Survival of the Fittest

Author: Ladelle

Warnings: For once, one of my stories labeled M is actually mature. The first chapter isn't so dirty, but trust me, by the third it gets there. Also language. And a lot of pop culture references. And hilarity.

Comments: Gift fic in three parts. The second one is already complete and the third is on its way. No worries to anyone concerned with Slumberland; the next chapter already has 12 pages and will be out most likely during the weekend.

Thank you Miss PringleBunny for beta-ing!

Chapter One:

"I told you I should have driven," Sasuke settled into the passenger seat, arms crossed over his chest. He licked his lips and realized he had forgotten to bring chapstick. Settling his forehead against the window, he watched as the little strip of highway they were on was eaten away by encroaching woodlands.

Blurs of brown and green made Sasuke's head hurt and he closed his eyes, not daring to fall asleep but too bored with the 'scenic route' Naruto had insisted on. And while 'scenic route' provided him with a marginal amount of alone time with the lust of his life, Sasuke couldn't help but feel like they had become a regular Harold and Kumar. Only they weren't searching for White Castle.

Sasuke frowned.

Did White Castles still even exist?

From the driver's seat Naruto sighed, though Sasuke could practically see the mirth in it.

Oh sure, smile at my misfortune, Sasuke thought with bewilderment. Some guys would have counted their blessings to be stuck in an extremely small space with the man of their dreams. Sasuke decided thatthose types of people were masochists.

Naruto's smile deepened and Sasuke swallowed. He seriously hoped that mind reading wasn't one of his intern's lesser known talents.

Naruto got his way too easily. How could anyone say no to someone who looked like they had just walked out of a Calvin Klein ad? Blond hair, tanned skin, toned muscles that made Sasuke feel like a stick in comparison…How did normal people even hold conversations with Naruto when his laughter made Sasuke's skin prickle with a forbidden sense of excitement?

"The only reason you wanted to drive is so you could say 'Naruto, don't talk to me because I'm concentrating'," Naruto stated, puckering his face to mimic Sasuke's tone.

Which was exaggerated, Sasuke mentally added.

Naruto released another contented sigh. "And if we're going to vacation together, we may as well bond."

Sasuke stifled a groan. Whatever type of 'bonding' Naruto had in mind, Sasuke's was completely different. While Naruto's version apparently involved a road trip and occasional sightseeing, Sasuke's fantasy included cherry flavored lube, handcuffs, and a sign reading 'do not disturb'.

"We are not 'vacationing'."

Talk about the misconception of the decade. They had been working in the same building for nearly a few months now, and for some reason unbeknownst to Sasuke, the director had put Naruto under his wing. It was strange because Sasuke had been working bounties for a good couple of years, and Naruto was fresh from wherever he had come from. Assuming college, Sasuke wondered why the hell an education would bring such a winner to bounty hunting. An intern for bounty hunting, no less.

"I hate to break it to you, but this is what normal people call a road trip!" Naruto swerved in the lane a bit as he laughed and Sasuke nearly snapped his neck in order to give the other man a suitable glare. It was hard to be angry at someone so charismatic, Sasuke decided, his face softening when Naruto's pearlescent blue eyes caught his own. He felt a familiar heat make his blood boil and he quickly broke their eye contact.

"I have motion sickness and I would appreciate it if you—"

"Sasuke, a deer!"

Sasuke turned his attention to the road, where a single bewildered deer stood miles ahead of them, staring at their vehicle like it would suddenly sprout wings and fly away.

"I've never seen a wild deer before!" Naruto was smiling so brightly that Sasuke was sure he would leave the car with a significant tan. He gripped the dashboard and felt panic set in.

Naruto: Most attractive man in the world.

Naruto: Not the brightest crayon in the box.

"This is a one lane highway, you moron!" He reached for the steering wheel, but Naruto deftly held him at bay. His eyes were wild with allure and excitement and he grinned at Sasuke. "Take a picture of it!"

