduced by the devil sometimes. 'Ready to get your ass kicked?'
Sasuke looked at him, face a study in disdain, and said, 'No, moron, we're going to win.'
'I meant by me,' Naruto huffed, crossing his arms. Trust Sasuke to ruin the moment.
'By you?' One eyebrow shot up, imperiously. 'We're in the same team, idiot.'
Naruto bristled at both the insult, as well as the implications of the statement. This cheater was teaching him about teamwork? 'Good to know you finally remembered that,' he shot back. 'And I meant the Best Speaker's trophy. I'm getting it.'
Sasuke's eyes narrowed dangerously, 'What do you mean? And also, you wish.'
Naruto felt that it was time to come clean. He understood Sasuke was immature that way. So as his teammate, it fell upon him to tell the asshole that cheating wasn't good.
'Sasuke,' he said, sententiously, 'cheating isn't good.'
Sasuke looked baffled. 'What?'
Naruto smiled understandingly. 'Sasuke, I know.'
'All about your plan.'
'Wha – what plan, idiot?'
Naruto waved a hand in the general direction of Sasuke's crotch. 'Your jeans. The plan to distract me. I know. It's rather shameless, what you're doing and,' Naruto coughed awkwardly, 'you should understand that you shouldn't use your body this way. It deserves more respect.'
The colour made its way up Sasuke's collar till it slowly, but steadily began to make him resemble a lobster.
Naruto took it for embarrassment. He felt sorry for the bastard. Maybe he should have handled this with more care.
'Did your uncle,' Sasuke asked, his voice low, and his eyes hidden beneath his bangs, 'make an occupation out of dropping you on the head when you were young?'
'No!' Naruto lied, suppressing a wince as he remembered his younger days with Jiraiya. 'And fuck you.'
Into this heartwarming moment dropped Sakura.
'For God's sake, wear your shirt, Naruto,' she said, throwing the Konoha debate team T-shirt at him. Naruto caught it and beamed at Sakura, who rolled her eyes and turned her back towards him, as she waited for him to put it on.
Naruto took off his favourite orange shirt and pulled the other one on. He liked their team T-shirt even though he had originally requested for them to be orange. Now, though, he had to admit that the name of their debating society 'Leaf', printed in white at the back, looked way cooler on black.
He smoothed out the creases, and glanced up to find Sasuke quickly looking away.
'I know you're plotting something, asshole,' Naruto said, letting the boy know that he was on to him. 'It won't work.'
'Fucking hell, I'm not plotting anything.'
'Plotting what?' Sakura asked, confused.
'His jeans,' Naruto said, by way of explanation, 'he's obviously trying to distract me.'
'For the last time, Usuratonkanchi,' Sasuke said through clenched teeth, face livid, 'I'm NOT trying to-'
'Warming up for the main event? Excellent. That's my team.'
'YOU'RE LATE!' Naruto and Sakura yelled at the silver haired man who had just entered the room, smiling amiably.
'Well, you see,' Kakashi thoughtfully brought his forefinger up to scratch at the mask covering the lower half of his face, 'I was on my way when this beautiful princess showed up and –'
Naruto groaned. 'If it's Iruka you're talking about, we don't need to hear the details.'
'Anyway,' Sakura said seriously, 'we should go. Sand and Sound are already seated.'
Outside, right before entering the auditorium, Sakura asked him, 'What about Sasuke kun's jeans, Naruto? It's normal for us to wear our jeans and T-shirt for debates.'
'Have you LOOKED at them? Can't you see what he's up to?' Naruto flailed his arms encompass the volume of Sasuke's wrongdoings, tired off having to explain to people over and over again what was, in his opinion, blatantly obvious.
Sakura studied him for a minute before bursting into laughter.
'It's not funny.' Naruto pouted, and then growled as Sasuke pushed past him and entered the hall.
Naruto was the third speaker.
Today was a Cambridge style debate, with a time limit of four plus three plus three plus three minutes, including the rebuttal. Their opponent, Sand, was seated across them on the stage. This was the third debate of the annual tri-series between Sand, Sound and Leaf, both the teams having defeated Sound earlier.
