Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto Masashi.

First Respite: Fringe Benefits

He strolled lazily along the street with his hands behind his head, trailing behind the rest of his teammates as his eyes took in the sights. Since this was nothing more than a small village, there really wasn't a whole lot to see. Nonetheless, after having spent days upon days upon even more days of tree-hopping through the forest, Suigetsu certainly welcomed and was more than ready for the change of scenery.

In order to minimize their chances of being spotted, their little group tended to shy away from civilization as much as possible. So, whenever they did set foot in a village, even if it was a dinky one like this one, Suigetsu would feel almost like a kid who had been given permission by his parents to go to the playground…as sad as that may be. And after taking a look at his companions, he concluded that he was most likely the only one who thought that way.

Up at the front, leading the way, Sasuke was displaying about as much interest in his surroundings as a rock, though that wasn't anything new. Suigetsu was used to it by now. The guy rarely, if ever, expressed interest in anything. In fact, he rarely expressed much of anything at all. Such was the way of their fearless leader.

Karin didn't seem to care much for the sights either, since she had eyes for Sasuke only. Unsurprisingly, the redhead was trying her best to keep pace with the Uchiha, getting as close to the object of her affection as possible without triggering his annoyance. Whenever she thought no one was watching, she would try to engage Sasuke with inconsequential conversation using that weird girly voice that she reserved just for him.

She was failing miserably.

Suigetsu couldn't help but laugh at that thought. Whether Sasuke was interested in her or not aside, hadn't she figured out by now that the guy was…and forever will be…the number one social retard? She would have more luck talking to an actual rock. Still, he had to give her some credit for persistence if nothing else. Not to mention, watching her make a fool out of herself did make for good entertainment from time to time.

The only other person who was even remotely interested in his surroundings was Juugo, though his attention was directed upwards towards the rooftops and the sky. The big guy was watching the birds. Still.

One would think that he would have had enough of them back in the forest…at least enough to not be staring at them with such fascination. Then again, this was Juugo. With his 'condition', he probably would prefer to stay in the forest and not mind if he never saw another human being again.

Well, Suigetsu wasn't about to let his teammates get in the way of his own enjoyment. He fully intended to check out all the shops and vendor's carts to see if anything would strike his fancy. Did he have enough money to buy everything he wanted? Of course not. It wasn't like he had been working an actual paying job since Sasuke busted him out of Orochimaru's damn water tank. However, there was an easy way around that, and he didn't even have to steal, threaten, or kill. The trick was simple: stay behind Sasuke.

Casually casting his eyes around, Suigetsu could see that it had already begun…the phenomenon he had affectionately dubbed in his mind as the Uchiha Ripple.

Wherever Sasuke went he would, without fail, leave a horde of love-struck women in his wake. From innocent young girls sucking on candy to grandmas relying on sticks to keep them upright, they would all drop whatever they were doing to stare like they'd never seen a man before in their lives. It was a rather amusing spectacle in its own way, especially when Sasuke himself never seemed to notice. Either Sasuke was simply too dense to see it or he was so used to it that he had long since learned to tune it all out. Suigetsu hadn't quite decided which theory he should go with, yet.

Whichever the case may be, one thing was for sure: good looks were definitely wasted on Uchiha Sasuke. Personally, Suigetsu never understood what exactly it was about the guy that women found so irrefutably awe-inspiring, but…that wasn't important. What was important was that the Uchiha Ripple was real. If Sasuke wasn't going to make use of this one asset of his, then Suigetsu would do it for him. It wasn't good to waste things after all.

The Mist ninja strolled over to a fruit stand and picked up an apple. After rubbing it on his shirt a few times, he bit into the fruit. The merchant, a young maiden about his age, didn't even notice his existence, let alone the fact that he was consuming her goods without paying. She was too busy staring longingly after the stoic handsome youth who was gracefully walking farther and farther away from her.

Suigetsu smirked at her, turning on his charm. "Caught your eye, did he?"

