Story: Making Arrangements

Rating: M

Author: CrownsofLaurels

Beta(s): CrystallineX (who catches all my typos, major plot holes, and mistakes due to sleep deprivation) and Ladywinterfic (who has been helping me with characterization and plot development).

Chapter Ten: Miscommunications

Summary: In which Kiba learns that one of the worst positions to be in is that of owing Naruto a favor. He will never accidentally sneeze down her house of cards again. He swears this by Akamaru's puppies.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, I write this for fun and am not paid for it.

Chapter Ten: Miscommunications

Naruto was pretty sure that Team Seven had been in more than their fair share of awkward spots over the years, but for the life of her, somehow today made it to the top of the list.

"They've been like this for two hours straight now," Konohamaru stage-whispered from her left.

"I know," Naruto nodded, "It's awful."

Moegi sniffed, petulantly kicking her feet against the log, sitting on the other side of Konohamaru, "Well I think this is super boring."

"I don't know," said Udon, adjusting his glasses, "If we could find a way to measure—"

Naruto gave a loud sigh and reached into the bag of popcorn that Konohamaru had thoughtfully brought along as an afternoon snack. "I'm telling you, they'll get over it eventually." She hoped. "They just need an opportunity to work it out of their systems."

The jinchūriki had run into her infamous gaggle of groupies on the way to her scheduled group training session. She had no idea why the trio thought that today might be a good day to observe her training, but she didn't have the heart to blow them off after some well-placed pleading from Konohamaru and of course, the promised bribe of really buttery popcorn.

Sasuke stood at one edge of the clearing, leaning against what seemed to be a favored sycamore. He hadn't budged an inch since the group had arrived, content to close his eyes and radiate a hostile aura.

His audience had not been brave enough to try and coax him from his silence.

Naruto wasn't feeling particularly social today after the events of the last training session. Besides, she had enough company on her log.

Sakura arrived about twenty minutes after the others had assembled. Sasuke immediately opened his eyes, and while he otherwise remained unmoving, he seemed to be trying to figure out if his eyes could kill without his sharingan activated.

Sakura, to her credit, had mastered tuning out homicidal teenagers and gave a polite greeting to everyone present (minus the person desiring her imminent destruction). She spent a few minutes chatting with Moegi and Udon about the various uses of a certain salve when applied to rope burns and then pulled out a book to read in the shade of a tree a few yards away, on the side of the clearing completely opposite Sasuke.

Since then, neither of Naruto's teammates had uttered a word.

Sasuke continued to put off enough killing intent to terrify a crowd of academy children into wetting their pants from three blocks away (had any chosen to come so close) and Sakura appeared to be content to read her medical text.

Except, Sakura hadn't turned a page in her book for the past forty-five minutes.

Naruto fondly referred to Sakura's texts as bug swatters, as that would be the only time one would find Naruto touching the things. Naruto knew that it took Sakura a long time to read the bug swatters, but if it really took Sakura forty-five minutes per page, the medic nin would still be stuck on mending sprained wrists.

Naruto nodded along absently to whatever Konohamaru was saying, something about wind-chakra and trying to add a fire-element technique to it, and reached for another handful of popcorn, only to scrape her fingers against the bottom of the bag.

"Seriously?" Naruto slouched with a pout, but before she could work herself up to manipulating one of her tag-alongs into making a snack-run, she felt a well-known chakra flicker into existence behind her.

She craned her neck back to look into a familiar gray eye. "I would have saved some for you, but, you know, you're late."

"I got caught on the wrong end of a parent-teacher conference," Kakashi said, voice unusually grim.

Naruto blinked, caught off guard by the odd tone.

Kakashi quickly took in the seating arrangements. "Sakura, Sasuke, you're one-on-one today, I need to work with Naruto on her fūinjutsu."

"Fine," said Sasuke confidently, taking a step forward from the shade of his tree.

"Fine," said Sakura, sweet but strong, snapping her text shut and tossing it aside with a heavy thump, jumping to her feet eagerly.

Kakashi paused, eyeing the two critically. "If you seriously maim each other, the responsible party will be cleaning the Academy toilets with toothbrushes while Gai and Lee supervise. Understood?"