As they closed in on the poor animal, Sasuke nearly growled. "I am not taking a picture of your road kill!" He glanced out to see the deer again, and as Sasuke predicted, the poor specimen of wildlife was frozen in pure terror as Naruto sped maniacally towards it.

"It's not road—hey, why isn't he moving?" Naruto's eyebrows drew inwards and he leaned forward as though the few inches would give him a better gage at what the animal was thinking. He even honked the horn.

Yeah, deer! Obey the rules of the road! Sasuke groaned.

He grabbed his seat cushion and braced for impact right before Naruto slammed his foot onto the brakes. The car made an awful squealing sound as it screeched to a halt and Sasuke's life flashed before his eyes.

Memories of an unfortunate childhood.

The time he tripped on the stage during high school graduation.

The parents that he hadn't confessed his undying love to.

The fact he was going to die with a beautiful man beside him.

The more painstaking realization that he hadn't jumped Naruto's bones yet.

But the car stopped, and Sasuke didn't die.

There's still a chance for the sex!

At least he had his priorities straight.

"Sasuke, Sasuke! Take a picture!" Naruto's voice was a barely audible whisper as he peeked over the steering wheel.

Sasuke wasn't even aware they had brought a camera. The smell of burning rubber assaulted his nose and he choked out a cough, vaguely aware that the seatbelt had done a number to his neck.

"Sasuke! It's right in front of us," Naruto's voice had died down even more than before and when Sasuke poked open an eye, low and behold, not two feet in front of their car stood the deer. And as quickly as he had seen it, the deer loped away into the brush, leaving a starry eyed Naruto pining the loss of its company.

I refuse to die barreling after wildlife in the middle of nowhere, Sasuke's face soured. He unsnapped his seatbelt and popped the button to Naruto's.

"Get out of the car," Sasuke demanded, and when Naruto gave him a confused look, Sasuke merely repeated the command with more intensity.

"But Sasuke—" Naruto whined, as the other man rounded the car.

"You are a danger not only to yourself, but to every other thing out here. Me, the deer -" Sasuke pointed at the lovely artistic statement left by their tires on the highway, " - the road. Get out."

Naruto frowned. "I am not a danger!"

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Are too!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

"Am not times infinity!"

"Are too times—ugh!" Sasuke yanked open the door and put his hands on his hips. "Out, out, out!"

Naruto begrudgingly stepped out of the car but his frame blocked Sasuke from climbing in. "The car is just fine Sasuke. No harm done!" His eyes begged forgiveness.

As if on cue, the abrupt pop and sputter of a deflating tire whistled from behind them. Sasuke groaned and bowed his head to meet the top of Naruto's ajar driver's side door and he banged it lightly a couple of times. He tried to remember just what it was he lived for in his life.

He had a plant back home that needed watering.

That was a good enough reason to carry on.

"I think I saw some flares in the trunk…" Naruto started, and Sasuke grabbed his tanned wrist before Naruto could make headway on that idea. Their eyes met, but this time Sasuke wasn't dumbstruck.

"You are to go nowhere near anything flammable," Sasuke directed. When he was sure Naruto wouldn't make a run for the emergency kit in the trunk, he spoke again. "I'm going to get my cell phone."

Sasuke sauntered back to his side of the car, dipping inside in order to dig through his backpack. When his fingers gripped the familiar leather cover he yanked out his phone, relieved to see at least one bar of a signal. He began the search for a particular phone number and Naruto looked over to him curiously.

"Who are you gonna call?"

Ghost Busters!

Sasuke took a deep breath and answered calmly, even if his mind was going one thousand miles an hour. "Gaara," he replied, referring to the person they had been traveling to see. After one of their bounties had jumped counties, Sasuke and Naruto had been made into delivery boys to deliver the original documentation to another branch.

"Hello, is Gaara available?" Sasuke asked, shifting in place. "No, we were actually on our way to see him. An hour? Right. It's very important that he call me back. Thank you."