"Hm?" The girl turned towards his voice in a daze, blinking her eyes a few times as though suddenly remembering where she was. "Oh! I'm so sorry. Please excuse me. I didn't see you there." She bowed slightly in apology.

"Don't worry about it," he replied with a light shrug and a smile in his voice. "I understand. He has that effect on people. He's from a noble clan after all." That wasn't really a lie. The Uchihas were a big deal, weren't they? The fact that they weren't around anymore was just a minor detail.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, seemingly impressed. "So…you know him?"

He grinned widely, flashing his shark-like teeth. "Of course! I'm his bodyguard." Bodyguard…all purpose lackey…close enough. He turned slightly to show her the oversized blade strapped to his back. "See?"

"Wow… He has bodyguards." Her eyes trailed after Sasuke again. "That must mean he's pretty important."

"Sure does," he agreed readily, biting into his apple again. "He'll be head of the clan soon enough." Technically, the guy was already head by default. It wasn't like there were many candidates to choose from.

The girl smiled at Suigetsu with a curious look in her eyes. "So, what brings you important people to this tiny village?"

"Oh, we've been traveling for a while now." Truth. "We're from pretty far away." Also truth. Leaning over the display of fruits between them, he continued in a hushed voice. "Just between you and me…our young master is actually traveling in search of a suitable bride." Didn't Sasuke say something about reviving his clan? Well, clansmen's gotta come from somewhere, so basically…that made this last claim truth as well.

She blushed lightly with a blink. "Oh… But…here? This is such a poor village. I doubt he'd find anyone worthy of his standards."

"Yeah, well…princesses and noble daughters aren't all they're cracked up to be," he said as he straightened up and finished his apple, tossing the stem over his shoulder with nonchalance. "Too high maintenance, you know? And spoiled, too. Our young master needs someone more down to earth…honest…kind…" He gave pause as he stepped back to give her a thoughtful look as though really seeing her for the first time. "Maybe…someone kinda like you."

She looked at him with shocked wide eyes as her face flushed. "ME?!" Then she placed both hands over her lips after that sudden outburst.

Suigetsu laughed at her teasingly. "You're too cute."

That only made her blush an even deeper shade of red, covering her cheeks with her hands as she turned away slightly with embarrassment.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Uh…well…it's Atsuko," she stammered, feeling flustered.

"Atsuko-chan, huh?" He folded his arms with a chuckle. "Don't look so scared. It's not like I'm going to whisk you off to him against your will or anything," he said with a bright and reassuring grin. "But I like you. So…if you're interested…I'll put in a good word for ya."

She perked up. "Re…really?"

"Sure. Whoever he marries is someone I have to see a lot of, too, you know," he explained. "Better it be someone I like than someone I don't like."

"I…well…I don't know what to say…" She ran her hands through her hair self-consciously as her eyes darted around. Then her face lit up as an idea came to her, and she hastily gathered a number of various fruits and placed them into a paper bag, presenting it to Suigetsu. "Here."

He raised his brows, the practiced look of pleasant surprise plastered on his face. "…for me?"

"Yes," she smiled shyly. "A small token of my thanks."

He returned the smile as he took the bag off her hands. "You really are cute, Atsuko-chan. Thanks for the fruits," he said with a wink. "Maybe I'll see you again."

With those parting words, Suigetsu turned and walked away, his features glowing with satisfaction. Scanning the streets, he spotted his next target: shaved ice. His grin widened. Perfect…

Just outside the small village, three members of Taka stood and waited. Somewhere along the way, they had lost sight of Suigetsu.

With folded arms, Karin tapped her foot on the ground irritably. "Where the hell is that idiot?! Let's just leave him already, Sasuke!"

"No, wait," Juugo said in that mild-mannered way of his. "There he is."

Sasuke and Karin turned to look as Suigetsu finally emerged from the village, his arms loaded with all kinds of things.

Karin stomped over, meeting him half way. "Suigetsu!" she practically growled. "Where the hell did you run off to?! Did you get lost, you moron?!"

The light-haired youth sauntered past her as though she wasn't even there, sipping water from his brand new water bottle. He was in too much of a good mood to let her ruin it.