Sasuke scowled and tossed a scornful look at the jōnin.

Sakura paled a bit and muttered a queasy "yes, Sensei," before her face tightened with determination and she adjusted the gloves on her wrists, cracking her knuckles in anticipation.

Naruto bit her lip, tugging on a pigtail anxiously.

"Naruto," came Kakashi's impatient voice.

She turned and saw Kakashi watching her expectantly about ten yards into the woods.

"Do we really have to go?" Naruto was aware she was whining, but she couldn't believe Kakashi was actually going to make her miss this, it practically screamed epic battle of the sexes.

"Naruto," Kakashi repeated in a tone that Naruto knew meant Kakashi was going to be stubbornly no-nonsense; he was serious about something.

She threw one last longing look at her teammates and scrambled off her log. She glanced at Konohamaru, "You coming?"

"Heck no," said the kid, not taking his eyes off the scene in front of him. "This is going to be some epic shit."

Naruto puffed her cheeks out in irritation, "Hey! I'll have you know I'm gonna being doing 'epic shit' with fūinjutsu!"

"Yeah, yeah," Konohamaru waved her off, still riveted to the promise of a decade overdo beat down between a genetically inherited superiority complex and a woman scorned, like which fury hell hath no.

Naruto stalked off in a huff, muttering under breath as she followed Kakashi to the edge of the training grounds, far away from the faint bursts of chakra expended in battle techniques which fluttered on the edge of her awareness.

Kakashi stopped suddenly, causing Naruto to squawk as she stumbled into his back.

"We need to talk," Kakashi said flatly, turning around as Naruto struggled to catch her balance and avoid falling flat on her face.

"About fūinjutsu?" asked the blonde, confused.

"No." Kakashi frowned, "Yes. I mean, we will, later on," Kakashi waved his hands at her in a motion indicating she should sit. He settled himself on the ground across from her.

Kakashi started to sketch some symbols in the dirt and stopped himself. "Have you been practicing the privacy seal I gave you?"

"Yes," Naruto said, eyes lighting up as she recognized the pattern Kakashi had begun to draw. "But I have to apply it to paper and activate it, I haven't been able to figure out how to apply it directly to another type of surface and activate it yet."

"Let's see it then," said the jōnin, sounding bored.

Naruto pulled out a pile of paper scraps she'd stuffed into her kunai pouch strapped across one of her thighs. "Hang on," she said, trying to sort through the mess of seals.

"Got it, it's this one!" She stuffed the remaining scraps back into her pouch and smoothed the selected paper flat on the ground, eventually using both hands to force chakra into her creation. The inky lines spread wider into the ground and a subtle glow later Kakashi and Naruto were the epicenter of a rather large circle.

Naruto frowned. "It's still too big."

"That may just be a limitation you have to work with," Kakashi said blandly. "No matter, its good that you're learning to do what you can with the techniques." He inspected the lines in the dirt, slightly different from the original design with which he'd given her to work.

"Effective." He finally decreed, settling down across from the girl.

Naruto beamed.

Kakashi rubbed at his head with a sigh. "We need to talk."

Naruto's beaming face dimmed a bit, "I know. You've said that already."

Kakashi nodded, closing his eye and resting his hands on his knees.

The chūnin scowled, quickly growing impatient with the jōnin's unusual behavior. "What's wrong? What do we need to talk about?" Her face grew concerned, "You're not sick or anything are you?"

"No." Kakashi said, maintaining his meditative stance.

Naruto, not quite sure what else to do, mirrored the man, deciding that he'd talk to her when he was ready.

The two sat in an awkward quiet, broken only by the soft calls of birds in the distance and the vague awareness of Sakura and Sasuke still fighting it out on the edge of their senses. Naruto tried to blot them out entirely, but it was difficult, especially since she was so interested in trying to figure out what was happening in their fight.

It couldn't be because you have the attention span of a thrice-damned squirrel, growled Kurama.

Not helping, sent Naruto, the words not echoing as forcefully as she'd hoped.

Not trying to, mortal.

Naruto gave the equivalent of a mental huff. Any idea what's gotten Kakashi worked up?