Phone flipped shut, Sasuke ran a hand through his hair. "Okay, I guess we're walking until we find a gas station. They'll probably have a tow truck, considering this place is the middle of nowhere…"

Naruto frowned. "I'm sorry about the car…"

Sasuke appreciated the guilt he heard in Naruto's tone. "Yes, I know." He moved towards the car in order to collect his backpack and a few other belongings, content that it had stopped far enough from the center of the road that they wouldn't have to move it any further.

"I'm an ace mechanic," Naruto said suddenly, with a certain purr in his voice. "If you've got a spare, I can get it on no problem."

Sasuke slung his backpack over his shoulders, anxious to rid himself of that mental image before he landed himself in an even more embarrassing predicament. "No spare. It's the company vehicle," he explained, and that basically meant his father was cheap and didn't expect bad things like flat tires to happen.

"Well that's kind of stupid," Naruto scratched his head and Sasuke was content to see that they agreed on something. The man behind the mask of Uchiha Bail Bonds was practical. If Fugaku Uchiha was anything but practical, he wouldn't own the most profitable business in the trade.

"Let's go," Sasuke started down the road and heard a delay in Naruto's step before the intern jogged a bit to catch up. Wind whistled through the pines and tree larks hummed distant melodies, and the entire cadenza was summed up with a brilliantly simple statement.

"It's pretty out here."

Sasuke watched as Naruto searched the canopy of trees for a peephole of sky, grinning brilliantly in the process. He struck Sasuke as the type of man who preferred the outdoors, his tousled hair and sun kissed skin visible proof. People who sat inside all day didn't earn that coloring, and as Sasuke's eyes slipped down to take in the muscular calves escaping Naruto's beige cargo shorts, he decided that type of toning didn't either. It was all Sasuke could do not imagining those tanned legs peeling his own apart, flexing in a sweet and succulent anticipation for-

"Sasuke, watch out for the-"

Pothole, Sasuke's inner-self finished as he stumbled over one. A shot of pain etched its way up to his kneecap from his ankle and he grimaced as he stumbled forward, hands out front to catch his fall. Only his fall never came.

"Whoa," Naruto had grabbed Sasuke's backpack and was holding him - with virtually no strain - at a forty-degree angle from the tar below. "Something tells me that hurt."

Not willing to admit that falling would have hurt worse, Sasuke righted himself and twisted out of Naruto's grasp. His pride had been mortally wounded and as he attempted to step forward, he realized that his ankle obviously had been as well. He crouched down to the ground and pulled up the bell of his workpants, trying to get an eye on what damage had been done. Nothing looked bruised...yet.

"Are you okay?" Naruto knelt down beside Sasuke and settled his palm onto Sasuke's foot, squeezing lightly. A jolt of pain sent Sasuke flat on his ass and he cursed.

"What the hell did you do that for?"

Naruto's face was suddenly very serious, and the pure concentration in his grey eyes made Sasuke's blood churn. They were so close to each other, and the heat from Naruto's hand felt like sweet relief over his injury.

Sasuke had never been one to play the damsel in distress, but he couldn't help that the frustration of the day was leading him to primal thoughts and carnal notions. Before his sanity had the chance to lasso his lust back to a restrainable distance, he circled his fingers over Naruto's and led them upward, careful to make sure that Naruto got a decent feel of his smooth leg. Their eye contact never broke, and because Naruto didn't seem to refuse the gesture, Sasuke spoke softly. "It hurts here too."

He glanced up, waiting for something - anything - to cross Naruto's face. Still, there was only concern. Sasuke wanted to ask if Naruto was oblivious or just incredibly stupid. Instead, he created a visual of a fantasy he had long had by leading Naruto's fingers to his thigh and breathlessly stating, "And here."

Naruto still didn't look phased. He glanced from the place their hands lingered and back to Sasuke's face, incredibly serious. "Sasuke, I think you sprained your ankle. And really badly if it's affecting the tendons in your entire leg."

Sasuke blinked. How any normal human being could ignore any sexual implications in what he had just done was a complete and baffling mystery. Naruto stood up quickly, and walked out onto the bleached black road.