The chairman announced that it was Leaf's first speaker, Uchiha Sasuke's turn to address the house.
Naruto hated to admit it, and usually never did except to himself, but Sasuke was a brilliant speaker. The first time Naruto had been paired up with him, he had thought, holy fucking God, stage presence. When Sasuke spoke, the entire audience seemed to be holding their breath.
And it wasn't just because Sasuke was ridiculously good looking, or because he was the most popular guy in school (among the girls) and the audience was almost always infiltrated by his fan club. It was because, Naruto knew, Sasuke was a ruthless debater.
He was violent with facts; presenting them hard and sharp, like the cold glint of a knife's edge. He made you see blood, scream rape, change your views on politics – all the while standing calmly with his hands folded on the podium. His speech was graphic, and though he used minimal description, eerily visual.
Sakura chan had once said that when Sasuke finishes his speech, she always feels like she's waking up from an illusion.
Naruto had just snorted and asked Sasuke if he needed a broom for the witching hour.
Naruto's style was the polar opposite.
When Kakashi had first suggested that he try out for the debate team, he had flat out asked him if he was trying to butter him up to get into Iruka's good books.
'Because he is, you know, my godfather,' Naruto had muttered, glaring balefully.
Kakashi had smiled, his visible eye nothing but a crescent of innocence, and Naruto's suspicions were confirmed.
'You are, aren't you?'
'No,' Kakashi's reply was not what Naruto had been expecting. 'I want you to try out because you have a gift for convincing people.'
Later, when the final school team had been decided, Kakashi had informed him that he was the third speaker.
'I want you to play to your strengths.' Kakashi had said, turning to him, after finishing off with Sasuke and Sakura. 'Don't make it a monologue, make it a conversation. Involve the audience, talk to them, make them laugh. And since you're the last speaker of the team before the rebuttal starts, you need to use your last forty five seconds to wrap up your team's arguments without sounding repetitive.'
For a moment, Naruto had wondered how someone as untidy and disorganized as him, how someone who hadn't even been able to gift wrap the earrings he had bought Sakura chan when they were twelve without creating a mess of torn cellophane and spangled cellotape, would be able to wrap up nine minutes worth of opinions and interpretations without injuring himself.
Luckily Uzumaki Naruto had always been an expert at convincing himself, and before they knew it, Leaf had been on a winning spree.
So Naruto had a technique, and it started with face eating smile. It might not be as graceful as Sasuke's or as precise as Sakura's, but in its own rough, painfully honest way it charmed the audience and drew them in.
And afterwards, carefully, as though protecting a precious person, Naruto wrapped up his team's arguments with a neat little thought, and left the podium with another blinding smile.
Then Sasuke came forward for the rebuttal and proceeded to bite the other lead speaker's head off.
With two such extremes on either side of her, Sakura had been left to blend the two styles in. Even though none of them had ever said it out aloud, it was a given notion that she was a bridge, balancing the dynamics and making them a team.
Sand was good, really good.
The three siblings, Gaara, Kankarou and Temari made a positively lethal team.
But, Naruto thought, Leaf was better. And it looked as though Sand had realized it as well.
Sasuke was in the middle of delivering his rebuttal, and all that was left after that was for Gaara to deliver his. It wasn't a definite win, but from the way the judges were drinking in Sasuke's words, Naruto thought Leaf might have the upper hand.
Gaara, Naruto noticed, was looking livid; angry lines lacerated the usually impassive planes of his face, embedding themselves deeper as Sasuke continued to speak.
Talk about Type A competitiveness. He looked as though he might have a heart attack before he got to deliver his own rebuttal.
Naruto turned back to Sasuke and watched the way his Adam's apple, moist under all the glaring lights, shifted as he spoke. He was trying to avoid the jeans, and doing, if he may say so himself, a spectacular job.
Next thing he knew there was a loud gasp and Gaara had fallen into a crouch on the floor, wheezing painfully, while Temari rubbed his back and Kankarou fished out an inhaler.
Sasuke tactfully uttered a hasty 'I rest my case', and Team Leaf rushed over to other the side of the stage.