Other than trying to teach one of the most complex aspects of the ninja-arts to a squirrel?

If you keep calling me that—

"I talked with Kurenai-san last night," Kakashi's voice pierced through Naruto's mental conversation, pulling her to an abrupt awareness of her surroundings and pushing Kurama to the background.

Thrice. Damned. Squirrel.

"You did?" asked Naruto, hoping she sounded nonchalant as she sent a rude Shove It toward her unwelcome conversation partner.

"And Tsunade-sama," Kakashi added.

Naruto's eyes grew large and round. "Really?" The sound came out a bit higher than planned.

Kakashi's eyes were still closed, posture relaxed. "They told me about your mission."

"Oh?" Naruto said, knowing her voice wasn't doing anything to hide her nerves anymore. "What'd they say?" She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin on top of them, fighting hard to push down the nauseous feeling rising up from her belly.

Kakashi took his time responding, and when he did, there was the barest hint of aggravation in his tone.

"That you had the option to refuse and you didn't." He opened his good eye to observe the chūnin, who looked incredibly young at the moment, watching him with impossibly big blue eyes. "That you're determined to carry this out," he said, his normal dry humor returning as he noted how still and wary Naruto had become, looking like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. "That you've been working with Kurenai preparing for it, and" his voice trailed off as he turned his face to the sky, wishing a few more clouds were scattered across it so that he could shut out the world and claim to have taken up the Nara brat's favored hobby, "That I'm supposed to help you."

"Really?" Naruto's voice was still high and squeaky, but it was rich with disbelief. "You just," Naruto fumbled for words, "agreed to this?"

Kakashi had a pinched look to his face. "Not at first," he said, sounding tired and a bit bitter. "But I understand that the decision has been taken out of my hands."

He still thought that Naruto was too young for a mission like this. She needed a couple more years under her belt and bit more confidence with sexual scenarios to be sent out in the field, expected to seduce a target and come back successfully. Of his three students, she may have been the most boisterous, but he would wager his entire collection of Icha-Icha that she was also the least sexually experienced.

He'd known that Sakura was obsessed with the opposite sex from her first introduction. She also hadn't been shy about parading around a string of boyfriends in a passive-aggressive attempt to get attention since Naruto'd returned from training with Jiraiya. Although, he had to give the girl credit, it was probably a successful method of curbing some of Gai's student's more enthusiastic efforts at courtship.

Sasuke—well, Sasuke kept things like that private, but he also wasn't lacking in confidence or an ability to take what he wanted, when he wanted it. Sasuke would probably find it all too easy to satisfy himself with a string of forgettable one night stands. It would be getting the kid to commit and acknowledge that women were worth something as individuals that would be a problem.

He was almost too perfect a choice for this type of mission.

At least, Kakashi had thought so until the last training session. Upon reflection, he wasn't sure if Sasuke had reacted with embarrassment because it was Naruto, or if, perhaps, Sasuke wasn't as emotionally stunted as Kakashi believed and the boy actually did struggle with normal things like hormones and age-appropriate brain shortages around cute girls.

Naruto, on the other hand, tended to be a bit insecure when it came to intimate interactions with people, and she had a deeply rooted fear of rejection and need for physical affection. Of his three students, it would be hardest for her to accomplish the type of mission that she'd been assigned and disengage successfully. This was one of the reasons that Kakashi was upset about the issue.

It was almost cruel of Tsunade to assign the girl a mission like this.

And Kakashi's missions in ANBU had been heavy on the assassination or search and rescue side, he had taken very few missions where the sole objective had been information gathering. He'd had to flirt with a few servant girls a time or two, but they tended to be more than pliable with well-placed flattery and compliments. After all, every good ninja knew to seek information from the weakest link. He'd never had to pull out all the stops for a weak link. Combine that with his naturally awkward social skills, which normally didn't bother him, and this meant that he wasn't in the best person to advise Naruto for this mission.

Which did bother him.

Quite a bit.

"I'm not going to be very good at this," he finally admitted, tilting his chin down and taking in Naruto's gob smacked expression.

She gave an unintelligible squeak which he couldn't interpret.