Sasuke hissed at the loss of his long-desired touch. In the distance he heard a car approaching, and his spider-senses warned him as to what Naruto was up to.

"No, Naruto, don't-"

But it was too late. Naruto's hand was already outstretched, one thumb up requesting a ride. The deteriorated station wagon pummeling up the road looked unforgiving enough, and Sasuke prayed to the gods of 'don't make me look like more of an idiot than I am already' that it would just pass by the same way taxis did in the city.

If there was anything Sasuke didn't have on this trip, it was luck, apparently.

The station wagon skid to a stop right in front of Naruto's hand and the blond beamed back at Sasuke. "Lucky us!" he proclaimed.

Sasuke contemplated curling up into the pothole and claiming it as his grave. After all, he was going to die. Anyone that hitch-hiked died. And was it coincidental that all serial killers just happened to own a station wagon? It was like the hip version of a hearse. Naruto extended a hand to him and Sasuke glared, not willing to take the invitation.

"No thank you, I will walk." He clumsily scuffled to his feet, doing his best to ignore the fiery pain that assaulted his ankle every time his heel pressed against the sole of his shoe. He shuffled on, and a dazed Naruto held up a finger to the driver of the station wagon, asking politely for him to wait.

"Sasuke," Naruto placed a hand on the other man's shoulder as he caught up. When Sasuke shook it off, he was gripped again and more harshly. "Stop being a jerk! This guy's offering us a ride!"

Sasuke snapped and whipped around. "To where? Hell?"

Naruto blinked. "What?"

Sasuke attempted to flatten a nonexistent wrinkle from the front of his shirt. "I am too young to die."

"You think the guy in the car is going to kill you?" Naruto laughed out loud. "Don't you have a gun in there?" he asked, motioning towards Sasuke's backpack. And yes, while that was true, Sasuke didn't have the energy to point out that his gun did no good in there, where 'there' was buried beneath the paperwork they were aiming to deliver. In his four years of being a bounty hunter, he had never even needed to use the gun.

Sensing a certain animosity from his glare, Naruto frowned. "You also have me."

And while this was a valid point, seeing as to how Naruto stood a good few inches taller and had the muscles of an aspiring football player, Sasuke couldn't help but feel touched by those words. Although, his mind supplied him with the sudden demand to be touched by other things...

Sasuke coughed. Delusions of grandeur had landed him in this situation in the first place.

Eyes narrowed. He examined Naruto and weighed his capabilities. In his mind, he felt like the action director of a kung fu movie, playing out all potential scenarios in which the driver of the vehicle could be a serial killer. In the end, Naruto always won. And then they had victory sex.

That was enough incentive to agree. What earned great sex better than guilt? You promised we wouldn't be attacked, so now I order you to fuck me!

Yes, a very good plan indeed.

"Alright," Sasuke answered. "But only until we get to a gas station."

Naruto nodded resolutely. "Roger that."

Sasuke raised an eyebrow.

"You know, like 'affirmative'..."

Sasuke turned around and began limping towards the car whilst shaking his head. From behind him, Naruto chuckled. "Would you prefer a 'yes, master'?"

Sasuke didn't answer this. Instead he pretended like he had never heard it. He mentally told his libido the comment had all been a carefully constructed fantasy in an effort to soothe the sexual frustration Naruto seemed so good at innocently creating.

After shrugging off his backpack Sasuke slid into the passenger seat, mostly because the driver of the car had reached over and popped it open for him. Naruto claimed the seat behind him and after an argument that consisted of Naruto plucking the backpack from his lap, also claimed Sasuke's only form of potential self defense. Even if it was buried.


Sasuke's head slowly turned to meet the gaze of the driver who was staring intently at him. He responded with unease. "Hello."

"Thanks for the ride!" Naruto nearly shouted from the back and the pure enthusiasm behind the comment made Sasuke jump. The driver smiled and it was apparent the expression didn't happen often. A dimple appeared and dark eyes gleamed, and Sasuke noticed, with much abhorrence, that the man was wearing a belly shirt and daisy dukes.

