Sasuke yanks his seatbelt open, and then he's floating. He pulls himself out of his seat and kicks off the wall, zooming straight through the door with a little too much velocity. Damn it. He absorbs the impact with the corridor wall with both hands and shoves to the side.
He knows that in unplanned zero grav you're not supposed to move away from the walls and a good, solid handhold, but dragging himself hand over hand on the leading rope would be too slow. If the gravity turns back on while he's floating - whatever, he can pilot with a leg in a cast.
He can't pilot if the stupid mechanic can't fix the engine because he stupidly went and died of engine shrapnel to the face.
"Status!" Sasuke snaps when he reaches the machine room. The door is cracked open where it should be airtight, and for a second he's sure he's going to come into a charnel house, bodies floating limply, red droplets orbiting them like tiny ruby moons.
"No need to yell, flyboy!" a voice answers from somewhere he can't see. His heart lurches and starts thinking about not hammering so much.
After a few seconds scanning the room, he finds a pair of feet sticking out from under a piece of machinery. He's very tempted to go kick them. Their owner sounded so unconcerned.
He snarls. "Would it kill you to use the interphone?"
"Right now? Yeah, actually."
Sasuke pauses. ... Ah.
"Hand me the big twisty wrench, wouldya."
Sasuke clenches his teeth to keep from - he's not sure what he would yell, but ...something he probably shouldn't. He launches himself off the wall to catch the floating wrench, and then he flips in the air and kicks back off the ceiling. He sees the top of Naruto's face through a grid, catches the blond looking and pretending not to be.
"Here." He holds the wrench out.
Naruto grins suddenly, in that way that always makes him wary. "Can't stick my arms out from over here. Gotta have to follow me underneath." He cackles. And as Sasuke glares, he adds, "Ain't nothing wrong with a bit of honest motor grease, princess."
Irritated, Sasuke drags himself to the crack between wall and motor Naruto wedged himself into, and wriggles waist-deep in. It's a tight fit, borderline claustrophobic. Good thing no one pilots a spaceship if they're scared of being locked in narrow spaces. (Sasuke likes tight spaces fine. It's wide open rooms with viewing bays opening onto Space he has a problem with, especially when they contain family members dead and drifting.) He slaps the wrench in the mechanic's hand. "Here."
"Good. Now can you move higher and hold that piece for me? I don't know what genius forgot to make it magnetic but it keeps floating off on me."
If Naruto sounded mocking, or even just a little bit amused, Sasuke would go right back out and let him handle it, but Naruto doesn't. He's... not extremely serious, not in the 'we're in such deep shit' way, but not teasing either. Sober - a rare expression on him. So... Sasuke crawls up. He moves his arms up until they're framing Naruto's face, and he presses on the piece overhead.
In the process of not looking at his focused expression, he notices that Naruto's arms could have fit out of the grid to get the wrench just fine.
He's still thinking of explosions and critical system failures and bodies floating like they drowned and him being all alone in an empty ship, so even after the piece is soldered back in and Naruto has gone on to repair things he doesn't need a second pair of hands for, Sasuke stays in the dark crawlspace with him. And he watches his sober face, and his steady hands.
"Better to stay tucked away where you can't be pinballed around, yeah," Naruto says as he works, so casual Sasuke knows he isn't, knows that he knows.
Naruto finishes off his repairs and then the sparks die down and they're quiet, so close they can feel each other's heat.
Afterwards Sasuke doesn't remember who touched first, who kissed first. Here, in the dark and narrow space, it's intimate, strangely timeless, out of reality.
It takes the ship's proximity alerts beeping before either of them even thinks about crawling out. Then they get tangled into each other's legs, and they start insulting each other. By the time they finally manage to get out, disheveled, bruised, blinded by the harsh ceiling lights, the moment is killed pretty dead. Sasuke stomps off in a huff and tells himself it was a fluke, a mistake - a momentary lapse, at best. What happened in the crawlspace stays in the crawlspace. No need to bring it up again.
(if it helped with his nightmares, he doesn't need to bring that up either.)
He lasts a week before he yanks Naruto in the nearest cupboard.
Sasuke didn't like to admit he was starting to know his idiot mechanic really well. Too well. Too deeply. He didn't like to admit he knew the way Naruto tilted his head or smiled or stomped around the cargo hold and ranted. Or kissed him.
Because the second the blond man's lips touched his own he could tell this wasn't his Naruto.
Wide blue eyes blinked at him in confusion. Sasuke sneered, digging his fingers deep in the muscles of the familiar stranger's shoulders.
"Who the fuck are you?"
The smirk that bloomed slow and vicious on the man's face was confirmation he didn't even need.
Naruto had never told him he was a clone.