'This is bad,' Temari said, urgency clear in her voice. 'We need to take him to your infirmary.'
'I'll take you there,' Sakura offered and slung one of Gaara's arms over her shoulders while Kankarou took the other side, and together they holstered him up. 'You should stay here,' She told Temari.
'We can't continue without Gaara,' Temari said, watching the two carry her brother out of the hall, Iruka sensei trotting behind them. 'I suppose we'll have to forfeit.'
'No you won't,' Naruto whipped his head around to see Tsunade approaching them. 'A guest fell ill under our roof, of course we won't allow you to forfeit. We'll reschedule. A new topic will be decided upon, and we'll hold the debate whenever your teammate regains his health. At any rate, Konoha doesn't care for a default win.'
With that she walked back into audience, leaving two gaping boys behind her.
'Huh?' Naruto said. 'We don't?'
Sasuke looked furious. 'Reschedule? Reschedule when? Our mid term tests start next week.'
Temari smirked. 'Why, Uchiha, scared?'
Sasuke snorted. 'Coming from the team that was getting trampled today, that's almost humorous.'
Temari's smirk remained, though her eyes hardened considerably. 'Still the same Sasuke, huh?'
Naruto squinted but failed to catch a hint of pink on the thin, thin linear remains of Sasuke's mouth.
'Excuse me,' said Sasuke, tightly, and shoved past Naruto again.
'Hey,' Naruto yelled out of habit, before remembering and turning back to Temari. 'You know Sasuke?'
Temari turned to him with a frown. 'Uzumaki Naruto,' she said, as though testing the name on her tongue, 'You're a talented speaker.'
Naruto beamed at her. 'Of course I am. I'm going to get the best speakers trophy of the tri-series.'
Temari looked amused. 'Are you? Bet Uchiha takes that well.'
Naruto was starting to like her more and more. Why did Sasuke have to go around dissing all the nice people?
Oh, right, he was Sasuke.
'I had a thing with Sasuke, in case you're wondering.'
There was a dull thud and Naruto recognized it as the sound of his jaw hitting the floor.
'You,' he squeaked. Coughed. Tried again. 'You guys were dating?'
Temari started laughing. 'Dating? Christ, no. I used to have a part time job as a barista in the coffee shop opposite his house. I thought he was cute, so I asked him if he would be interested in a fuck, no strings attached, and so we hooked up. Or tried to.'
Naruto was trying to make sense of all the pieces rushing through his head like a dust storm. This, what she was saying, implied at normal things, like hormones. So did this mean –
Holy fuck, did this mean Sasuke was (Naruto's eyes went very wide)…human?
So the social retardation, the radioactive personality, the optical laser beam were all creations of the Almighty?
Darn, and Naruto had made it his life's mission to locate the chip that drove Sasuke. He had been ready to bet his ramen money that the chicken butt hair was actually a fallacy, artfully designed to hide the antenna.
And he had, too. Now he would have to buy Kiba sushi for a month.
But the Uzumaki eyes were open. Naruto finally understood Sasuke for what he was.
A freak of nature.
'What do you mean, tried to?' he asked Temari, through the hazy film of shock.
Temari's smirk had been purchased from the devil. 'Well, it didn't really work. Turns out that Uchiha Sasuke can't get it up.'
Naruto stopped breathing.
'Not even after twenty minutes of foreplay.'
'Not even after I brought the ice cubes and the cream out. Not even,' here Temari lowered her voice, 'after I used my fan.'
'WHA – wait a minute, fan?'
Temari nodded sagely.
Naruto's brain was breaking. This was…simply too much information to process.
'So,' he said, slowly. 'Do you reckon that he, you know, can't? Or was that a special case scenario?'
Wrong thing to say. Temari glared at him. 'What. Do. You. Mean?
Naruto gulped. 'Nothing, just-'
'Listen, you runt, do I look like someone who can't turn a guy on? I mean, have you seen these?'
Naruto's eyes immediately dropped to her chest, and in a matter of a second he had decided that no, it was definitely not a special case scenario.
It took a minute for his thoughts to settle.