Oh shit. Leave it to his one and only hitch hiking experience to be picked up, literally, by one of the few people who could identify his sexual orientation straight off. And in front of Naruto! He embraced fear because fear was the only thing willing to love him wholeheartedly.

"What are you two doing way out here?" the driver asked as the car sped forward. The whole scene reminded Sasuke of a Saturday Night Live skit he had never imagined himself being apart of. No rendition of Night at the Roxbury had ever included a sexually repressed bounty hunter, his ridiculously hot and sassy blond sidekick, and a serial killer queen. Even in his mind, it sounded psychotic. And since when had he ever thought of Naruto as sassy?

Sasuke gagged.

"Business," Naruto answered in Sasuke's stead, assuming he wouldn't. The assumption was correct. Naruto continued, still gloriously entertained. "Sasuke here tripped and fell into a pothole and so we just need a lift to a gas station."

Thank you for that marvelous introduction, Sasuke thought placidly.

"My name is Naruto, by the way. And thanks again!" Sasuke could feel Naruto's fingers digging into the seat cushion behind his head as he poked between the front seats, eager for conversation. He was the type of person who could get along with anyone, Sasuke begrudgingly admitted.

"It's no problem," the driver stated. "My name is Sai. My doctor told me I should interact with people more."

Sasuke felt his fingernails clench into his palm. What kind of doctor gave advice like that? Psychologists, right? The driver was mental. A crazy queen! Sasuke was so right, they were all going to die, only it would probably all be very thoughtfully planned out and there would probably be gift bags and a get-to-know-you mixer...

"Oh yeah? When I was a kid, a doctor told me that too." Naruto's voice didn't drop at all, and Sasuke's nose cinched. He realized, in a shot, that he knew very little about Naruto and his past.

Sai smiled, but the expression was only skin deep. "My doctor also told me to stay away from the organization."

"Organization?" Sasuke asked, and immediately bit his tongue. No! Now he knows the sound of my voice!

Sai was still smiling. "Yeah, the one I work for. It's a secret. No one is allowed to know about it. I even have a tattoo on my tongue that will kill me if I ever reveal its secrets."

Sasuke, very slowly - no, extremely slowly - rotated his head, twisting it nearly ninety degrees in order to make eye contact with Naruto. He stared. For a long time. Naruto looked hesitant.

"Did you hear that, Naruto? He has a tattoo that will kill him if he talks about his job."

Naruto laughed nervously. "Sounds rough..."

"It's not that bad," Sai straightened in his seat. "I draw. Would you like to see my sketchbook?"

Sasuke was staring very seriously at the driver.

"Sure!" Naruto exclaimed, and Sasuke added, very coolly, "Are you going to have to kill us afterwards?" There was no joking in his tone.

Sai did laugh, and it was completely phony. "No, of course not. We're friends."

Sasuke continued to stare. Sai added, "It's in the glove compartment."

Caught between asking 'you're sanity?' or 'the weapon you plan to kill me with?' was the decision to just lean forward, mentally preparing himself for whatever could be inside. He swallowed a lump in his throat. Goosebumps raised on his arms as his fingers gripped the handle and he held his breath as he popped it open, prepared to scream like a girl.

Luckily he didn't because all that was inside was the sketchbook. He sighed in relief and pulled the book onto his lap. Naruto leaned over his shoulder, and Sasuke felt like he could face any creepy or shitty piece of artwork as long as the intern stayed firmly planted where he was. Sasuke flipped open to the first page.

The art wasn't horrible. It wasn't amazing. The sketch featured someone that looked like Sai, standing alone in a field. Or what appeared to be a field. There was a collection of massive green scribbles beneath the figure with a few splotches of color that may or may not have been flowers.

Most of them were red. Dripping red. Like blood.


He turned the page. It was another picture of someone that looked like Sai, in the same position and with the same clothes, only this time he was standing over blue scribbles.

"It's the ocean," Sai explained monotonely, as if he'd been asked several times before.