"Hey, don't ignore me, damn you!" she called heatedly after him to no avail.

Sasuke raised a brow imperceptibly as Suigetsu approached, eyes scrutinizing the goods he was carrying. "Why is it that every time we pass through a village, you always come out…overburdened?" he inquired with minimal intonation and no facial expression. "Don't tell me you're stealing."

Sucking on his straw, Suigetsu tried not to roll his eyes. "Sasuke, you're such a Leaf," he commented offhandedly.

The raven-haired youth narrowed his eyes slightly. "Suigetsu. We want to keep a low profile. I don't need you doing anything that might draw unnecessary attention."

"Heh…says the guy who attracts attention without doing anything," Suigetsu mumbled to himself, earning a stoic but questioning look from Sasuke. "Relax, will ya?" he said with a sigh. "I got all this for free."

Sasuke continued to stare mutely, obviously not buying it.

"What? Heh…I'm a pretty charming guy, you know," he said smugly. "What can I say? People like giving me things. Like this bag of fruits…I got them from Atsuko-chan at the fruit stand. She has a really cute shy smile. Then Hana-san treated me to a cup of shaved ice. Her eyes are an amazing shade of blue. After that, I made a stop at a place that sells all these weird looking snacks…

(Ten minutes later…)

"…and that's where I got this water bottle from Tsubaki nee-san. I really like her sense of humor." With that, he wrapped up his little explanation and considered his part of 'putting in a good word' for everyone fulfilled.

Karin adjusted her glasses, regarding him with skepticism. "I don't believe you."

Suigetsu turned to her with a smile. "I don't care." Then he turned to his fearless leader. "Sasuke?"

"Do what you like," Sasuke replied with indifference.

"You're just jealous that I got all this cool stuff when all you got was boring supplies…which you paid for," Suigetsu commented as he rummaged through his things. Finding what he was looking for, he dug it up and slapped it into Sasuke's hand. "Here. Have a tomato."

Then he walked off to join up with their other teammate who had strayed away to commune with squirrels. "Oi, Juugo. I picked this up for you." He handed the taller teen a goldfish in a plastic bag filled with water.

Juugo was slightly taken aback by the gift. Staring at the goldfish that was currently swimming frantic circles in the bag, he wasn't exactly sure what he was supposed to do with it. "Um…thanks."

"So. Can you tell what it's thinking?" Suigetsu asked, joining the big guy in goldfish staring with an almost childlike glint in his eyes.

Juugo blinked at him then looked thoughtfully back at the fish once more. "Well…I think it's a bit confused. I can't get a clear reading."

"Hehhh? So, you can understand goldfish, too, huh?" Suigetsu noted, impressed with the extent of Juugo's strange ability. "Well, whatever. Let's move." He walked past Juugo and headed into the woods as though he didn't have a care in the world.

Juugo followed Suigetsu with his eyes, bemused. Then, still awkwardly holding the plastic bag in his hand, he turned to Sasuke for directions.

Karin heaved a sigh of exasperation. "…I'll never understand that guy."

Sasuke took a moment to stare at the tomato that was still in his hand. Suppressing a sigh of his own and a shake of his head, he repeated Suigetsu's words. "Let's move."

A/N: I recently developed a major thing for Suigetsu. I liked him well enough in the manga, but I think his VA really brought him to life for me. I watched (and listened to) his debut episode so many times already. LOL!

This is the first story I've posted that's kind of…non-directional. I'm not really sure how long or short it might be, but I think most chapters will probably be relatively short.

So, does anyone else wonder how the four of them actually get by? Did Sasuke swipe Orochimaru's personal stash after he killed him? Or do they live off the land hunters and gatherers style? LOL!

Just in case, nee-san means older sister or just older girl in general.

To those who are following "Evolve", that story is still my priority. I just had to do this first, because it won't leave me alone and I can't seem to concentrate on anything unless I got it out of my head. Heh.

Hope you liked the first chapter!

Thanks for reading! Reviews appreciated!