Then his face split into the grin of doom. His glee was as deep as the ocean.
Naruto found him outside the canteen.
'Oi, bastard,' he called behind Sasuke's retreating back.
Sasuke neither stopped nor turned. Naruto had to jog to catch up.
Never the guy to beat around the bush, Naruto got straight to the point. 'Soooo,' he drawled, 'you can't get it up?'
Sasuke stopped, his entire body tense. Naruto watched in fascination as The Vein of Terror sama made its appearance on Sasuke's forehead. 'What did you say?'
Each word sounded as though the bastard had bitten it. Hard.
Naruto smiled sweetly. 'You can't get it up.'
'Do you want to die a bloody death on the doorstep of the canteen? I won't hesitate.'
'You can't get it up.'
Sasuke looked for a moment as though he might carry out his threat. But then he just took a deep breath, turned away from Naruto, and entered the canteen.
Obviously, Naruto followed him.
'You can't, can you?'
'Will you stop?'
'So I not only beat you at debating, but I'm also more manly.'
Sasuke's glare turned the water in the nearest cooler to ice.
'I swear dobe, another word –'
'But you have to be nice to me now, Sasuke!' Naruto smirked. 'Because God knows what your fangirls are going to do when they realize that they can't have your babies. Wanna know what I think? I think they'll all join a nunnery. What's your bet?'
The Vein of Terror sama and Sasuke's left eye did a little jig together.
'Sasukeeee.' (Author's note # 1: Sorry, I couldn't resist. This is officially my favourite Naruto quote.)
'Where're you going?'
Sasuke made a low growling noise at the back of his throat. 'To get a DRINK because I'm thirsty, dammit.' And here Naruto knew that the Uchiha Organ of Control was slowly unraveling inside, because a Sasuke-in-the-mode would never admit to a human weakness like that of thirst (because Uchihas were above human weaknesses and all that jazz.) 'Quit following me.'
'Oh,' Naruto said, and then tried to refrain himself from giggling madly. 'So does that mean,' here he failed miserably, and choked through his laughter, 'does that mean you're going through a dry spell?'
He was laughing so hard that he didn't notice Sasuke move before his back hit the wall. Sasuke's hands were grabbing fistfuls of Naruto's tee. Up this close, he could smell the detergent from the other boy's shirt, and his cologne.
'Lets get this clear NOW, moron,' Sasuke hissed, twisting the words with his tongue like the hilt of a dagger, and it made Naruto wonder if he had been trained by snakes. 'The next time you come to me with such lies, I'm going to make sure you never manage to father a child.'
The Vein of Terror sama was very close. Naruto had always wanted to touch it.
So he did. He brought his hand up and pressed his forefinger flat against the protruding vessel.
Then he poked it, experimentally.
Suddenly, his fingers were batted away and Sasuke was stepping back. The look on his face made an oncoming thunderstorm turn back, dejected and insecure.
'What are you doing?' he snapped, and without waiting for a reply stormed out of the canteen, drink forgotten.
Naruto slumped back against the wall and felt heat creeping up his face. What the fuck was that right now?
Never let it be said that Naruto was slow on the uptake. Immediately, he saw the situation for what it was.
'Fuck,' he muttered to the gaping lady behind the counter.
He had a thing for The Vein of Terror sama!
Sakura repressed another twinge of guilt as she saw Sasuke leave the canteen with a look on his face that made all the flowers within ten meter radius wither and die.
It was painfully obvious what had happened. Only one person could turn Sasuke kun into such a gorgon.
It was stupid, Sakura knew, to blame herself for the animosity between her two teammates. Everything had transpired so long ago, they had been kids for heaven's sake!
Sakura still remembered Naruto's formal proposal five years ago.
'Sakura chan,' Naruto had said, thrusting a rose forward, like a punch. 'I love you. Please marry me.'
She had made a face at him. 'No, Naruto. I like Sasuke kun. Now get out of my way, you're blocking my view of him.'
Naruto had been persistent. 'But I love you, Sakura chan. That bastard doesn't deserve you. Just look at him standing there, feeling all cool and superior. You'll be much happier with me, Sakura chan.'
