Survival of the Fittest
Comments: Hilarity continues. Thank you for all of the reviews. Glad I could provide some laughs, LOL. This is definitely my wonkier side of writing. One more part down and SL 11 is being beta'd. Three cheers for a productive writing week. Hip-hip-HOORAY! Hip-hip-HOORAY! Hip-hip-HOORAY! Oh, and thanks to PringleBunny again for editing. :D
Warnings: Language and adult situations. Rated M for mature.
When Gaara heard the rundown of what had happened, Sasuke expected disbelief. But because Naruto was the one who did all of the talking, it seemed like the businessman was willing to sacrifice his bullshit detector in favor of humoring said blond.
"I think the first thing we need to do is attempt to track down this Sai fellow," Gaara commanded wisely. Naruto nodded.
"I was thinking that, too. Despite the fact he was a bit strange...I don't think he would hold the backpack hostage."
Sasuke could imagine it. He could definitely visualize Sai cutting up newspaper articles for letters of the alphabet before mailing ransom notes and sending random pictures of his backpack via post. He didn't even want to imagine what Sai might do with his gun. Which reminded him.
"I need to report my gun stolen," Sasuke stated. He stared down at his empty mug of coffee, feeling like he'd need to drink a thousand more to stay caffeinated. After arriving at their hotel, which Gaara had respectively paid for with the promise for compensation, the three of them had sauntered downstairs to experience the joys of the restaurant attached to it. It was a four star establishment, but Sasuke couldn't eat.
He felt like too much of a failure.
"But Sai didn't steal it," Naruto was frowning, even as he shoveled brisket into his mouth. How someone could eat so much was beyond Sasuke. He wondered if each of Naruto's bulging biceps had a stomach of its own.
"If someone if injured and they link it to my gun and I don't have it, I could go to jail, Naruto." He could feel his tone becoming more and more clipped as time went on. Maybe he did need a nap. His ankle needed a bandage, that was for sure. He could barely keep his tennis shoe on with the way it was swelling.
Naruto looked distressed but didn't argue. Instead he asked, "Hey, do you need help?"
Peeling himself up from his chair, Sasuke was intent on reporting his gun missing. His plan was to use the front desk's phone, and as far as he could guess, the walk was about 30 strides away.
"Why don't you just use my cell phone?" Gaara asked, as though the solution was that simple. If Gaara hadn't been giving Naruto the eye, it would have been that simple. But seeing as how Sasuke and Gaara had become rivals in lust, Sasuke deemed the enemy's assistance unacceptable.
Sasuke bit back a hiss of pain as he stood and waved the two other men off. "You two seem like you have a lot you want to discuss," he said bitterly. Naruto leapt up, either ignoring or ignorant to what Sasuke had implied. Judging by the fact that Naruto wasn't the sharpest weed whacker in the backyard, Sasuke decided on 'oblivious'.
"As soon as you're done we're going upstairs." Naruto jammed the last bit of food on his plate into his mouth before turning his attention back to Gaara. "He really needs to be off his ankle."
Gaara seemed to understand, though the look he gave Sasuke made it seem like the bounty hunter was faking his pain for Naruto's attention. He slowly smirked. What a brilliant idea.
"Yeah, maybe you should come with me," he said, resting his weight against the arm that Naruto had offered him. "It does seem far now that I'm standing."
"Okay," Naruto agreed, a flash of concern darkening his eyes. "Thank you for everything, Gaara. We'll get started on tracking Sai down in the morning. In the meantime, would you mind not mentioning any of this to-"
"Of course not," Gaara smiled pleasantly. "Fugaku will never know. This is our secret."
While Sasuke was grateful, he was also stubborn. He said his commendments while using Naruto's attentiveness to his full advantage and was enthralled when Gaara finally departed. It hurt more than he thought it would getting to the main desk, but he managed and when his phone call was complete he and Naruto made their way to the fifth floor where their room resided.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, feeling ecstatic to not have to stand anymore. The pain in his foot died enough for him to feel the difference, but not enough for him to feel content.
"We don't have an extra changes of clothes," he muttered, already feeling gross in his current apparel.
Naruto fished some coins from his wallet. "They have a little laundry room at the end of the hall. Gimme your clothes," he commanded, and started to strip himself of his own. Sasuke turned beet red and scoffed.