Maybe she didn't understand what he meant. He elaborated, "I don't know what they expect me to offer you, and" here he took a breath and tried to soften his words so she wouldn't take offense, or heaven forbid, see his admission as a challenge, "I honestly don't know why you agreed to this in the first place."

Naruto sat in the dirt, thinking that she'd never been more shocked in her life. She'd known that Kakashi was laid back, but this was a bit absurd. Who took being ordered to have a kid with someone fourteen years their junior this calmly? It made her own reaction to the whole situation seem like one of those poorly acted soap operas the orphanage caretakers had swooned over when she was a kid.

Her mouth opened and closed a few times. "It's important," she wished she didn't sound so tentative, "Don't you think?"

Kakashi just shrugged.

Our kid is going to be so messed up. Naruto struggled to keep her eye from twitching. She took a deep breath, "So you're going to help me?"

"Right," said Kakashi, as if it had been the easiest decision in the world to make.

"You don't mind," said the chūnin flatly.

Kakashi gave the girl an odd look. He understood that she might be uncomfortable discussing this type of mission with him, but was it really that far-fetched to expect him to be willing to advise her on any mission she took, no matter its nature?

"Really," Naruto continued to prod, "you really don't mind?"

Kakashi closed his eyes and thought for a moment, searching for his honest answer. "I mind a little," he finally settled for saying. "What I mind most is that I don't think this is a good use of you in a mission."

"Wait," said Naruto, confused. The only thing that upsets him about this mess is that it's not a good use of me? What does that even mean?

The Kyūbi rumbled his approval for the jōnin's words, scratching at his ear with a hind leg. It's a nice sentiment. Carrying kits will take you out of the battle field for a good time. He's a soldier, he understands the importance of needing his subordinates in fighting shape.

So what? Naruto's thoughts bubbled angrily. I'm no good pregnant? I'm no good with a baby? What the hell is that supposed to mean?

She flushed, a pretty red color growing in her cheeks and glowing against her tan skin as she tossed her words out angrily, "You don't think I can do it!"

Kakashi flinched mentally, Here we go, exactly what he'd been trying to avoid.

He held up his hands, trying to soothe the girl before she wound herself up too much, "I can understand why you think you need to," which, according to the very, very large blue eyes which were now glittery and hard and liquid all at once, was exactly the wrong thing to say.

"Right," said Naruto, scrambling to her feet, the energy she exerted prompting Kakashi to instinctively stand as well, on the defensive.

Naruto puffed her cheeks out in that peculiar, slightly adorable, angry kitten fashion that Kakashi secretly found so endearing that he sometimes purposefully orchestrated events to provoke that particular response.


Not that you'd ever find him confessing that in public, and certainly not today.

"Well," Naruto accused with a huff, "You're the one who agreed to help me, so let's hear the plan."

"Yes…" said Kakashi cautiously, not quite sure why she'd switched from spitting anger to asking for advice in a matter of seconds.

Naruto crossed her arms aggressively. "You could start by telling me how you expect this thing to go."

Kakashi's brain ground to a halt. "How I expect it to go," he parroted, not quite following the passionate blonde.

"Yeah—you know," said Naruto, face red, from a combination of anger and embarrassment, "what do you—what types of things do you like?" She wouldn't meet his eyes, her face was even redder, and she was studying the swirls of the seal in the dirt with an intensity that meant Naruto wasn't really interested in them because Naruto never actually focused on something that hard.

"What do I—" Kakashi wasn't sure when his life had turned on its head, but he blamed Naruto; it was usually her fault when he felt like this anyway. "I'm really not—you should probably go asks someone closer to your own age, maybe you should have this conversation with Sakura, or that blonde friend of hers."

Naruto looked at him blankly.

"The one she calls a pig," Kakashi added helpfully.

"What are Ino and Sakura going to know about what you like?" Naruto asked, hands on her hips and words dripping with scorn as she advanced on the jōnin, a raised eyebrow implying that if he didn't answer carefully she might resort to making old-pervert accusations.

Kakashi dimly realized that she'd backed him into a tree and put a hand out, halting her progress. He tried to banish the idea that Naruto thought he'd somehow had a threesome with two of her peers, surely that was not what she'd meant to imply. "Ahh, you're asking for a man's perspective then?"

