Story: Making Arrangements

Rating: M

Author: CrownsofLaurels

Beta(s): The most amazing, wonderful women ever, CrystallineX, ElectraSev5n, and Ladywinterfic. Give them some applause, because without them this fic would never make it to the next chapter.

Chapter Sixteen: The Double Date that Wasn't

Summary: A fox and a hound walk into a bar.

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

A/N: New update out just a bit early. For those of you who haven't noticed yet, I've started cross-posting to Archive of our Own, the link is on my profile. There is no additional content on that account yet, but eventually (in like, three years) there might be a physical relationship the writing of which would violate the rules of this site.

Also, Dreamer1084 has translated Inconceivable into Chinese and is beginning to translate Making Arrangements into Chinese. If you read Chinese and would like to look up the translations, the links are on my profile.


Chapter Sixteen: The Double Date that Wasn't

Naruto took a deep breath and exhaled sharply, watching her cheeks puff out in the bathroom mirror. She tsked, slightly irritated as she tried to arrange the few styling accessories she owned on the minimal countertop space in Kakashi's bathroom. She carefully picked all the bobby pins out of the mess that was her hair and set them back down on the ceramic sink, getting ready to try one more time to put her hair up in a passable attempt at one of the style's Ino had shown her.

Fortunately, knowing Kakashi, Naruto still had another two or three hours before the man ambled home. Plenty of time for her to put her hair up and figure out how to appropriately wear one of the girly outfits that she and Ino and Sakura had purchased the previous month.

Tonight she and Kakashi would be going on a date. Not that he was aware of this, of course.

She picked up the hairbrush and ran it swiftly through her long locks. The she dabbed a little-bit of the no-frizz hair lotion Ino swore by onto her palms and ran her hands through her hair to smooth down the fly-away strands with an intense look of concentration on her face.

Kurenai believed that Kakashi had become comfortable with the idea that Naruto was an attractive young woman, but what the man was struggling with admitting was that Naruto was attractive to him. The blonde wasn't as certain about the eccentric jōnin's state of mind as her female mentor, but she was willing to trust the older woman on the issue.

The chūnin put the last pin in her hair and considered her reflection critically with narrowed eyes. It looked like it would hold. She just needed it to stay up for one evening, that was all. The idea was to start putting Kakashi into situations where he would be forced to publicly acknowledge that Naruto was attractive, and thus start thinking about what that meant in regards to her relationship with him.

Fortunately, Naruto already had an assignment which required her to develop the skillset of 'being pretty in public.' And Kakashi had helpfully, if unwittingly and a bit reluctantly, volunteered his assistance with the project. Naruto was fully prepared to capitalize on that.

Blue eyes scanned the small room as she tried to remember where she placed the hand mirror—ah! There it was. She leaned over to pluck it from its' resting place on the edge of the bathtub. She held it behind her, like Sakura had taught her, so that the image in the front mirror was the hand-held mirror's reflection of the back of her hair. Everything looked good as far as she could tell.

She relaxed a bit, cheerful grin creeping back on to her face as she decided the hairdo would do for now. It certainly wasn't as neat as Ino's, but, eh, Naruto wasn't a perfectionist. She'd originally been a bit worried about the upcoming evening, as her acting skills weren't the best. However, as Kurenai had pointed out, Naruto didn't need to act. After all, she wouldn't be lying when she told him that she needed his help for a mission.

Now to find the dress, and those flimsy heeled shoes with the funny woven straps. She turned on her heel to go scrounge for her bag and as her bare feet made the transition from tile to hardwood flooring, the left half of her carefully pinned up hair fell gracelessly down her shoulders.

"Not again!" Naruto gave an exasperated, frustrated huff and spun back around to the bathroom.

You know, drawled Kurama, all smug and condescending as Naruto struggled to balance holding the handheld mirror and remove all the bobby pins stuck in the back of her hair, You could just summon a bunshin and this wouldn't be nearly that difficult.

Naruto froze for a moment, and then simmered a bit scowling. "That would have been a lot more helpful if you'd mentioned that idea the tenth time I tried to do this!"

But darling, purred the fox, It's just so much fun to see you try so hard.


Kakashi paused in the doorway of his apartment. A petite blonde girl in a brightly colored sundress was daintily sitting on his scruffy couch reading a book. He took a step back to check the plaque on the door and make sure he hadn't momentarily lost him mind and entered the wrong unit.

Nope, this was his place, according to both his sight and his nose. He shrugged and walked inside, the girl looking up at the sound of the door closing behind him.

The familiar whisker-marked cheeks were only slightly reassuring.