"I can't just get naked!"
Naruto tugged off his cargo pants and t-shirt and whipped his belt out from the loop. He tossed it onto his bed and turned to stare at Sasuke, who was doing his best not to look like a boy who'd just hit puberty and couldn't control his bodily functions.
"Ah...um..." Sasuke soaked up the image like a sponge. Naruto was certainly tan everywhere. His chest was immaculately toned and his abdomen gave way to the smooth ridges of rippling muscle. His boxers were short and revealed a glorious expanse of Naruto's thigh, beautiful and golden and muscular.
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "You can't get naked?"
Sasuke debated revising his question. The relay sounded a lot like a perverted law and order episode. If I choose to get naked, will or will not the situation include you and me and potentially the belt?
Sasuke could hear straight Naruto's reply. "Objection!"
Sasuke tried to redeem himself. "I...don't want to pull my pants over my ankle."
Naruto was eager enough to solve that little problem. Or excuse. But how did you tell your roommate, coincidentally your intern, that you didn't want to get naked because you were afraid you'd pop a boner and rape him in his sleep?
Naruto reached down to hold the lower hems of Sasuke's pants, crouching in front of Sasuke in a way that made him sure that most of his blood had just ran a marathon to his crotch. He squirmed.
"You have to unbutton your pants, Sasuke," Naruto guided and Sasuke wanted to do nothing but pretend this was delicious foreplay. His fingers tugged on the button and slid the zipper down, and le lifted himself from the bed so Naruto could finish the project of freeing him - in more ways than one. His pants slid off and Sasuke was grateful that his own t-shirt was long enough to cover the arousal the action had given him.
Naruto eyed him. "Your shirt too."
Was it Sasuke's imagination or was Naruto's stare a bit carnal on its own? Even the tone of his voice seemed to have changed. Sasuke bit back a laugh.
"Hold on," Sasuke stood up and hobbled to the bathroom. "I'm going to take a shower," he explained, and pulled off his shirt while he was facing away from the blond. No proof of excitement for you!
"I don't think that's a good idea. What if you slip and fall while I'm gone?" It was endearing when Naruto cared whether Sasuke lived or died.
Sasuke slowly shut the door. "Oh, I'll be fine."
He waited until he heard the door to the hotel room open and close, signifying Naruto's departure. He nearly scalded himself with hot water as he climbed in before adjusting the temperature, leaving his boxers in a clump on the floor in front of the toilet. He scrambled to open the small shampoo sample and squirted a bit onto his palm and deftly led his fingers to his arousal. The pain in his ankle combined with the pleasure from his stroking gave him an awkward feeling of erotica. He imagined Naruto's fingers working the same magic and felt all of his sexual tension from the day boiling- no - bubbling up from inside of him, threatening to burst at any moment. He grit his teeth and threw his head back and -
"Shit Sasuke, sorry, but I've really gotta go," Naruto had burst into the bathroom, apparently to piss.
"MOTHER FUCKER!" Sasuke cried as he came and as soon as Naruto was finished, which was very quickly, he yanked the shower curtain open.
"Are you okay?"
Sasuke had nearly collapsed and blushed madly before grabbing his ankle. "It hurts so bad!" he lied, covering up what he had done.
"I told you!" Naruto looked angry as he reached in and Sasuke batted his hand away.
"I'm naked, you heathen!" he yelled, and Naruto's face twisted into something entirely controlling and demanding. Sasuke liked it.
"Like it's something I haven't seen before," he responded and he plucked Sasuke out like he weighed nothing. Tan hands grabbed a towel which Sasuke absently folded around himself as Naruto led him out to his own bed and dropped him there, unceremoniously. Naruto disappeared into the bathroom and the water turned off, and when Naruto emerged, he tossed Sasuke's boxers to him. "Put on some clothes, princess."
Sasuke felt abashed. He scrambled to put on his boxers before Naruto provided him with a wet towel, most likely for his ankle. "Do you want me to wrap it?"
Pride led Sasuke to want to say no, but in the long run, he didn't know the first things about how to properly wrap a hand towel around his injured foot. He glared. "If I knew how I'd say no."
Naruto sighed and wrapped it expertly, leading Sasuke to question his skills. "How do you know all of this stuff?"
"Boy scouts," Naruto answered vaguely. "Now go to sleep. You're not much fun when you're grumpy."