Sakura had been looking. She saw Sasuke and then she saw someone who was way too cool, way too superior. Someone who she could never have.
She turned back to Naruto. 'Alright,' she said, and held her hand out for the rose.
Their relationship had lasted exactly twenty minutes. Lunch break had gotten over and Sasuke kun hadn't looked at her even once.
Sakura had tried to hold back her tears. 'I'm sorry, Naruto,' she had said, truly meaning it, 'but I can't marry you.'
Naruto had immediately switched to panic mode.
'What? Why? Did I do something wrong? Should I have made bento for you?'
'No, Naruto,' Sakura had felt awful doing this, 'I had never wanted to marry you.'
Naruto looked confused. 'Then why did you – oh.' He looked at her, the rose, and then back at her. 'I understand. You just wanted the flower, right?'
'No, no, it's not that. I'm sorry Naruto, I just thought, that maybe, if he had seen me with you, Sasuke kun would get jealous.'
Naruto's face had crumpled like butter paper and Sakura had felt like a witch in a fairy tale, instead of the princess she was supposed to be.
That afternoon she had made her way through a ring of bodies in the corridor to find Naruto and Sasuke kun rolling on the floor, trying to plummet the fillings out of each other.
They had grown up since, and in middle school Sakura had finally accepted that waiting for Sasuke was like waiting for Naruto to get over ramen. She and Naruto had become friends, and she had hoped that everything would sort itself out between the two boys as well. Especially when they all became a part of Leaf.
It had taken time, but Sakura had finally been able to understand the dynamics between her two teammates. She had to, for it had been left up to her to stabilize the misbalance, and thread together the two poles which were always on opposite sides of the field.
After all, two satellites without their orbits were bound to crash into one another, weren't they?
But Sakura wasn't stupid. She knew that her influence was only limited. She could keep the bridge up only as long as they were on stage, but beyond that, she always found her strength failing against the magnitude of their individual forces.
For Naruto was a supernova at its brightest, and Sasuke, the spawn of a black hole. It was inevitable that they were drawn towards each other.
And Sakura knew that if she actively tried to encroach their magnetic field, she would be the only one getting repelled.
When Naruto fell into step with Sasuke the next day, on the way back from soccer practice, when they were making their way back to the dorms, the latter didn't even spare him a glance.
'Ne, Sasuke, now I think I can understand you a little better,' Naruto said, 'I mean, all this anger – it has to be frustration.'
Beside him, Sasuke exhaled slowly.
'How does it feel?' Naruto inquired? 'To, you know, not be able to ever get off?'
'You'll experience it very soon,' Sasuked replied evenly. 'Because unless you stop following me around, I'm going to maim you.'
Hmmm, Naruto thought. Not enough, but getting there.
'Maybe you should get help, you know? Do they have shrinks who talk about sex problems?' Then he realized the sheer brilliance of his statement and let out a howl of laughter. 'Oh my God, you should totally see a shrink. Heh. Geddit? SHRINK?'
Sasuke looked as though someone had set a couple of five year olds on him, and they were now messing his hair.
'Yes,' he said tersely. 'Your hints are hardly the picture of subtlety. Now, get out of my way.'
Naruto hadn't even realized when he had positioned himself in front of the Uchiha. Now that he was already set for war though, he figured he might as well fire the shot.
'You can't get it up.'
'I'm not talking to you, you juvenile delinquent. MOVE.'
'OI, GUYS,' Naruto shouted to busy school grounds. 'SASUKE CAN'T GE – MMPPHHF'
Sasuke had roughly pressed his palm to Naruto mouth. 'What are you doing?' he asked in that hissy tone.
Naruto raised his eyes to Sasuke's forehead and smiled in triumph.
'Hello, The Vein of Terror sam – chan.' He said, only to have his greeting muffled by Sasuke's hand.
'What?' Sasuke released Naruto's face, his eyes softening in confusion.
'I needed to see The Vein of Terror chan,' Naruto explained. 'You keep hiding her, and I'm trying to bring her out.'
'What the – vein – What nonsense is this?'