"There you are! I've been waiting forever," Naruto said impatiently, snapping whatever book she'd been reading shut and tossing it carelessly to the other end of the sofa. "Come on, I'm starving." She popped to her feet and advanced toward the jōnin, hooking her arm in his and trying to pull him back outside.

Kakashi was an unmovable pillar. "What?"

"I'm hungry," growled Naruto, "and I was waiting for you to come home so I could go get dinner because there is no way I'm going outside by myself dressed like this." The chūnin gestured broadly at her current attire.

The copy-ninja blinked, "I feel like I missed something—"

"You did," said Naruto testily, "lunch, and now it is almost dinner and I'm really, really hungry."

"Wait," Kakashi persisted, "Why," the copy ninja struggled for the words and eventually settled for waving with his free hand to the dress and describing it as, "this?"

Naruto eyes widened in concern and she looked down at her dress, "is there something wrong with it?" She reached a cautious hand to the hair piled on her head. "I did what Ino told me to and I know it's kind of messy but I think I've seen other girls wear it this—"

"It's very nice," said Kakashi, because over the years he'd learned that was the exact phrase he should use whenever any woman asked about her outfit, "but what makes you think I'm going out to eat with you?"

"The dress is because while you may have let me out of practice this morning, Kurenai-san has not. She says I need to start getting used to behaving more like a normal young woman, or, err," the blonde bit her lip before reluctantly admitting, "one of the phrases she used was act a 'bit more mature'." Naruto shrugged off the comment like she didn't quite entirely understand the situation herself, but was just going to follow orders. "Apparently part of that means trying to dress like a civilian every once in a while and work on passing myself off as just a pretty girl out on the town for a night. She gave me homework: dress nice and go out for a while."

"As you can see," Naruto said testily as Kakashi's brain worked to absorb the information, "I've accomplished step one as well as I can without Ino or Sakura interfering, but now I've got to go outside." She eyed the door with trepidation. "And I'm not going alone."

Kakashi observed her with a critical eye, trying to discern why Naruto would not go outside by herself. She did look very, well, pretty in the orange halter strap sundress with the heeled brown sandals. The color choice was bold, but by now to be expected, and it didn't look that strange against her tan skin. It wasn't exactly a practical look and, yes, she had painted her nails to match. Her hair was piled messily on top of her head in a bun. He had no idea how it was held together but he wasn't curious enough to ask. The overall effect made her look uncomfortably delicate.

Maybe she was nervous because she couldn't hide any weapons in the outfit and felt vulnerable and exposed. She looked vulnerable and exposed. Kakashi wanted to go find a chūnin vest and zip her up in it.

"I don't remember volunteering for escort duty," the jōnin replied, not feeling very sympathetic to the girl's plight. She'd accepted this mission on her own, completely independent of his advice, after all.

Blue eyes narrowed at him dangerously and he resisted the impulse to pull out a book and hide behind the pages.

"Oh, no," said Naruto, in a tone of voice that left no room for compromise, "You're not getting out of this. You totally owe me for ditching me during training all last week."

Kakashi did feel a bit guilty about that, but surely he could come up with some other excuse. "I just finished training myself and should really clean up—"

"Don't even try that," sniffed Naruto, "I'm standing right next to you and you don't smell dirty. You just sat there and read your book while you let Sakura womp on Sasuke because you made it a taijutsu only day."

Kakashi didn't know how she knew that, but yes, that was exactly what he'd done. Sakura had clearly needed a punching bag today and Kakashi didn't feel like volunteering as tribute.

"I'm not that hungry," Kakashi protested, only to be immediately betrayed by a growling stomach.

Naruto folded her arms under her breasts, still not cognizant of the physical consequences of such an action in a low-cut dress. "You're coming with me, or you're teaching me how to cook tonight, which means we have to go get groceries anyway."

Kakashi, not knowing quite where to look and in the midst of trying to decide if it was more appropriate to stare at her face or the wall, found himself being pulled out the door, down the stairs, and out of the residential district.

"No." Kakashi said, as soon as he came to his senses enough to remember and act upon the knowledge that he wasn't a teenager and couldn't be controlled by the sight of really nice cleavage. It helped that he suddenly realized where Naruto had decided to drag him to for dinner. "Absolutely not."

Kakashi stopped walking and dug his feet in the ground, causing Naruto to jerk to a stop as well, unable to pull the man any further on the familiar route.

"But," Naruto sputtered indignantly, "I always go to Ichiraku—"

"Exactly," said Kakashi, "you always eat ramen. Didn't Kurenai tell you to try a more mature approach to life?"

Naruto frowned, "having ramen for dinner is not immature."

Kakashi gave her a bland look, while Naruto managed to keep hanging from the crook of one arm despite Kakashi having both hands shoved firmly in his pockets.