Sasuke snorted. "I have plenty of reasons to be grumpy."
"You're super attractive when you smile."
Sasuke did a double take. "What?"
Naruto looked at him, confused. "I said you shouldn't be active for a while. Your ankle's pretty bad."
Sasuke dimmed. Right.
A brief pause and then, "If you have to go in the middle of the night, wake me up so you don't kill yourself getting there."
"As if," Sasuke responded. It was just a sprained ankle. He didn't need a wrangler.
"See you in the morning, Sasuke."
"Stop talking already!"
The morning was...well, morning. The hotel room was too cold and the towel around Sasuke's foot had created a puddle in the sheets at the end of his bed. The ceiling fan was on and Sasuke's teeth clacked together as he glanced over to Naruto's bed, not entirely amazed to see the intern sprawled out on top of the covers like it was ninety degrees or something.
At some point during the night Naruto had crept out and retrieved their laundry; it was piled on the room's decorative armchair. If it were any other day Sasuke would have made some wry comment about folding, but he had bigger fish to fry.
Sasuke peeled himself out of bed, wincing slightly when his ankle protested. He pulled the towel off and examined it, noting that it didn't look as bad as he thought it would. And while he was pretty sure he was supposed to stay off it, he swallowed the heart wrenching fact he'd just have to suffer through abusing Naruto's kindness and concern for one more day as he pillaged nearby cities for the psycho with his backpack.
He did his best to quietly approach the armchair, careful not to disturb the slumbering Naruto. He looked awfully serious when he slept and Sasuke slapped himself in the face when he felt his eyes honing in on a very amazing sight.
In the morning pitch a tent
If you're lucky you'll get bent!
Sasuke groaned. Leave it to his stupid brother's ridiculous sayings as a kid to enter his mind at such a critical moment of attempted neutrality. Naruto was torture. He was a tease. In short, he was going to be the death of Sasuke.
Using every ounce of his willpower to not look at Naruto's glorious endowment through the thin layer of his boxers, Sasuke retrieved his clothes and scuttled to the bathroom. In record time he was changed, had watered down the kinks in his hair, and washed his face. Like a ninja, Naruto entered behind him, rubbing his head and yawning.
"Is it morning already?" he asked, looking slightly dazed.
Sasuke folded the towel he'd been using neatly and set it onto the countertop. "Judging by the clock I'd say yes. Judging by the temperature in this room, I'd guess not."
"Does that mean it's too cold for you?" Naruto asked wantonly.
Sasuke huffed. "Do you see this?" he held up his arm, which appeared rather slim and delicate. It was the gift of Asian heritage, and also the curse. "This is what an arm looks like that has no means of providing its own warmth."
Naruto laughed and the sound was a delicious delight. "You may just have poor circulation. You should work out more. Hey! We could work out together!"
Sasuke bit his tongue. He pursed his lips. What he wanted to say wasn't appropriate.
"No?" Naruto looked disappointed and it made the small thawed part of Sasuke's heart melt.
"Well, I mean, maybe..."
"Awesome!" Naruto hugged him and Sasuke was seduced by the smell of men's body spray and...donuts?
"Why do you smell like a pastry?" Sasuke raised an eyebrow in curiosity as he pulled away, feeling a rush of cold when the other man's head was suddenly removed. Naruto grinned.
"I went out and got us some breakfast last night! Donuts," he explained.
Sasuke wondered just how hard he had to have been sleeping to avoid not only Naruto leaving for laundry, but also for a midnight stroll. "So...did you seep well?" Sasuke asked, trying to figure Naruto's motives out.
Turning the water on, Naruto spoke through splashes against his face. "Yeah. I don't need a lot of sleep though. I prefer to do other things at night."
Sasuke felt his ears burn red and he wondered if it was just his imagination that heard playfulness in Naruto's tone, one that almost urged him to continue the banter. Who was he to resist that?
"Like go out and buy donuts?"
Naruto turned off the water and snagged a towel to dry his face. "That...and other things." There was a glimmer in his eyes that made Sasuke want to crawl mercilessly into a cold shower.
"Right. Okay. How are we going to find Sai?" Sasuke changed the subject, not sure if he wanted to continue the game of tell me how your milkshake brings the boys to the yard with his temporary roommate.