Kakashi was thankful his mask covered any blushing that he was definitely not doing. Yes, he'd agreed to help, but it rapidly was becoming apparent that he really hadn't thought this plan through very well. He'd never imagined Naruto to be bold enough to immediately jump to 'tell me what guys expect in sex.'

"I'm really not," Kakashi trailed off, his brain firing rapidly, flying through the data he'd collected on his students' peers. Which one was flirty, who would be best to…Sai? No. Bad idea. He didn't even need Kurenai to swat him upside the head for that one—Oh, Kurenai's student, "The dog."

Naruto's face scrunched up, "What?"

"The one with the dog," Kakashi continued, words slowing now that he'd latched onto a plan of action. "Kurenai's student."

"Kiba?" Asked Naruto, sounding baffled.

"That's the one." Kakashi nodded. "He's probably a better person to ask about this type of thing," he finished lamely, the tree against his back preventing him from stepping back further from the blonde.

She crossed her arms under her breasts, which, in her new low-cut outfit, combined with the height difference between the two and her proximity, gave Kakashi quite the view. And, really, when had that happened? Not that it wasn't a nice view—Oh God, Oh God, stop there brain, but he'd much rather have continued living in ignorance, believing his cute little students had never actually developed their secondary sex characteristics.

Naruto was still looking at him as if he'd announced that Sasuke was publicly coming out as a pacifist and laying aside his katana to take up ikebana.

"You want me to go ask Kiba." Naruto said slowly, as if she was weighing Kakashi's intelligence and finding it wanting.

Kakashi stuck his hands in his pockets and kept his eyes firmly fixed on her face. "I could lend you one of my books."

Naruto's gaze implied that she hadn't thought it possible, but he'd actually said something stupider than his previous comment. Which was just a little unfair, because if that was the kind of information she was after, the books would be excellent visual aids.

"I'll go talk with Kiba," the chūnin spun on her heel and left the clearing, a gentle wave of chakra expelling as she broke the boundary of the privacy seal. She stalked away, ignoring the fleeting flashes of energy indicating that Sakura and Sasuke were still going strong and oh, that was a nasty jutsu and the flare of power which told her Kakashi had fled for the hills, so to speak.

She let herself work out her frustration with the world as she stomped through the forest, kicking up dirt and leaves.

You know what's worse than squirrels? came Kurama's voice, deep and expectant.

Naruto could almost feel all nine tails twitching in amusement as she tiredly went along with him, trudging through the forest toward the Inuzuka compound, No, I don't, Fox. What's worse than squirrels?

Thrice damned squirrel babies.

Naruto recalled the sensation of being doused in cold water and focused on conveying the sensation to her captive, taking deep pleasure in the resulting disgruntled yowls.

"When I told you I owed you one, I didn't mean this." Kiba's hand paused in the act of scooping a large pile of dog food from a foul-smelling bucket.

They were in the Inuzuka kennels, alone except for the two dozen or so yapping dogs complaining that their visitor had interrupted a much anticipated dinner. Kiba was in the middle of the large barn, working at an old, wide wooden table stained with years of use as a cutting board.

Naruto steeled herself, both to get her answers and against the overwhelming smell of raw meat and whatever else that was in that bucket into which Kiba was plunging his bare hands.

Akamaru wound figure eights around and in between them, whining his distress at the odd tension flickering between the two.

"I told you," Naruto said, grinding her teeth, "Kakashi told me to ask you what men like from women, in" Naruto fought down her blush, she was eighteen dammit, it shouldn't be this hard to talk about sex. She coughed a bit. "In bed," She finished, trying to appear like she asked these sorts of questions every day.

"Shit." Kiba blinked, seemed to remember what he was originally supposed to be doing and continued measuring out the dog food into bowls on the table. "I j-just," he stuttered a bit and slammed down the bucket, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. "Shit."

Naruto followed him as he made his way over to a sink, pushing his hands into the water and splashing his face. Akamaru giving an odd growl-whine, pawing at his legs.