"Fine then," Naruto eventually murmured with a bitter scowl, scuffing the dirt with an impractical strappy sandal that looked much less sturdy than her usual footgear.

Kakashi made a mental wager with himself on whether the fragile shoes would last the night exposed to the level of abuse the girl's attire normally endured.

Resentful, impatient blue eyes locked with his own single grey eye. "Well, where are we supposed to go?"

Oh, Kakashi blinked, he hadn't actually thought farther than refusing to eat ramen for the umpteenth time that week. His head swiveled as he looked around. Ah, he thought, spotting the familiar paper lanterns and worn, red canopy of an establishment he'd patronized on an occasion or two. That'll do. He ambled forward, Naruto trotting alongside obediently.

He gently batted away the curtain obscuring the entry way and stepped to the side, giving himself a moment for his eyesight to adjust to the dimmer lighting.

Naruto surveyed the scene into which Kakashi had escorted her, unimpressed. "This is a bar."

Kakashi glanced down at the top of her head. "Technically, it's an izakaya."

"Whatever," Naruto's tone indicated that she didn't consider the correction an improvement. "Can you even get a good dinner in a bar?" Naruto asked doubtfully as she observed the stained tables. The izakaya was a mash-up of seating arrangements, with high stools at the bar, tables scattered throughout the main room, and what looked to be a few side rooms which offered more traditional seating for larger parties. It was a little early for its' usual crowd, and the handful of people scattered throughout the place looked as worn down as the tables.

This suited Kakashi just fine, tired people were generally respectful of other's privacy and personal boundaries. They didn't go out of their way to engage strangers in unsolicited conversation, they just wanted to drown their own woes with liquor.

"Mah," Kakashi drawled, "so judgmental."

Naruto's blue eyes slid up to his own, her pink lips parted for a retort when her gaze suddenly darted away in distraction and she immediately bolted forward, propelling Kakashi along as her fingers dug sharply into his arm. "Oh look, its Ten-chan!"

Kakashi's eye widened as he took in the couple in the farthest booth in the back corner. Sure enough, Gai's student had her back to the wall and looked quite cozy sitting next to Genma, ever present senbon drooping from the corners of his mouth. They'd both taken the prime positions, backs to the wall next to the kitchen exit, where they could each see whoever entered through every door in the establishment. It was an untraditional sitting arrangement for a couple, but they didn't appear to be bothered by it, rather preoccupied with some type of card game.

However, the game wasn't engaging enough to mask Naruto's approach. A full scale invasion couldn't mask Naruto's approach, Kakashi thought to himself, unsuccessfully trying to subtly indicate to Naruto that they should leave the couple alone.

Naruto was having none of it, and instead bulldozed her way through the maze of tables despite Kakashi's firm grip on the back of her dress as he tried vainly to tug her backward. This was so much easier when she wore that hideous jacket, he thought, slightly vexed.

A dark-headed ninja sitting at the bar turned at the mild scene they were creating as Naruto gleefully yelled greetings to her peer that could probably be heard three blocks away. The stranger raised an eyebrow at Kakashi's failed ploy to trip the girl into a chair at a different table. The man looked mildly familiar, they'd probably had a mission or two together. His amused gaze met Kakashi's frustrated one and the man grinned, raising his glass in a salute and tilting his head toward Naruto in a manner that was both suggestive and congratulatory. Kakashi grimaced (not that anyone could see) and internally bristled, but before he could identify why the man's actions upset him, he was at Naruto's destination.

Tenten temporarily vacated her seat to embrace Naruto, looking genuinely happy by the girl's arrival. Kakashi looked tiredly at Genma, who dipped his head in a nonchalant 'hello' as he considered the newcomers thoughtfully.

"—And then I made Kakashi come to dinner with me, but actually I'm surprised he's still here because normally he's vanished by this point and left me dragging around some poor civilian caught in his shunshin, and he said we should go here, but I don't know why 'cuz I've never been here before, is the food good?" all came out of Naruto's mouth in one big rush as she peered intently up at the taller weapons mistress.

Tenten laughed, used to Naruto's behavior, "Well it's not exactly Konoha's highest-class dining experience, but I think you'll enjoy it well enough. I'm so glad to see you, I haven't had the chance to talk with you in ages, especially since I moved apartments. It's more frustrating than I realized, to be on the complete opposite side of Konoha, even if I'm now closer to the training grounds. And it's good to see you too, Hatake-sensei," said the girl with a small formal bow.

"Yo," said Kakashi, hands gesturing for her to stop the formalities, feeling uncomfortable and put on the spot, "I think you've earned the right to be a little less formal, not even Naruto calls me sensei anymore."