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "You're asking me? You're the bounty hunter."
This was a very valid point. One that Sasuke had nearly forgotten. Without his gun he just felt like a normal human. With the exception of being homosexual and having a club for a foot.
"I'm testing you," he rectified. "You want my position, don't you?"
The expression on Naruto's face as he and Sasuke met eyes was surprising to say the least. There was confusion, shock, and perhaps a dash of guilt. "I don't want your position-"
"Save it," Sasuke waved him off. Anyone who didn't want to work their way up in a company was missing a screw. "First step of bounty hunting is...?"
Naruto's mouth was still parted as though he was ready to argue, but at the prospect of something he could answer, he lit up like a golden retriever who was about to get a trick right. "Use what you know!"
Sasuke curled his thumb and forefinger around his chin. "Yes, yes. And what do we know?"
Naruto held up a finger. "He drives a station wagon."
Nodding, Sasuke exited the bathroom in favor of finding a place to sit. Naruto followed, but kept walking until he reached the armchair where he began to dress himself.
"What else do we know?" Sasuke asked, watching as Naruto's fingers deftly zipped and buttoned his pants. It was a visual declaration of, 'alright everyone, show's over!' Sasuke had to resist shouting, 'Encore!'
Naruto seemed thoughtful. "He draws pictures and works for a secret organization."
"Please," Sasuke shook his head. As Naruto pulled on his shirt, something fell out of it onto the floor.
"You're shedding, Naruto."
Said blond stared intently at his skin for a moment before gazing doubtfully at Sasuke and Sasuke sighed before pointing to the fallen article on the floor.
"Awe, it's the paper crane." Naruto looked truly disappointed and Sasuke wanted to take the damn thing and set it on fire. No matter how he looked at it, a shriveled piece of paper was not a memento.
Naruto held it in his hand and stared sadly at it, all before beginning to unfold what he could. This amused Sasuke greatly. "What, are you going to remake it?"
"It's a business card," Naruto explained, peeling the pieces apart. Sasuke nearly leapt up, feeling like Scooby-Do. A clue!
"Orochimaru's Man Harem," Naruto read, and then repeated, slowly and methodically, "…man harem."
An awkward silence settled into the room. Sasuke broke it. "Well? Where is it?"
Naruto squinted and held the paper near the light flushing through the window. "Here. In this city I mean. Only the zip code is different."
Sasuke almost crooned. Well, that was a start. "Let's go then," he announced, though he gave Naruto a sly glance. "Unless you're afraid?"
Straight men always fell for the goad.
"I, Naruto Uzumaki, am not afraid of a man harem." A pause. "What's a harem, anyway?"
Sasuke sighed. Oh, sweet innocence. "I'll explain on the way downstairs. Think you can cover the cab ride?"
Naruto nodded and grabbed his wallet before they left the room, anxious to get an early start on what was sure to be a long day.
"I'll take you, but your friend here is a bit too...gruff."
Sasuke stared, caught between being insulted for himself and wondering how anyone could describe Naruto as 'gruff'. Sexy, built and sensuous-slab-of-man-meat all came to mind, but Naruto in no way looked like a billy goat.
"I think you've misunderstood our visit," Sasuke responded dryly. "I am not seeking employment."
The man at the front desk, at least Sasuke thought he was a man, raised a nonexistent eyebrow. His face was paler than Sasuke's, which was saying something. Also, he was wearing so much make-up and intricate frilly articles of clothing that he would have made a Vegas showgirl feel underdressed. Sasuke had expected this, but still it was hard on the eyes.
It had taken all of Sasuke's balls to walk inside the southern themed villa, decorated to look like a cross between a quaint little Victorian house and a sinful little saloon. The decorations inside were just as confusing, and Sasuke realized that this harem really went all out.
There was a sitting room to the right with quite a few plush red sofas, one of which was already occupied by two men tangled in each other's half exposed limbs. There was whining and moaning and the fervent sounds of sucking, and Sasuke found himself trying to keep very still.
If I don't move, they can't see me. Any quick movements and I'm done for!
The man at the front desk noticed Sasuke's sideways glance and his ruby red lips suddenly curled into a smile.
"I'm so sorry. You two came for a night of our services, didn't you?"