Naruto thought that Sasuke had the right to be a little baffled. With utmost patience, he elaborated.
'Remember when I touched your forehead yesterday?' Sasuke's eyes narrowed in response. 'I like The Vein of Terror chan. Too bad she's attached to your body, but I guess sacrifices have to be made in love.'
Sasuke looked at him for a long while. 'You should consider therapy.'
Naruto sighed. 'Look, I understand why you would think this is insane, but there's a simple explanation for it, really.'
Sasuke snorted, 'I'll bet.'
'It's like an itch. Like with those squishy water balls that kids like, the ones you just have to play around with 'cause they're so squishy. You know what I'm talking about?'
'Not at all,' then, 'squishy water balls?'
Naruto sighed again. Figures. Sasuke had probably never played with squishy balls as a kid. Sasuke, he decided, had probably been one of those kids who went around winning spelling bee state championships.
'Look, just let me play around with The Vein of Terror chan for a while, and I'll get over her.'
'Do you understand what you're saying?' Sasuke asked him, incredulously. 'You're asking me if you can play around with my forehead.'
'Yes,' Naruto said, glad that Sasuke had finally caught on. 'So, can I?'
'No!' Sasuke turned to walk away.
'I'll just tell everyone you can't get it up then.'
Sasuke faced him again and the air particles between froze and fell like snow in December. 'Try it and you're dead.'
Naruto might have never faced a crisis in love before, but he immediately saw the situation for what it was.
Sasuke was trying to come between him and The Vein of Terror chan.
Naruto pulled on his chilliest look too, and stepped forward. 'So, is this war?'
Sasuke just rolled his eyes and walked away.
'The Vein of Terror chan?' Kiba asked, voice carefully neutral.
Naruto nodded dreamily. No one's forehead quite had a The Vein of Terror chan like that of Sasuke's. Except maybe Sakura chan's but her's wasn't pretty.
'You're actually being serious?' Kiba continued.
Kiba raised his eyebrow at Shikamaru who ignored them both, and pretended to be busy contemplating the next move on his Shougi board. No one missed the slightest uneasy twitch of his shoulders, though.
Kiba shook his head and turned his attention back to downloading porn on Naruto's computer.
Naruto had finished his last paper half an hour before time, and so made a chart to keep himself busy.
Hero – Uzumaki Naruto
Heroin – The Vein of Terror chan.
Villain – Uchiha Sasuke.
Mission – Beat Sasuke. Play with The Vein of Terror chan.
Twist in the Tale – The Vein of Terror chan is on Sasuke's forehead.
Naruto frowned at the piece of paper before raising his head to study Sasuke's back. The bastard was still writing. He probably had the entire book copy pasted in his head, and was trying to cram as much of it in the paper. Nerd. Who studied for mid term tests anyway?
Meanwhile, getting to The Vein of Terror chan was proving to be a lot more difficult than Naruto had suspected. Sasuke seemed to have this knack for disappearing around the corners of the school building, and getting him alone seemed near impossible. Once he had tried to corner him in his own room only to have Sasuke throw hard cover library books at him. By the time he had stopped seeing stars, it had been too late. He had been kicked out of the room and although Naruto had spent the next one hour knocking, banging, begging and pretending to die, the door had remained unyielding.
Sasuke, Naruto decided, had issues.
Kiba was cribbing about the paper and Naruto was walking beside him, staring at the chart still. He hadn't been able to come to any sort of conclusion.
Naruto turned to the approaching girl with a smile. 'Hinata. 'Sup?'
In an instant, Kiba stopped cribbing.
Hinata ducked her head shyly. 'Naruto kun, Kakashi sensei asked sent me to tell you that you're supposed to report to the staff room. Sasuke kun and Sakura chan are already there.'
'Right,' Naruto grinned at her, and then turned to wink at Kiba. 'It's probably about the debate with Sand. I'll get going, then.'
When he arrived at the Staff room Sakura chan glared at him for being late, and Sasuke – Sasuke didn't even look at him.
'Okay,' said Kakashi. 'So now that your tests are over, you can get down to working on the debate. The topic was finalized an hour ago.'