Brown eyes looked puzzled at that, which struck Kakashi as odd, was it that unusual for Naruto not to call him sensei anymore? Sasuke never had, but the habit was deeply ingrained in Sakura, who was probably the most formal child he'd ever met save the Hyuuga brats. Well, except when Sakura was angry, then it was his full name sans any honorific at all. Which actually was quite often, now that he thought about it.

Whatever Gai's student found odd about the statement, she didn't pursue it, and instead she gestured to the bench opposite her own. "Would you like to join us?"

It was probably one of those social niceties that people were expected to ask upon meeting acquaintances but didn't really expect to be taken up on, as Kakashi couldn't imagine Genma wanting interference on his date, but Naruto was as oblivious as usual and quickly slid into the vacant seat, arm darting out to drag Kakashi down with her.

Kakashi sat stiffly, uneasy with his back to entryway and glared darkly at Genma who hid his own smile at the jōnin's clear discomfort behind a hand holding tattered red playing cards.

Tenten didn't seem too put out by Naruto's acceptance of the obligatory invitation, jumping into some high-pitched chatter about Naruto's hair and then the Yamanaka girl that Kakashi wasn't interested enough in to try and follow. He looked glumly at Genma, who was taking his time to think up a question that Kakashi might actually answer. Kakashi could practically see the cogs slowly turning in the other man's brain as he thought. Genma wasn't unintelligent, he just generally liked to take life at his own pace, so as best to enjoy it. Only, Genma's own pace was several times slower than the average man's unless a fight was on hand.

A waitress who looked far too put-together and chipper for the environment stopped by their table to take their orders.

"What can I get you two?" she said with a smile, plucking a pencil out of her brown hair to take notes on a tiny spiral bound notepad.

"Food," said Naruto, blue eyes big.

The waitress giggled politely, "Well, we do have some of that."

"Good," the blonde nodded seriously, "Bring me whatever you recommend that is really tasty, I'm starving. And when you think you have put together enough to feed me, double it. I'll seriously eat it all."

Kakashi didn't doubt that; Naruto ate like she had ten stomachs, and he knew she'd spent the whole afternoon in his apartment, which wasn't really well stocked with groceries. Despite having company, the jōnin hadn't adjusted his grocery shopping. Her self-led adventures in cooking were apparently more hazardous than unsupervised sealing practice. And he kept having a flashback to when he was five and Minato-sensei was telling him that no, he couldn't feed the cat, because it would follow them home and Kushina-san would never let them get rid of it. He shook his head to chase the old memory away. Naruto wasn't a cat; what a strange thing to think of while ordering dinner. It was probably a little late for that strategy to work anyway. He blamed Pakkun, the pug should have known better than to give the girl an open invitation to help herself to someone else's fridge.

The waitress looked a bit out of her depth, leading Tenten to step in and give some guidance.

"Why don't we just do the all-you-can-eat," the brunette said helpfully, "that is," she paused to look specifically at Kakashi, "if everyone has the time for it?"

"Yes!" Naruto agreed eagerly, "that's perfect!"

"No problem here," Genma said, picking up all the cards lying about and reshuffling them into one hand.

Kakashi just slouched further in resignation.

Not hearing any opposition, the waitress bobbed her head, "Alright, do you want to start with some sushi or edamame?"

"Sushi," Naruto said without hesitation, "a little bit of everything, please."

"And to drink?"

Naruto shrugged, "Water is fine."

"Water?" asked the woman, surprised more by the choice of drink than the blonde's original extravagant demands to be fed. "Don't you want something a little stronger, dearie?"

"Nah," Naruto waved her off, "Alcohol really doesn't do much for me and Sakura is always telling me I need to hydrate more, so water's good."

The waitress, blinked, bemused, but simply drawled, "Alright-y then," in a sing-song voice before turning her attention to Kakashi. She eyed him appreciatively, but clearly thought better of vocally flirting with him with in his present female company. Kakashi could feel the assumptions she was making, civilians are so transparent, but he couldn't bring himself to care enough to clarify matters. After all, he rationalized, ultimately the opinion of one civilian waitress was of little significance. He sighed, "Go ahead and bring me a 'Death in the Afternoon."

The waitress raised an eyebrow, but otherwise didn't comment on his choice.

Genma was not so polite, but made an effort anyway, trying to cover up his laugh with coughing.

"What's wrong with you? You didn't swallow your senbon, did you?" Tenten said with a frown, reaching over to whack him on the back.

"I've never heard of that drink before," Naruto commented, raising a hand to re-pin a stray strand of hair behind her ears. "What was it?"