Sasuke felt his stomach do a back flip. No way no how was this guy implying that he and Naruto...although it was nice to pretend like in some alternate dimension they would be seeking a man-harem in order to get down and dirty with each other. Sasuke took in the perplexing appearance of the man before him and shuddered. Maybe a harem with less pizzazz.
As Sasuke distinctly replied 'no', Naruto looked insanely curious. "What services do you offer?"
Sasuke slapped a hand to his forehead for the second time in one day. "Nothing we want, Naruto."
"Are you sure?"
Sasuke reconsidered and in a very low voice, only audible to himself, rephrased. "Nothing you want, anyway." Returning his attention to the man at the counter, he put on his I'm-a-bounty-hunter-so-don't-fuck-with-me face, and cleared his throat. "I need to speak with your manager."
"I am the manager." The man smiled more femininely and Sasuke debated a life of heterosexuality. Thankfully, Naruto stepping beside him reminded him that he would only ever be as straight as a circle. A sharp cry of pleasure erupted from the sitting room and Sasuke wondered what it would be like to have Naruto doing him on a couch, in front of unsuspecting onlookers...
"You're Orochimaru? And this is your man-harem?" Naruto's voice halted Sasuke's train of thought, thankfully. Getting a hard on in a place like this was the last thing Sasuke's pride needed. Although, he had to admit that Naruto was doing a brilliant job of pretending like people having sex less than 20 feet away was business as usual.
"Yes. This is my Man-Harem." This is Sparta! would have sounded less dramatic.
"Okay, so we're looking for someone we believe you might know," Sasuke began, anxious to get his interrogation over with. "He's Asian with short hair, last seen wearing short-shorts and a belly tee. He may or may not have a brother that may or may not exist. He draws and apparently has a...tattoo on his tongue. That may or not kill him. Does he sound familiar?"
Orochimaru licked his lips and Sasuke saw a layer of the lipstick disappear after the movement. Gross much? Sasuke also noticed that Orochimaru's eyes hadn't once left his own. And they weren't just looking at him, they were looking through him. Undressing him. Seducing him. Or trying to. Sasuke debated telling the man that there was nothing attractive about old men in lacy dresses. Oh, and that his skin tone was too pale for ruby red lipstick and that a nice shade of rosebud pink would look better...
Way to live up to the stereotype, Sasuke inwardly groaned.
"Are you with the police?" Orochimaru asked, looking intrigued. Sasuke was also pretty sure a tongue didn't have to move quite that much in order to ask a simple question. He shook his head, but Naruto answered for him, stepping closer as he did so.
"He gave us a ride and we accidently left some of our luggage in his car. We're just trying to get it back." Naruto was standing so close to Sasuke that skin definitely rubbed against skin. Sasuke swallowed some spit that threatened to become drool. Using the power of ultimate transformation, he summoned back his I-remain-unaffected face. He even managed to maintain it as the couple on the sofa climaxed.
There was a shot period of silence.
"I see," Orochimaru looked unphased. "He might sound more familiar if you provided some sort of compensation-"
Sasuke was used to smooth talkers like this, so he interrupted. "Your compensation is me not telling the police that you're an accessory to theft. Oh, and that you offer bribes."
Orochimaru looked surprised. And intrigued. "You're quite the little professional, aren't you?"
Sasuke snorted. "I'm just good at my job."
Another intentional lick-of-the-lips, and this time all that was left on Orochimaru's lips was the red stain of the lipstick that had once existed there. Sasuke shivered when an image of the older man asking, 'Why so serious?' assaulted his mind.
He really needed to lay off the television.
"I bet you're good at many things," Orochimaru incited and this time, Naruto seemed to catch the innuendo.
"None of which you'll ever be able to see. Have you seen the guy or not?" His tone was uncharacteristically clipped, and Sasuke wondered if Naruto was defending him. He obviously was. If Sasuke believed in hugs, he may have given one.
Luckily, after a staring contest that seemed to hold an unspoken battle for dominance, Naruto won over the middle-aged man in a moo-moo and Orochimaru gave in. "His name is Sai, if we're thinking about the same person. I don't know where he would be. Kakashi would, though."
"Who?" Sasuke was ready to take mental notes.
"Kakashi Hatake. He owns a lovely little studio down the way. He'll definitely like your friend here." Sasuke didn't like the sound of that. Enough people liked his friend as it was.