Sasuke turned the page. Two Sai's, side-by-side. Holding hands.

"That's my brother."

Naruto leaned closer to the picture. "You have a brother?"


Sasuke frowned. "But you just said that-"

"He doesn't exist!" Sai yelled, and Sasuke closed the sketchbook and let his eyes jump to the road straight ahead. Even Naruto settled into the backseat, although he hadn't quite lost his sense of eternal acceptance.

"You're a good artist," he commented.

Sasuke resisted the urge to snort, simply because he valued his life more than his cynicism. In the distance, he saw light. They were driving into a clearing. And further ahead, he saw an exit. He felt a smile claim his lips. An exit meant a gas station!

"So, which one of you has the bigger penis?"

Too baffled to blink, Sasuke pretended he hadn't heard the question at all. It would have been easier if Naruto hadn't burst out laughing. Unsatisfied that there hadn't been a straight answer, Sai frowned. "Well?"

Naruto wiped a tear from his eye before looking oddly out of place. "Well what?"

"I guess it's not you then." Sai responded, his expression unchanging.

Sasuke pursed his lips and sat up straight in his seat, preparing to tuck and roll out of the car. It seemed like a better death then whatever this Sai character had in mind, considering their manly bits were now an integral part of whatever was going on in his head.

"Excuse me, but my penis is amazing," Naruto countered, and Sasuke's ears perked when he heard nothing but defense in the other man's tone. It made his pants tighten. He saw Sai shift from the corner of his eyes and simply stared towards the upcoming exit. The tension in his pants disappeared.

Don't make the crazy man mad; don't make the crazy man mad...

"I'm betting it's pretty small," Sai said, so nonchalantly that Sasuke wasn't sure why Naruto wouldn't just let it go. Not that he didn't mind hearing how gifted his intern was. He just didn't want Naruto to lose his goodies before he had a chance to put them to use.

Good use.

Naruto was practically fuming. "I'll show it to you! I'll prove to you that 'small' is not in my vocabulary!"

Sasuke thought he might faint. The carnal part of him was cheering Naruto on, urging him to yell 'whip it out!' while doing mental cheerleading cartwheels. The more practical side of himself thankfully took over. He turned and placed a hand over Naruto's, which was still on the neck of his seat.

"I believe that your penis is amazing and big," he stated, his eyes pleading. Don't let my first experience with your great and powerful man-shaft be in a beat up station wagon with this freak!

Naruto's eyes lightened and his anger dispelled slightly. He pouted.

"There's a gas station at the next exit." Sai stated.

Sasuke didn't admit he'd been counting down the mile markers.

The remaining minutes of the drive held complete silence. An eerie silence, at that. Sai pulled into the gas station parking lot and Sasuke resisted the primal temptation of throwing himself out of the car and kissing the earth below. Instead, he calmly turned and exited, mumbling a very discreet "Thank you."

Naruto climbed out as well, and surprisingly, Sai did too. Only to duck back in, rifle under the driver's seat, and pull out two banged up paper cranes. He walked to Sasuke and Naruto's side of the car and handed them one each, smiling that crazy smile once again.

"It's a gift for my friends! My doctor said I should have a hobby..."

Sasuke stared at the paper crane which actually looked more like a turtle in a tutu. There was a long stretch of silence before he realized Sai was expecting him to say something.

He glanced around. His eyes made their way back to the driver's. He swallowed a lump in his throat.

"Thank you."

Naruto repeated the sentiment.

Sai's smile grew into something painfully forced before he slid back into his car and drove off into the distance.

The silence continued between Sasuke and Naruto, even after the dust from Sai's departure had settled. Sasuke glanced down to the wad of paper in his hands, crumpled it, and threw it over his shoulder.

"Hey, that's-" Naruto began, but Sasuke glared.

"You are not allowed to speak."


And then a muffled, "Yes, master."

Sasuke intensified his glare. "I would like my phone now."