"Something exceedingly alcoholic," mumbled the copy ninja.

Genma finally managed to get his wheezing laughter under control, "Starting a bit early today, huh, Kakashi?"

Kakashi didn't let the barb get to him. He rarely indulged in liquor, only when the rest of the company was mostly sober, and even then, he knew his limits and refused to drink past them, but he was going to need a good drink to get through this meal. "It's happy hour," Kakashi said calmly.

Genma guffawed, but Tenten cut him off before he could let loose with a customary wise-crack.

"We were playing poker earlier, would you like to join us?"

"Oh," cheered Naruto, "I love that game. What are the stakes?"

Tenten and Genma looked taken aback by her unexpected enthusiasm.

Kakashi didn't know why they would expect a different answer from a girl who'd been spending an inordinate amount of time holed up with the Hokage lately.

"Great!" Tenten smiled as she and Genma quickly recovered their composure. "We really were just playing for spare weapons, but why don't we change it up now so that whoever wins the most hands doesn't have to split the dinner bill?"

Kakashi tried to input, "I'm not sure that—"

"Great," said Naruto, smile looking especially fox-like as she slapped her hand on the table. "Deal me in."

"Excellent," Tenten purred with an equally predatory grin.

Genma, at least, had enough sense to pick up on Kakashi's hesitance and look a bit uneasy.

Five rounds later, the senbon-chewing man understood exactly why.

"I win again!" Naruto crowed, spreading her hand out across the table in no particular order, the Queen of Hearts in her royal flush ending up nearest to Kakashi.

Genma blinked, "So you do," he said with a regretful smile, laying down his own hand, which while quite good, three jacks, one away from four of a kind, his missing card with Naruto. "Lucky girl," he drawled.

Naruto just beamed and munched on her eighth stick of yakitori.

Tenten's fist tightened on her own hand as she looked on in disbelief. "It's not statistically possible for you to win this much!" She had a forced smile on her face, but was beginning to develop a nervous tick in her left eye.

"Mmm," agreed Genma, eying the blonde in a manner that inspired Kakashi to take another sip of his second drink. "I'd accuse you of hiding cards up your sleeves, but you don't have any, sleeves that is."

"Nope," said Naruto, popping the 'p.' "I don't need to cheat."

Genma laughed outright at that, as if it was the best joke he'd heard all evening. It probably was, considering that when ninja played poker, everyone cheated. That was the game.

Kakashi tipped his head back to rest against the back of the booth. He had long ago learned that Naruto had some strange power of skewing luck her way which went into overdrive in games of chance and had known who the winner of the night would be before the first hand was even dealt.

Tenten reached forward to grab Naruto's winning hand, physically examining the cards to see if she could find something off about them.

"I just win by sheer awesomeness," Naruto said smugly, beaming happily.

Tenten grumbled her discontent, looking skeptically at the chnin.

"You have to admit," drawled Genma, "there's not a lot of places she could hide spare cards in that outfit."

"Yeah," agreed Naruto, nodding, "it's kind of hard to slip things in here."

Kakashi cleared his throat, interrupting the comment Genma was obviously dying to make, "Naruto, didn't you say you wanted to use the restroom as soon as this round was over?"

"Oh yeah, I did. And I do." She pushed at Kakashi to get up and let her out of the booth, and slipped past him.

"I'll go with you." said Tenten, following the blonde to the restrooms hidden down a hallway on the far side of the room. "Be right back," she called over her shoulder.

Kakashi took his seat again with a put upon sigh.

"Why do women do that?" Genma mused idly as he collected the cards.

"Hm?"

"They always go to the restroom in pairs," Genma elaborated, "It's like they have secret society meetings in bathroom stalls."

"I'm not sure men are meant to understand all the mysteries of the female gender," was all Kakashi could bring himself to answer, "And I'm not about to start holding your hand next time you feel the need to heed nature's call just because you want to find out."

"Aww, Kakashi, so sweet of you to think of me," the jōnin's words dripped with sarcasm as he reshuffled the cards, "But I can think of better company to keep with my pants down."

"I'm sure you can," the silver-haired ninja drawled, not really wanting to give Genma the opportunity to elaborate on that company; he had no desire to hear anything about Genma's relationship with Tenten.

"What have you been up to?" Genma put the cards into his vest and took the senbon out of his mouth so he could try some of the kushiyaki that Naruto had yet to inhale. "I hear you're stuck in the village for a while, but I've not seen you out around town."

"Personal things." the copy ninja murmured.

"Mah," the tokubetsu jōnin waved a hand dismissively, "everything is personal with you."