Naruto asked if Orochimaru could write them directions and he did, and in the blink of an eye, they were leaving the man-harem, unscathed.
"That was interesting," Naruto said, and Sasuke half expected him to be more traumatized. Hell, Sasuke was gay and he'd needed to adjust.
"Would you ever have sex on a couch in front of people?" Naruto asked casually. He pocketed his hands in his shorts and the sun hit him just perfectly enough for Sasuke's mouth to go dry in the overall ambience.
Sasuke didn't answer, for many reasons. Saying yes would certainly make Naruto see him differently. No longer would he be 'Sasuke, the man who tripped over a pothole'. Instead he would be, 'Sasuke, the bounty hunter slash voyeur, peep shows welcomed'. He didn't say no because hey, if Naruto was involved, he'd do just about anything.
"I wonder if being watched makes the sex better," Naruto continued as they made their way to the street in order to hail another cab. Despite the fact that Kakashi Hatake's studio was hardly up the road, Sasuke's ankle was a stinging mess of nerves and swell. Sasuke decided that he was lucky another part of his anatomy wasn't the same way, especially where this discussion was headed.
Sasuke never surrendered his neutral expression. "Why are we talking about this?"
"We're bonding," Naruto re-iterated from the day before. He smiled and angels sang.
Sliding into the back seat of a cab that stopped for them, Sasuke shrugged. "Depends on if you like that sort of thing."
"What?" Naruto asked, dropping into the seat next to Sasuke. Apparently Sasuke had waited too long to answer the original question and Naruto had moved on.
"Being watched," Sasuke reminded him.
"Who's watching us?" Naruto glanced around, looking a bit like a body guard. Sasuke sighed and handed the directions to the driver who gave him a very skeptical look after reading them. Sasuke ignored it. He didn't want to know where they were headed for fear he'd refuse and never see his backpack again.
"Who's watching us?" Naruto repeated, still looking alert.
"Nobody," Sasuke said with irritation as the cab pulled out onto the street. "You asked me about having sex while people watched."
Sasuke noticed the cab driver's eyes size the two of them up through the rearview mirror and wondered how much more of his foot he could shove in his mouth. If Naruto noticed the driver's sudden fear of the implications, he didn't let it show.
"Oh! Yeah. Do you like that sort of thing?"
Sasuke stared at Naruto. For a long time. "Naruto, why are you asking about my sexual preferences in a public vehicle?"
"Have you ever done it in a car?"
The cab pulled over and it took Sasuke a moment to realize that they had reached their destination and that the cab driver was most certainly not kicking them out. They paid a measly amount and followed a walkway up to what looked like a boutique. Sasuke had pictured an art studio. Naruto looked like he had expected an apartment.
What neither of them had expected was an indefinitely dirty and raunchy little shop of pornographic horror named Come Come, Paradise.
"Why am I not surprised that these are the types of people that know Sai?" Sasuke decided that he wanted to cry silently in a bathtub for a while and contemplate his life.
"You have your plant that needs watering," Naruto stated, as if reading his indecision to enter.
Sasuke frowned and glanced up at the blond. "How do you know about that?"
"You were talking about it in your sleep," Naruto explained.
Great, Sasuke thought. The love of his life now knew that his only reason for existing was a half dead Venus fly trap.
Shock and horror ripped through him. Did Naruto know other things? What else had he said? Did it have to do with sex? Did it have to do with rough and violent sex? Did it have to do with Naruto, rough sex, and Naruto's abandoned belt?
"You're not looking so good," Naruto, ever conscious of the things around him, said. "Is it your ankle?"
Sasuke wondered how he had ever lived life without an injury to blame all of his problems on. "Yes. It hurts." Like my pride.
"Do you want to wait here while I go inside and ask about Sai?"
Sasuke decided that being with Naruto in a sexual knick-knack store was far less dangerous than imagining what Naruto was doing inside alone.
"No. I'll come." Sasuke grimaced as he saw the neon sign again. "Go in with you."
Sasuke thought he saw Naruto smirk, but the sun was casting strange shadows over the other man's face so he decided the expression had never occurred. They both went inside and instead of a bell ringing to symbolize their entrance, a high pitched woman's voice crooned, 'I've coooome!~"
When the wail died down to a breathy silence, Sasuke frowned. "What am I living for again?"