"Shit." He said again when done. He looked at Naruto critically for a few seconds and then strode forward with purpose, opening cabinet doors and looking out the windows suspiciously.

"What are you doing?" asked Naruto, bewildered.

"I'm looking for Sakura and Ino," Kiba fussed, "This is one of your tricks, they're gonna' pop out from behind a door somewhere any second now and laugh their asses off at me!"

Naruto's blush grew from anger, "This isn't a joke Kiba." She stomped her foot and put her hands on her hips, loudly crying, "Just shut up and tell me about sex already!"

"What in the world are you two up to?"

Naruto gave an undignified squeak and spun around while Kiba emitted a strange croaking noise and lost the remaining color in his face.

Inuzuka Tsume stood in the doorway, framed in the orange evening light, Kuromaru sitting stately at her side.

"Nayughh" Naruto managed to gurgle, hands drawn tightly against her chest in fright.

"What?" Tsume frowned. "Speak up girl," she barked, stepping completely into the kennels, Kuromaru giving a low woof as the metal door shut with a clang behind them.

Naruto tried to speak and choked on her words, beginning to cough.

Tsume crossed the room and whacked her on the back. "Kiba, what the hell did ya' do to the poor girl?"

"I didn't do nothin'!" Kiba yelled back at his mother, Naruto continuing to wheeze in the background, only now her gasping breaths were more due to having the air knocked out of her than to a loss of words.

"She's the one who came in here sayin' her sensei told her to come ask me about shit!" Kiba waved his hands in the air enthusiastically, Akamaru accentuating his gestures with loud, excited barks.

"Shit?" Tsume's question sounded more like an accusation, and her solid grip clutching Naruto's shoulder both kept the girl from melting onto the floor in a humiliated puddle and thwarted the blonde's plans to slip away during the mother-son exchange.

"Shit!" Yelled Kiba.

Tsume rolled her eyes, "Sex, Kiba, not shit. I swear, the crap they teach you brats these days."

She shook Naruto roughly, "Whadda you wanna know 'bout sex, kid?"

Naruto's head bobbed and her voice wobbled as she looked everywhere but at Kiba or his mother. "I just," she stammered nervously, "I'm supposed to ask sensei but he told me to come ask Kiba and I can't tell you why 'cuz it's classified and oh, God don't eat me!" Naruto squealed as Kuromaru stood on his hind legs, placing his paws on her shoulders to get a good look at her face.

The blonde squinched her eyes shut as the dog sneezed in her face and, presumably finished with his inspection and satisfied with what he'd learned, dropped back to the ground.

Tsume took her by the elbow and tugged her over to sit down on an upturned bucket.

"That's fine kid," Tsume said in a clipped tone, completely unfazed by the situation. She leaned against the table in the center of the room, settling into a lecturing posture.

"And where'd you think you're goin'?," she shouted, turning to glare at Kiba's back as he tiptoed quietly toward the exit.

He comically shuddered to a halt, whining, "Aw, Ma! Come on!"

Kiba muttered unintelligibly under his breath as Kuromaru slipped in front of him, cutting off his escape and herding him back to the center of the room.

"Sit down and shut your mouth, pup," said Tsume in the tone of a woman used to her orders being obeyed without question.

Kiba sat, reluctantly, on a small wooden crate next to Naruto, Akamaru waffling happily between the two, tail stirring up dust and straw as it wagged against the floor.

"Why do I have to stay?" He complained, "She's the one who can't remember her lessons."

Tsume pursed her lips. "Don't be talkin' 'bout people who don't have the same opportunities to learn 'bout things that you do. It's not her fault she's not got parents to talk to and those prissy Academy women teach it all wrong anyway."

Naruto cringed as Tsume pointed out her orphan status, but the matter-of-fact manner that the woman phrased it in didn't rile her up the same way as it did when someone whispered the words pityingly in a classroom.

"'Sides," snorted Tsume, "If you can't give a straight answer to the question yerself, I'm thinkin' you need a refresher course."

Kiba's head lowered in a sulky, submissive gesture.