Kakashi took a drink in lieu of responding and the other ninja gave a dramatic sigh. "You never want to talk about you. Fine then, we'll talk about your girl," Genma's eyes took on a mischievous gleam, "When did she get so cute?"

The copy-ninja stiffened, "She's not my girl—"

"Man, I remember her dad," said Genma, waxing nostalgic, "he'd be having kittens right now seeing her in that dress. He would have been one of those super overprotective ones, I just know it." He put down the mostly eaten stick of food and folded his arms behind his neck to stretch a little. "Bet that's all fallin' on you now? How're you holding up?"

Would Sensei have said something about the dress? Kakashi was a bit confused as he couldn't recall Sensei ever saying anything about Kushina's attire, but he also remembered at least one occasion where Rin had described Kushina-san as fashion-challenged. Minato-sensei probably wouldn't have liked Naruto's current outfit if it drew unwanted attention, although he couldn't imagine Sensei saying something like that with Kushina in the room. He was so lost in his own thoughts that he barely caught the last of Genma's questions, "What?"

Genma gave Kakashi a knowing grin. "Need to go dig out the tantō yet to beat the boys sniffing around her back?"

Kakashi's eye widened, surprised. "It's not like that…" It really wasn't. Kakashi had never imagined himself taking the role Minato should have had for Naruto; that was given to Jiraiya by choice, and the Sandaime and perhaps Iruka-san by circumstance.

"No?" Genma raised an eyebrow. "'Cos I could have sworn I saw Hachirou-kun checking her out when you all walked in and I thought you were going to skin him alive for giving her a good look."

"I was not," said Kakashi defensively. Although now he was glad he knew the other ninja's name.

"Good." Genma said with a teasing laugh. "Then you won't mind if I take her out to dinner next time then, since you're obviously a miserable bastard of a dinner companion. I'll show her what a fun time is."

"You—I," Kakashi spluttered, caught off guard at the inappropriateness of the comment, "shouldn't, you," he shook his head. Genma had a girlfriend, he should leave Kakashi's alone. Er, his minion that is, not that Kakashi had any romantic interest in the girl. Sure she was pretty, and clearly growing up and coming into her own, but—he just needed to stop thinking. He settled for glaring darkly at the other man. "Go play with Tenten."

The dark-haired jōnin gave a bellowing laugh, "I do, thank you very much, we play every Tuesday and Thursday. We make excellent sparring partners," he was practically purring now, grin sharp and predatory and senbon back in its usual place in his mouth.

So that's what they call it nowadays, Kakashi thought darkly, before throwing his head back and finishing off his drink.

"You know," Genma continued thoughtfully, tone serious, "you and Naruto really should join us some time. It gets boring doing the same thing every time. I mean, we have our toys, but we could use some more variety to spice things up, keep things lively. There's nothing like adding a new dynamic to keep it fresh."

Kakashi choked on his drink as his mind boggled at the implications.

Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Naruto was washing her hands and a glance in the mirror showed Tenten approaching her with a frown.

"Here," offered the other girl, reaching up touch Naruto's hair, "let me fix your hair, it's falling down in the back."

"Dammit." Naruto hissed, irritated. She thought she'd done it well enough to last for an hour or two at least. She smiled at the older girl, "Thanks."

"No problem," chirped Tenten.

Naruto watched Tenten's hands move with purpose as she skillfully re-pinned the blonde locks. "How'd you get so good at this?'

Tenten had a bobby-pin in her mouth, so instead of answering verbally, she just gestured at the two buns on top of her own head.

"Oh, right!" Naruto slapped her face lightly in a 'duh!' gesture, Tenten had worn her hair in buns since Academy, of course she would know how to pin up hair and get it to stay.

"So," began Naruto nervously, wanting to ask the question that had been on her mind all evening, "are you and Genma?"

"What?" Tenten blinked, then caught on to what the younger girl's question implied. "Oh, God no!" She giggled, "Darn it, you made me drop the bobby pins!"

"Ah, sorry!"

"No, don't bend down, stay standing, it'll all fall out if you move!" Tenten cried in dismay, but a few seconds later, all the bobby pins were retrieved and Tenten quickly went back to work repairing the sheepish Naruto's hairstyle. "Genma and I are just training partners. He's teaching me how to use senbon and he likes testing his taijutsu against mine because though I'm trained by Gai-sensei, I'm not nearly as, well, overwhelming, I suppose."

"Oh," said Naruto, trying not to sound disappointed. She was hoping the older girl might be able to relate a little to her own current predicament. "You two just seem to get along so well."

"Yeah," nodded Tenten calmly, "that happens after you spar with someone consistently for a while. I'm not surprised you think that though," continued the brunette with a rueful sigh, "Gai-sensei gets a little overexcited every time I spend any amount of time with someone of the opposite gender who doesn't wear green spandex. I've heard the strangest things about my love life lately," muttered the weapons mistress.