'What is it?' Sakura asked.
Kakashi hesitated for a moment before saying, 'It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'
There was a moment of horrible silence.
'WHAT?' Naruto yelled. 'Of all the clichés –'
'Who decided this topic?' Sasuke demanded to know.
'The staff in charge of Sand, apparently, since they're hosting it this time. Though from what I've heard, Gaara really pushed for it.'
'He must have already debated on this topic before.' Sasuke said. 'It'll be an easy win for them then.'
Kakashi shook his head. 'I've already checked Sand's records – they've never dealt with this topic either. Seems like the kid was genuinely interested in it.'
'Who would've thought?' Naruto wondered out loud. 'What with that murderous intent thingy he's got going on for him.'
'It's not that surprising,' Sakura reasoned, 'he does have a tattoo that says 'Love' on his forehead after all.'
'Ask Sand to change the topic.' Sasuke said. 'It's stupid.'
Kakashi sighed. 'Look, I know. It's just that we're finally getting along with Kyoto Academy, and Tsunade thinks, and I agree, that we should do our best to adjust.'
'It's not that bad a topic, you guys,' Sakura said tentatively.
She was thoroughly ignored.
'So since they're the host school,' Kakashi continued, 'they've allowed us to choose our side of the motion.'
'For,' Naruto said.
'Against,' Sasuke said at the same time.
They glared at each other.
Sakura sighed. This was getting old.
'For is obviously the more sensible idea,' Naruto argued. 'I mean, look at the topic.'
'Against gives us the last word.'
'So you're saying we go up there and say that it is wrong to love someone, because one day you're going to lose them?'
'Yes, dobe, precisely.'
'What bullshit! It totally doesn't work that way.'
'Like you'd know.'
'At least I'm not talking like a coward.'
'Who're you calling a coward, usuratonkan-'
'Against,' Sakura said firmly.
They both stopped to look at her.
'Aww – but Sakura chan…'
'It's settled then,' Sasuke concluded. 'Tell Sand we're going against the motion.'
Naruto was not taking it well.
'This is ridiculous. Sakura chan, you don't seriously-'
'I don't,' Sakura confirmed, 'but you know it's best to let Sasuke have the last word, he really impresses the judges. Also, this way, we get to tear Gaara's rebuttal apart.'
'But c'mon, we're never going to be able to make this a strong enough argument.'
'Speak for yourself, dobe,' Sasuke snapped, slamming a few books down on the table. They had made their way directly to the library, anxious not to waste another minute of the two days they had left.
'Oh, yeah, what're we going to say? Ladies and Gentlemen, let us observe a moment of silence and analyze the feelings of hurt and regret experienced by those who have had the misfortune of losing what they have loved – Come ON, we're not running a bloody soap opera!'
'Naruto, the judges will understand that we've got the rougher side of the motion, they're not stupid.' Sakura rubbed her eyes with the back of her fingers tiredly, and Naruto felt a stab of guilt. 'Sasuke kun, what books do we need for this topic?'
'I've selected a few for the quotes; metaphysical poets, Gustav Mahler, Oscar Wilde for cynicism. We're looking for real life examples too, cases which involve mental trauma and sickness, psychological problems and their consequences, effects of divorce on children, divorce rates in important countries – '
Naruto felt a bit sick.
'Okay,' Sakura said and rose, 'so can I take a few of these back home? I'll issue them right now. I don't live on campus, and I have to get home before dark.'
Sasuke nodded and handed a few books over to her.
Naruto thought it was ironic that after a whole week of trying to get Sasuke to himself, he was finally getting what he wanted, and The Vein of Terror chan was the last thing on his mind.
'Dobe,' he heard Sasuke say, 'you don't have to make this personal.'
Hypocrite, Naruto thought. Aloud he said, 'Just like you're not?'
Sasuke lips thinned. 'I'll take the rest of the books. You look up the net.'
'Don't tell me what to do, bastard.'
'Get the material tomorrow. We have only twenty four hours to work together.'
Sasuke was gone.
The fucking –
Naruto ran after him.