Naruto's hand reached to his shoulder in order to grab the shoulder strap of the backpack. Only there was no backpack. Blue eyes widened. If Sasuke's frown deepened anymore than it had already, he was sure his jaw would fall off.


"I swear, I just-my penis-"

"What does your penis have to do with my missing backpack?"

Sasuke's face marred until he was the exact replica of the Scream painting. "Oh no, oh no. My backpack. The paperwork. My gun. My IDs!"

His ankle protested an attempt to move forward and he slid to the ground in an undignified lump, one arm outstretched dramatically towards the highway that had swallowed up his entire purpose for this ridiculous road trip.

"Sasuke, I'm so sorry, I'll make this right, I-"

If looks could kill, Sasuke would have bashed Naruto's head in with his own busted ankle. He buried his head in his hands and after a couple of minutes, Naruto spoke.

"We should call Gaara."

Sasuke snorted. "That would be a great idea if we had his number. Which is in my phone. That you lost."

"I didn't lose anything; we know where it is." Naruto rebutted.

"Oh, I feel so much better knowing it's with Sai the Psychotic Station Wagon Driver." Sasuke hissed, never one for clever nicknames.

Ignoring the comment, Naruto continued. "And I do have his number," Naruto was digging through his back pocket and revealed his phone. Sasuke raised an eyebrow.

"Why do you have Gaara's phone number?" he asked, genuinely curious as to how his intern had gotten a hold of such a thing. Naruto was scrolling through contacts before he lifted the device to his ear.

"Because the boss gave it to me."

Sasuke felt something inside of him snap. Since when did his own father second guess his judgment? Since when had Naruto become so welcomed at the office that he was treated with the same dignity that Sasuke was? Even if he did have an amazing penis? Or so Sasuke imagined.

"Hi, is Gaara there yet?" Naruto asked, and Sasuke grimaced at the lack of professional tact. He would have slapped a hand to his forehead if it wasn't already there, defending his eyes from the sun.

"He is? Awesome," Naruto paused and after a mere few seconds it appeared he had Gaara on the other line. "Hey Gaara, this is Naruto. Sasuke and I were on assignment to deliver you some paperwork but there have been a few complications..."

Sasuke was grateful Naruto hadn't attempted to explain them.

"You're going to come and get us yourself? That's super nice!" Naruto's eyes glittered. "Okay, we'll stay occupied until then. Right. Bye!"

Naruto returned his phone to his rear pocket and ticked the paper crane in his front pocket. Sasuke stood up. "You're keeping it?"

"It's like a memento," he explained, defending his action.

Sasuke threw his hands in the air. "We hitch-hike with a psychopath and you want a souvenir? He even insulted your manhood!"

Naruto looked troubled at the memory but shrugged. "He'll never get to see it so what do I care what he thinks?"

Sasuke couldn't argue with logic like that, especially because he didn't want to lead the conversation anywhere near Naruto hinting Sasuke wouldn't have a chance of seeing it either. Sasuke was smart though. Naruto was most likely straight. That being said, Sasuke was pretty sure he was comfortable with men, regardless. No completely straight man let another man cop a fake feel-up opportunity like he had earlier.

"Are you just going to sit out here in the sun?" Naruto asked calmly.

Sasuke rubbed his foot. "My ankle hurts."

It was less than a second before Naruto's arms came crashing towards him, all in preparation to pick him up and carry him over the threshold of the gas station, which was also conveniently connected to a suspicious little diner called Route 66. Sasuke flailed enough to avoid Naruto's intentions and pointed an accusing finger.

"I am not a woman!"

Naruto raised an eyebrow. "What are you pointing at me for?"

"You were going to carry me! Like-" Sasuke sputtered, "-like some sort of bride!"

Naruto appeared very concerned. "Do you take anxiety pills?"

Sasuke's jaw dropped. He hadn't told anyone about that and-

"Because you are really worked up right now."

Sasuke took a few deep breaths. He counted down from ten. He thought about the plant at home that needed him to stay sane so he'd be able to return to water it. He held up his hand so that Naruto could pull him to his feet.