Tenten put the final pins in Naruto's hair and the blonde admired the final, neater look in the mirror.

"But," Tenten looked slyly at the blonde as she put a hand to the restroom door, stopping just before she pushed it open, "what about you and Kakashi-san?"

"What?" Naruto exclaimed, gulping in surprise. "No!"

"Is that a blush?" Tenten leaned closer to peer at the girl, who took some embarrassed steps backward. "It is!"

Naruto waved her arms and a dozen protests tried to leave her mouth all at once.

"Don't be like that," scolded Tenten, rolling her eyes, back now to the bathroom door, keeping them both from leaving. "You'd be cute together. Besides he's like, one of the hottest men in Konoha. He's been dream fodder for all the girls our age since we hit puberty. Haven't you ever talked with Ino or Sakura about him?"

Naruto vehemently shook her head.

"Man, you're missing out," she said, sounding mournful, dramatically opening the bathroom door and sauntering into the dimly lit hallway.

"Don't look like that," she said, noting the conflicted look on the blonde's face with exasperation. "He's hot, it's an indisputable fact of life."

Naruto looked slightly ill.

"Bwahaha," Tenten laughed, before continuing in a softer voice as they approached the main room, "I shouldn't find your face so funny. After all, I'd probably feel the same way if you were telling me you had a crush on Gai-sensei—"

Both girls froze in shock at the idea and Tenten grimaced. "No, I'd definitely, definitely feel worse."

"I don't think I can un-think that now," said Naruto, face green, pushing forward, wanting nothing more than to get back to the table and steer Tenten into less awkward conversational waters.

"I'm so sorry," Tenten sincerely said.

As the girls approached the table, Naruto immediately noticed the slightly horrified-nauseous expression on the silver-haired jōnin's face. "Kakashi? What's wrong with you?"

Kakashi looked up and noted Naruto's similarly tortured facial expression. Surely Tenten wouldn't have propositioned her in the bathroom? That's it, Kakashi'd had enough for one day. This is what happened when people exceeded their normal tolerance for socialization. "We're leaving."

"What?" Naruto blinked, startled, turning toward Genma for an explanation, only to find the man looking just as surprised as she was by the copy-ninja's attitude.

"Now," said Kakashi, standing, brushing past both girls, knowing Naruto would follow.

"Wait!" The blonde shouted at his back. She hastily turned toward their friends and gave a hurried bow. "Uh, bye guys, see you later!" She whirled around and ran to catch up with Kakashi.

She reached him by the door, where a crowd was gathering, waiting to be seated, as the time was much later and the restaurant's regulars were out in force to enjoy the now lively, charge atmosphere.

"Kakashi—eep!"

Several things happened at once: Kakashi slowed down, both due to the fact that he didn't want to mow down the crowd in his exit and because he felt Naruto's chakra close behind him, Naruto caught up to Kakashi and reached out to latch onto the sleeve of his uniform, and an unfortunate unnamed drunk civilian thought, Wow what a cute ass, and reached out to cop a feel from a blonde he'd never seen flying by him in a pretty orange summer dress.

While Naruto had never personally been harassed in such a manner, she'd seen Sakura be a victim of such an incident. Naruto's slap wouldn't leave quite the same impression as one given by the medic nin, but she had confidence that she could defend herself against such behavior and impart a piece of her mind in the process. However, as she turned around and raised her arm in the air, she realized the opportunity had been stolen from her. The drunk offender had been pinned against the wall with the full force of an agitated jōnin bearing down upon him, members of the crowd cowering back in fear at the unexpectedly aggressive behavior. The civilian whimpered as he was released just as abruptly, quickly retreating as he nursed what was most likely a fractured wrist.

Naruto just blinked as she stared at the tense line of the back of Kakashi's shoulders. She lowered her hand and opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off as the man turned, grabbed her by the elbow, and quickly pulled her from the building.

Genma and Tenten observed the unusual exit from their booth in the back.

"What was that all about?" Genma turned to Tenten, confused.

Tenten, who was still standing, shrugged, "I dunno, he was fine when I left him with you." She narrowed her eyes at her training partner. "What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything," Genma protested, "I swear, we were just talking."

"Huh," Tenten blinked. She slid back into her former seat with a sigh, "well, who knows." She grimaced in slight embarrassment before sharing the next piece of information with the man. "It sounds like Gai-sensei's been spreading rumors again. Naruto thought we were a couple."