"A plant, I believe," Naruto answered.
The outburst made both Naruto and Sasuke jump, and like the Wizard of Oz, a gray haired man revealed himself from behind a very ominous curtain. Only instead of being slightly endearing with a powerful dream-grantor machine, he had an eye patch and a stack of x-rated DVDs.
Close enough, Sasuke concluded.
"I am the guide to your sexual fantasies come to life: Kakashi! What can I interest you two boys with today?" If he hadn't sounded so serious Sasuke probably would have smirked. However, seeing as how the man was confident with every word he had said, Sasuke couldn't find room for sarcasm.
"We're here to see if you know a certain someone," Naruto began, and all at once, the one visible eye the store owner bulged.
"He sent you, didn't he?" The gray-haired man leapt over the counter and ran for the door, slammed it shut as it wailed "I've cooooome~!" at him. He locked the door while struggling to close the blinds and Sasuke was a bit frightened at just how many objects in the store gave off a neon glow. Not that there weren't any florescent lights on inside-they were just very dim when compared to a Static Orange Flashing Vibrator set.
Kakashi crept away from the door and looked over his shoulder a few times, as if expecting the incredible Hulk to plow inside after him. Sasuke and Naruto exchanged questioning looks.
"Um, who sent us?" Naruto asked, scratching the back of his head.
Kakashi turned and stared at them like whoever's name he was about to say would strike terror into the hearts of many.
Voldemort? Sasuke's mind supplied.
"Iruka, of course! I told him I wouldn't have rent until Tuesday and now he's going to make me pay...with my body!" Kakashi's voice simmered to a passionate hiss and he slumped to the floor, hugging himself tightly.
Sasuke sought to put an end to this madness. "I've never heard of an Iruka in my life."
When Kakashi turned and his eyes glimmered with hope, Naruto ruined it.
Kakashi's one visible eyes nearly burst into tears. "He did send you! I knew it!" He crawled alongside the main counter, making headway towards the secret space beyond his magical curtain.
"Seriously? Iruka lives around here?" Naruto sounded genuinely happy, and Sasuke glanced over to him with a suspicious curiosity.
"You know these people?"
Naruto glanced towards Kakashi, who was pathetically trying to squeeze himself past a blow up doll to make it to the back room. "Well, not him." They were both silent a minute as Kakashi wiggled like a worm. Naruto cleared his throat. "Yeah...but Iruka helped me find apartments to live in when I was in college!"
Sasuke couldn't imagine the world being smaller. Or creepier. "He makes people pay rent with sex?" This put a whole new spin on whatever heterosexual innocence he believed Naruto to have.
Naruto held up his hands in defense. "I've never had sex with him. Ew."
The front door jostled and Kakashi called to heaven for mercy. "Please God, no!"
"Kakashi, open this door immediately before I'm forced to use the spare key you gave me," came the voice from outside, and Naruto's face lit up like a Christmas tree. He skipped over to the door with the intention to open it, and Sasuke assumed he recognized the person speaking as his long-lost realtor.
"Don't do it!" Kakashi wailed, and Sasuke glanced over to him, or what was left of him in the main room. He had managed to crawl past the blow up doll, and now his foot was tangled in an assortment of handcuffs. "Oh God!"
Sasuke stomped over to him and yanked back the curtain, glaring down at the lunatic on the floor. "Pull yourself together, man!"
He was met with desperate eyes. Eye. Sasuke narrowed his eyes. Was that a fake eye patch?
"Kakashi, what on earth are you-"
"Naruto! Wait, why are you here?"
Naruto pulled the other man into a hug and Sasuke decided this Iruka was harmless. Except in the fact he was hugging Naruto. That made Sasuke jealous.
"We're here looking for someone!"
The look of questionable concern on Iruka's face could be seen even from where Sasuke was standing.
"You're...here...looking for someone? No one worth finding would come to this store," Iruka said matter-of-factly.
Kakashi clutched the fabric of the shirt he was wearing. "Oh sure, twist the knife."
Iruka sighed with irritation and turned to close the door. "It's good to see you, Naruto. Kakashi, I really need the rent."
Kakashi looked guilty and Iruka looked honest, and in the middle, Naruto and Sasuke looked extremely confused.