"Better?" Naruto asked, and Sasuke nodded. Naruto seemed appeased. "Good. Gaara is only a little ways away, I guess. So let's get your car towed before he comes."

Sasuke nodded again and struggled past Naruto, refusing to let the other man be his crutch. He had lost enough pride today.

They made it inside safely and the air-conditioning assaulted them full force, making Sasuke's skin prickle with goose pimples. He went to the front counter and waited patiently for someone to come to his assistance, and Naruto came to stand beside him, leaning onto the counter and releasing a contented sigh.

"Isn't that cold?" Sasuke questioned. He hadn't even touched the countertop for fear of how chilled it would be.

Naruto closed his eyes and smiled. "Feels good."

Considering how Naruto was built, Sasuke supposed it made sense that he would be a walking incinerator. He was tempted to step closer to the blond, to let their skin touch just once so that Naruto could make him 'feel good'. It was just too damn cold inside.

"How can I help you...two?" The woman who came to the counter was obviously one of those small town rebels, with brown hair died bubblegum pink and a piece of Big Red in her mouth too add more to the effect. She smacked it a bit before glancing between them.

Sasuke sighed. "My car is abandoned on the highway with a flat tire," he explained.

"It's my fault," Naruto said, and his eyes fell to a half-mast Conqueror of Woman stare. "But let me make it up to you and buy you some coffee."

The girl, named Sakura (or so her battered nametag read), raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't you be buying him some coffee?"

Naruto's eyes nearly crossed when he tried to figure out where he'd gone wrong.

"Do you have a towing service here?" Sasuke interrupted, his homosexual hopefulness blowing away with a blast of air from the AC above them.

Sakura smacked her gum a bit more and rested her elbows on the counter, pressing her chin into her upturned palms. "For you, I've got anything."

Sasuke maintained a passive stare before blinking. Barking up the wrong tree, babe.

Naruto was practicing his Failure of Conquering Woman pout when Sasuke sighed. "I'm not your type, trust me. But I would love for someone to tow my car."

The girl frowned and huffed. "Awe, boo. Well, let me just see your ID..." she reached beneath the counter in order to rifle for some paperwork. Sasuke turned an expectant glare to Naruto until he finally revealed his wallet.

"I'll reimburse you," Sasuke said, and Naruto looked a bit like he didn't intend to take the offer. It was his fault, after all. Still, Sasuke was his boss and making an intern pay utility made him feel bad. Slightly. Naruto hitting on the first female they'd seen thus far made him feel worse.

Naruto filled out the paperwork and gave Sakura the address of Gaara's office, hoping they could get it to a lot nearby. Sakura seemed easygoing enough to aim for it and Sasuke felt good about that at least. As Naruto was signing the last bit of paperwork someone else entered the gas station, and when Sasuke turned he immediately recognized the newcomer.

"Gaara," he said, and his professional composure returned. "I'm so sorry about this."

Gaara smiled. "It got me out of the office, so your apologies aren't necessary. An explanation would be nice, however."

"So you're Gaara!" After Naruto pocketed his wallet he whipped around and extended his hand. And Sasuke saw it. The glimmer in Gaara's eyes that proved that the business owner saw in Naruto exactly what Sasuke did. His teeth clenched together as their hands met.

"Naruto Uzumaki, I presume?" Gaara asked, and the name rolled off his tongue with an ease that made Sasuke uncomfortable.

Naruto beamed. "Yup. Sorry about all this. It's been a long day. I think Sasuke needs a nap."

When Gaara chuckled, Sasuke grit his teeth. "I think I need to get laid."

Naruto's smile dimmed and he stared at Sasuke, probably trying to figure out if the other man was joking. Sasuke wasn't. He also wasn't aware he had said that aloud.

Gaara moved towards the door, pretending he hadn't heard anything at all. "Let's be on our way. I'd like to know how your luck's turned so bad."

Sasuke decided that he wanted to know too, and concluded halfheartedly that in the end, he had very little luck to begin with.