"Really?" Genma gave a frustrated groan, "The man's like a brother to me, but if he doesn't stop butting in—wait," Genma stopped talking, suspicion beginning to dawn in his mind about what Kakashi may have thought that Genma meant during their private conversation. "You don't think?"

"Think what?" Tenten asked idly, waving their waitress over for the check.

"That Kakashi thought that—?" Genma grimaced himself, not needing to verbally finish the sentence with that we were a couple.

"Oh, he totally did," said Tenten with a sniff. "But I'm sure Naruto will set him straight." Or maybe she won't, thought Tenten, it's not like it matters that much in the grand scheme of things.

Genma chewed on his senbon, that alone wouldn't explain Kakashi's reaction, unless…His wide-eyed gaze turned to Tenten. "You don't think that they-?"

"Oh, they totally are," said Tenten with a knowing nod, feeling slightly vindicated at starting a rumor about someone else's love life for once.

"Shit." Genma ran a hand over his face, "Why don't you tell me these things before I put my foot in my mouth?"

"Well," his female companion drawled, "I just have this relentless optimism that you're socially intelligent enough not to say something irredeemably stupid." She finished off her own drink as their waitress approached. "But then you open your mouth and I remember we're only friends because you have excellent aim with sharp pointy objects."

The waitress gave the pair an amused look upon catching the end of their conversation as she handed Genma the bill.

"Goddammit." Genma glared at the offensive piece of paper. "Neither of them paid their part of the bill."

"That's unfortunate," said Tenten blandly as she polished a kunai she'd gouged into the tabletop in a fit of pique the third time Naruto had a winning hand. "I guess you're paying then."

"Sure-wait?" Genma looked confused. "Why do I have to foot the bill?"

"Because you make more than I do," said the brunette practically. "And if you don't," she waved the kunai under his nose in a manner that would be deemed threatening by any civilian observer, but which to a ninja came across as merely playful. "I'll tell Gai-sensei that you're cheap during the next team practice."

Genma looked unamused, but pulled out his wallet all the same. "You see, this is why he thinks those things," he muttered, laying down a wad of cash with a harsh slap to the tabletop. "There, that ought to cover it." The two slid out of the booth and began to make their way outside. "By the way," Genma turned hopeful eyes to his female companion, "my apartment's laundry facility is on the fritz again, someone came back from Suna and now there's sand clogging all the pipes. Can I come do laundry at your place?"

Tenten put her hands on her hips. "You're such a moocher," she said, sounding unimpressed.

"Please?" Genma said with a touch of a whine, "I know I'm a guy, but I really don't enjoy going around with clothes I haven't washed in a month."

"Fine." Tenten said, already making plans. "I'll make hiyayakko if you bring the sake."

Genma's eyes widened appreciatively. "I love you."

"But I get to pick the movie this time," the girl said authoritatively, knowing that if Genma got his way, they'd be watching some boorish comedy while waiting for his clothes to go through the washer and dryer.

The tokubetsu jōnin scowled, "You're going to make me watch some touchy-feely movie again, aren't you?" Who would have thought the weapons mistress would have such a weakness for chick-flicks?

"Yes," Tenten freely admitted, "but this one has vampires, I'm sure you'll like it."

"Seriously?" Genma perked up a bit. "So there'll be blood and violence, then? Do they eat people?"

"No," said Tenten, smiling somewhat viciously, "they sparkle."

Genma's shoulders fell, "Goddammit, Tenten, the guys will never let me live it down if they hear about all the movies you've made me watch."

"Don't be such a girl," said Tenten with a snicker, not ready to reveal the fact that she only made him watch those movies to hold it over his head as social blackmail should the occasion ever present itself.

On the other side of the village, Kakashi was nearing his apartment, but still hadn't let go of Naruto, although by now he was gripping her wrist rather than her elbow.

"What was that all about?" Naruto finally gathered the courage to ask, sensing Kakashi had calmed down enough for her to prod a bit.

Kakashi didn't answer, and just continued to determinedly stride forward. Naruto had to take two steps for every one of his just to keep pace and she mentally cursed herself for being so short. Or him being so tall. One of the two was at fault for this scenario.

"Will you at least let go of my hand?" The blonde sighed, resigning herself to the strange ending to what otherwise had been a pleasant evening.

"Maybe when you're thirty," Kakashi muttered under his breath.


Next Time: Chapter Seventeen – To Be Titled

"Do you feel like a naughty child yet? Because I'm beginning to think with your recent behavior that I'm just going to have to put a sign on that chair that says, "Time-Out,' and stick it in the corner of my office for you to come sit in for thirty minutes every other day."

"I'm not sure that was called for," sniffed Kakashi, offended and uncertain about what he'd done to earn the Hokage's condescension this time.