"Iruka, is this the guy you're dating?" Naruto asked, looking thoughtful. Sasuke laughed inside. No possible way-
Sasuke's childhood shriveled up and died. He raised a condescending eyebrow. "You're dating this maniac?" He also wondered how Naruto had figured that much out. Was he perhaps more observant than Sasuke made him out to be?
"Again, yes and unfortunately," Iruka answered, and his attention swiveled to the man in question. "Rent money?"
Kakashi begrudgingly traveled to the cash register and plucked an envelope from the till. "I was going to buy you something special."
Iruka smiled as though Kakashi had just announced an engagement and the whole conversation left Sasuke speechless. Even his inner sarcasm couldn't come up with anything.
"I appreciate that, Kakashi. But we need a place to live first and foremost."
Kakashi nodded and Naruto grinned. "You guys are really good for each other!"
A regular Holmes and Watson, Sasuke snorted, his cynicism returning.
Iruka glanced down to a watch on his wrist and looked hopefully towards Naruto. "I'm free for another hour or so. Do you want to grab some lunch?"
Sasuke didn't but Naruto did, and apparently the porn shop closed for an hour each day around noon. Therefore, in less than ten minutes Sasuke found himself seated at a dingy sushi parlor with the man he secretly lusted after, his realtor of sorts, and a delusional man wearing a fake eye patch.
"You can't use chopsticks?" Naruto asked him as Sasuke forked some soba noodles from the bowl in front of him. "Aren't you Asian?"
Sasuke, who hadn't said a word edgewise during the entire outing, gave Naruto an extremely straight face. "You have blond hair and blue eyes and your name is Naruto Uzumaki. I'm not the first to break stereotypes here."
Kakashi came to the table and handed them each a plastic cup of water, making extra sure that Sasuke's ended up close to him. It seemed like an act of truce.
Iruka looked thoughtful after swallowing a mouthful of a tuna roll and sighed. "Naruto was adopted by an Asian couple. They loved him very much."
Sasuke searched what remained of his Japanese vocabulary and tried to place the meaning of Naruto's name. Given that Uzumaki was most likely a surname, 'fishcake' wasn't much to write home about. Unless the couple's slogan was, 'for the love of fishcake!'
"I won't lie," Iruka said, changing the subject since Naruto wasn't really elaborating, "Sai isn't someone you want to be friends with." Naruto had explained their situation on the car ride to the restaurant and had somehow swindled Kakashi and Iruka into believing that Sai and themselves were on friendly terms. Sasuke had bit his tongue before announcing that friends didn't let other friends be psychopaths.
"I think he's just confused," Naruto said, his optimism blinding. "He probably doesn't have anyone that understands him."
Sasuke blinked. "His therapist understands him."
Naruto gave him a sour face.
"What I'm saying is that he really is a part of an 'organization'. He works at a nightclub downtown...in a really sketchy area." Iruka took another bite of a different sushi roll.
Sasuke snorted and took a long swig of his water. "And let me guess, his tattoo will really kill him?"
Iruka looked confused and Kakashi leaned forward knowingly. "If you bite off your tongue you'll bleed to death."
"That's not the same as a tattoo killing you," Sasuke deadpanned.
"Regardless, we need to get our backpack back," Naruto had finished the last of his ramen long ago and was waiting on a second bowl.
Iruka didn't look content knowing what they had to do. "Well, I'm not worried about you going Naruto, but your friend here should stay out of danger."
Danger? Sasuke had sudden flashes of all the times he'd nearly lost his life delivering court paperwork and couldn't imagine anything worse. I laugh in the face of danger, ha ha ha!
"I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself," he relied resolutely. "I'm a bounty hunter, after all."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "You can do that? With your limp?" He looked amazed by Sasuke's apparent talent. He hadn't realized he'd been limping so much, either.
"He sprained his ankle yesterday," Naruto explained. "And I agree. If we have to jet outta there..." His eyes found Sasuke's and Sasuke felt like a puppy that had been kicked. And he wanted Naruto to make it better.
"I'm not going to be uninvolved," he declared, taking another long drink of his water.
Naruto looked stubborn. "I'll call Gaara. He's a bounty hunter too. He'll have his gun."
No, no, no! Gaara was so not allowed to take his place! Naruto was his sexy sidekick!
"I refuse to be left behind!" Sasuke shouted.
The look in Naruto's eyes told him that he didn't have much of a choice.