"Now foxy," grinned Tsume, with a fanged smile, "for dogs, breeding is all about the strongest and the quickest passing on the best traits, and while some of that holds true for people too, we get to have a little more fun goin' about it. Just remember, he may have the edge on the battlefield, he may have a bit more bulk on you, might have a bit more force behind his punches, but in the bedroom, you hold his balls in your hands—"

Naruto did not want to think about why Kiba was cringing at that particular statement.

Forty two minutes and thirty seven excruciating seconds later, Kiba and Naruto sat in silence in an empty barn. Tsume had finished about ten minutes prior, taking all the dogs out for a jog so Kiba could finish up getting their dinner ready.

Naruto's jaw opened and closed, two, three times.

Kiba wouldn't look up from the floor.

"This never happened," he said eventually.

"Agreed," Naruto wheezed, standing up on shaky feet and stumbling to the door.

Kakashi was in a quiet corner of the cemetery, under a large cherry blossom tree that was in beautiful full bloom this time of year. He didn't come to this particular spot often, preferring to spend his time with Rin or Obito at the obelisk. He supposed a part of him felt that those were the two he'd failed the most and, as a result, to whom he owed the most attention. And they had been his comrades, once upon a time. It felt more natural to complain to them about the latest ridiculous mess Gai had roped him into, or his students had caused, or the most recent assignment that had dissolved into madness.

He only tended to come to this grave when he'd done something monumentally stupid and had a confession to make.

He took a deep breath and sat in the shade of the tree in the dying afternoon. "I'm very sorry Sensei, but I think I just sent your daughter to ask an eighteen year old boy what he liked best in bed."

He ducked his head, recalling the unpleasant feeling of being twelve and being scolded for blowing up the laundromat and blowing out the electricity for five blocks while trying out experimental seals and raiton justu when his teacher was preoccupied with mooning over the pretty red-head chūnin who lived in the apartment above the ramen stand.

He still felt monumentally stupid, but at least he had his eyebrows this time.

There had to have been a better way to have handled that situation.

But for the life of him, the answer wasn't coming to him at the moment.

With a muffled groan, he sprawled out under the tree on his back, lacing his fingers underneath his head and staring up at the intertwining boughs overhead laced with delicate pink blossoms.

He was in the same position two hours later when he felt Gai's chakra signature register on the edge of his awareness. He closed his eye and kept it shut until he could tell that the taijutsu expert was standing directly above him.

He opened his gray eye to Gai's grinning visage, teeth gleaming and a hand forming a thumbs up gesture above him.

"Greetings, rival!" said Gai, in a strange loud whisper, as if trying to be respectful of Kakashi's time in this place but not quite capable of using what normal people considered a 'reverent' tone.

"What dampens your hip spirits today, my friend?" Gai waited expectantly.

Kakashi gave him a considering look, "I think I sent one of my kids to ask one of Kurenai's kids how to have sex."

Gai nodded grimly, "The flames of youth overwhelm us all from time to time."

Kakashi snorted and rolled up to a sitting position, taking Gai's outstretched hand and allowing the man to pull him completely upright.

He stumbled forward a bit as Gai jovially slapped the copy ninja on the back.

"Come, rival," called out Gai, voice returning to its normal volume, "Let us celebrate the Springtime of Passion which embraces our dear ones!"

Kakashi didn't know if he should be proud or embarrassedly resigned to the fact that, at this point in his life, his eye didn't so much as twitch when Gai expressed such statements.

Nevertheless, he accompanied Gai as the man guided him to the outskirts of one of the livelier parts of Konoha, to a seedy little bar known for serving ninja. Civilians nervously skirted around the entrance as they carried about their lives, never sure when things inside would get a bit rowdy and someone would fly through a wall from some over-exuberant rough housing.

"Sit right here, rival!"Gai pushed Kakashi into a booth that had seen better days, the wooden bench bearing deep grooves gouged from many a kunai over the years. "I shall get us drinks and we shall see who can better perform drunken fist at the end of the night!"

Kakashi snorted, trying to remember if he'd ever actually had his sharingan active when Gai or his protégé employed the technique in battle. Oh, well, he could always play the 'too cool' to participate card, for the sake of keeping the bar standing another day.

A drink appeared in front of him and Kakashi reached for it, pausing when he realized that Gai was still standing and not sliding into the booth across from Kakashi.