It had started raining outside; cool Autumn rain, fresh and rare. Naruto spotted Sasuke walking past the basketball courts. He jogged up to him.
'Don't just walk away from me, bastard. I wasn't done.'
Sasuke snorted. 'And I'm supposed to care?'
Naruto looked at him silently. Would it kill you to?
Sasuke's bangs were plastered to his forehead, and drops of rain were trailing paths down his temples, cheekbones, nose, mouth, disappearing beneath the collar of his shirt, their route lost to Naruto's eyes.
He was holding his bag close to him, fingers splayed on the cloth protectively, trying to shield it from the full impact of the rain.
Right now, Naruto hated the sight of those fingers. Fucking deceptive pieces of shit. How could they pretend to care about a school bag? It was just.
Naruto snatched the bag out of Sasuke's grip and threw it across the nearest court.
Sasuke looked dumbfounded. 'What the-'
Naruto punched him.
For a second, the world seemed to freeze, and there was nothing but the rain and Sasuke gaping up at him.
And then Sasuke was hitting him back, and again, it was so fucking ironic that it was only when Sasuke was punching the breath out him, that he remembered how to breathe.
He planted an answering fist into Sasuke's ribs, lips curving as he heard the hiss of pain.
This. Naruto had missed this; the dust, the taste of copper in his mouth, the feel of the hard ground beneath them – this was familiar territory, and with regards to Sasuke, maybe more familiar than any pulpit would ever be.
Sasuke managed to push Naruto flat on his back and pin his arms down on either side of his head.
'You're being way too melodramatic about this, idiot,' He spat.
Naruto snarled, and moved his body the only way he could. He jerked his head forward to smash his face into Sasuke's.
And smash he did, only not in the way he had in mind.
In the next three seconds Naruto became extremely aware of many things.
He realized that though the impact had been hard, so hard that his head was still ringing from it, Sasuke's lower lip and eyelashes were the softest things he had ever felt. He realized that up this close, Sasuke's eyes had nothing but depth, as opposed to the brittleness of his own bright blue ones. He realized that Sasuke's body was all hard angles and planes when pressed down against his like this, and it was all Naruto could do not to press back just to see if they fit into the angles of his own body.
He also realized that Temari was wrong, very wrong. Sasuke could definitely get it up, and 'It' was currently pressing very persistently into Naruto's thigh.
He let out a long shaky breath against Sasuke's mouth, and thought for one terrifying moment that this was the closest he had ever come to love; feeding somebody his own air.
Then he was being shoved back, his body reacting violently to the shock of losing the warmth and the closeness. For a moment, Naruto could sympathize with Sasuke's ideas. Loss was terrible.
But so was the look of abject terror on Sasuke's face as he raced across the court to pick up his soaking bag, and stride towards the dorms, shoulders tensed, back straight. The loss was worth it, because love always came back.
At least, it did, if Naruto had anything to do with it.
Because for the first time, as he sat in the haze of the pounding rain, his head spinning and his mouth tingling in spite of cold, cold water, he managed to truly understand the situation for what it was.
'Shit,' he said.
There was music blaring from the speakers in his room when Naruto entered, and Kiba was laughing as Chouji choked out a piece of foil. Sometimes, he absently consumed the wrappers along with his chocolates. He stopped when he saw Naruto.
'Jesus Christ, what were you, sleeping in the rain?'
Naruto collapsed onto his bed. 'I kissed Sasuke.'
No one said anything for a moment, and then Naruto heard the music being turned off. He figured Shikamaru had been in the room too, because he was the only one capable of digesting shockwaves fast enough to actually to act on them.
Then he heard Kiba ask, tentatively. 'And?'
'And I want to do it again,' Naruto admitted. 'Intentionally, this time. And for more than three seconds.'
Shikamaru said, 'Well, about time too.'
'He realized it! Oh god, he realized it, and I'm still only seventeen,' Kiba cried. 'This, it's EPIC! Shika, you're a genius.'
Chouji asked, very quietly, 'Does Sasuke want to, as well?'
In spite of himself, the cold, and the remnants of the numbing shock, Naruto smiled.
'He'll want to.'