He waited patiently as Gai focused on the entrance, confusion apparent on his face.

After only a second or so, the man shook his head and took his seat. "I'm sorry," he said with a grin, picking up his own glass, "I thought I saw your lovely Sakura-san, but she left before I could greet her."

"Oh?" Kakashi asked politely, not particularly concerned. He doubted it was Sakura. Actually, he doubted that either Sakura or Sasuke were in any condition to celebrate after the spar they had earlier that afternoon.

"Ah," Kakashi sighed, a little remorse coloring his words. "She and Sasuke were both a little wound up in practice today, I actually may need you to work with them if they didn't manage to beat the anger out of one another today."

Gai tossed his head back with a laugh, "How exciting! The flames of youth burn strong in your students, dear rival!" He set his drink down so forcefully that the table rattled.

Kakashi leaned back and settled in for a long evening of listen to Gai ramble and get progressively drunk to the point where he decided to challenge Kakashi to bar tricks, which Kakashi had essentially already begun to cheat at by using sleight of hand to spill his drink out on the floor instead of actually consuming his liquor. The place was such a mess that no one ever noticed, and Kakashi refused to let his guard down when every other ninja on the premises was already compromised by inebriation.

Naruto stirred her ramen in her bowl forlornly, Teuchi-san and his daughter exchanging concerned looks over her head.

"And then she was like, *BAM,* take this Dickwad, and out of nowhere she delivered this awesome right hook—"

"Is something wrong, Naruto-san," Ayame asked gently as Konohamaru enthusiastically ranted about a battle he'd seen earlier that day.

Naruto sniffed, sadly. "I just had the most awful day."

"What happened?" The young woman looked at the normally cheerful blonde, worried.

"But Sasuke-san was totally awesome too," defended Moegi, indignant, eyes flaring bright as she ignored her food in favor of contesting Konohomaru's account of events. "He did this thing with his eyes and that girl couldn't even move—"

Naruto turned sad eyes on the sympathetic brunette. "I got into an argument with my sensei, and I'm never going to be able to look Kiba in the face again, and worst of all," Naruto shuddered and took a deep breath.

"But the best part was when Sakura-san surprised him with the kage bunshin, and he realized just how badly he'd underestimated her chakra reserves," Udon said calmly, wiping his glasses as he tried to give what he considered an unbiased retelling.

Naruto hiccupped, "I missed Sasuke-Bastard getting his ass kicked by Sakura-chan!"

Ayame seemed a bit confused, obviously not aware of what a monumental occasion that Naruto had been forced to forego. She came around the counter and patted the upset blonde on the shoulder gently as the three genin continued to talk over one another about the spar.

Two civilians walked by the booth, chatting loudly.

"Did you see the Uchiha and that pink-haired chick when their spar spilled over into the fish market today?" Asked the taller man, juggling some bags of groceries on his way home from work.

The shorter, younger man answered excitedly, "I did, I know! It was the most epic shit I'd ever seen, I didn't know tuna could be used that way!"

Naruto looked after them, eyes large and yearning. Ayame watched her nervously. Naruto let out a loud, despairing cry and threw her head on the counter dramatically. "I missed the most epic shit ever, Ayame!" She pounded the counter with her fist, dishes rattling. "And it involved tuna! I'll never get that moment back!"

"Oh, Naruto," Ayame sighed and clucked about the girl, unsuccessfully trying to get her to stop sulking as it was scaring off the other paying customers.

Meanwhile, Konohomaru and Moegi had progressed to stabbing each other with chopsticks while their friend with glasses sneezed repeatedly into a growing pile of napkins.

Teuchi sighed and began to prepare to-go boxes.

Next Week: Chapter 11—Apologies and Attachments

(AKA: Sakura is going to make them all get along if it kills her, dammit.)

Sakura looked at Sasuke expectantly; frowning when he failed to do whatever it was that she was expecting him to do.

She huffed and turned to Naruto, "Sasuke has something to say to you."

Naruto blinked again, "He does?"

A muscle in Sasuke's jaw twitched.

"Yes," said Sakura, hands on her hips and words clipped short, "Yes, he does."