When he lays eyes on today's high-paying client Sasuke's first reaction is to slam his hand down on the controls that will break the docking seal and vent all oxygen from the cargo hold. He'd have about five seconds to clip on a tether and get his mask on, but he has the advantage of knowing where to get one.
He doesn't know where Naruto's psychotic clone wants them to fly him. He doesn't care. "I thought we agreed to keep out of each other's way," he says instead, voice calm and bland and most of all uncaring because that's the best way to get under that fucker Kyuubi's skin.
Kyuubi doesn't smirk at him, doesn't twitch, doesn't drawl out some filthy, disturbing promise. He just stands there, blue eyes shadowed and strangely heavy, brooding, and for a moment Sasuke wonders if maybe he didn't get it wrong, if Naruto doesn't, like most clones, have more than one clone-sibling in his batch.
"I'm gonna tell Dark you're stealing his sulky-emo schtick," Naruto says, a step behind Sasuke and to the side, and Sasuke breathes a little deeper. Naruto doesn't seem scared, just wary.
(Oh, and apparently Kyuubi isn't the only exception to a batch of strangely well-adjusted smiling optimistic idiots. What kind of name is Dark, seriously? Sasuke briefly imagines a Naruto in heavy eyeliner and mesh and cringes on the inside.)
(Sasuke briefly wonders if the Kyuubis and Darks aren't the normal spectrum for this batch, and his Naruto isn't the exception.)
(Or maybe his Naruto isn't an exception in anything but his ability to lie.)
"You said you were the best in the business."
Sasuke doesn't bother replying, though Naruto lifts his chin proudly, defiant but oddly hopeful (like a kid who keeps getting bullied by his big brother but still wants nothing more but for that big brother to acknowledge him, not that Sasuke knows anything about that.) "Damn straight we are! Small, sneaky crafts that can kick ass, there's no one better!"
"Good. I need you for an extraction in Mist space."
"A two-person team doesn't kick enough ass for Mist space," Sasuke replies before Naruto can commit them to this stupidity. "No one's that good."
"A three-person team will have to be that good," Kyuubi replies, voice low and rough with banked rage. And then he looks at Naruto and he lays his trump card; Sasuke knows that just from the way Naruto's face drains of color, even though he has no fucking clue who they're talking about.
"Turns out they're the ones who have Minato."
"Just so I understand everything," Sasuke said, and took the ship straight between two floating asteroids, flipping the ship at the last second so the reentry ailerons didn't scratch. (Stupid things wouldn't retract. One more thing for Naruto to fix once they reached the next station.)
Naruto narrowled avoide bonking his head against the nearest panel. "Oh my god I am so lucky they made me without a nausea problem. Genenginered inner ears for the win -- urk!"
"In order to save your clone," swerve, "we are bringing your other, evil clone," swerve, "to meet your other, other clone."
He made sure to brake extra-hard for that one. Bonk.
"Thus only lenghtening the amount of time we have to fly through Mist space on our current pitiful amount of ammo."
Sasuke was not happy. When Sasuke was not happy Naruto definitely wasn't allowed to be.
"It's not my fault if that's where the intel is!" Naruto growled, and extracted himself from the panel he'd been fixing. He dusted himself off and kicked across to his flight chair, belted himself in, and then nodded, slow and thoughtful. "Kyuubi is totally our evil clone, though."
Sasuke stared ahead at the control panels so he wouldn't snort. Naruto knew, though, and grinned at him in the reflection of the back view panel, where the patroller drones previously on their tail were ramming mercilessly into asteroids.
He didn't know how he felt about how casually Naruto had started referring to the fact that he had been made, as part of a batch. To his childhood in a clone creche. He didn't know if he was bothered because he hadn't wanted to know or because Naruto hadn't said anything about not being natural-born sooner, before Kyuubi forced his hand.
He didn't like thinking that Naruto literally couldn't imagine losing his birth family, that the sympathy he'd shown had been only, what, lucky guesses and Sasuke assuming understanding when maybe he... oh fuck it, Sasuke didn't even understand how the hell his own thought process worked some days.
He wasn't happy knowing Naruto had had a life before becoming his mechanic. That was childish, but it was true. He wasn't happy that this life was now dragging them along.
(He'd have been even less happy if Naruto had left without him, without telling him why, if he hadn't just assumed that of course Sasuke would come with.)
"I may be the evil clone," Kyuubi purr-growled in his ear, "but that's better than being the idiot clone."
Sasuke didn't even throw him a glare over his shoulder. Kyuubi hated being ignored just as much as Naruto did. Good.
"Also I'm a much better fuck."
"Really. Unless you've been fucking the same people --" goddamn, couldn't let himself be dragged in. "--No, I am not interested in playing referee. Next coordinates?"
Naruto was bristling and saying something about superior experience being for jack shit if one was such a selfish asshole. Kyuubi was smirking at him and eyeing where Sasuke's ass should be like he could see right through the pilot's chair. This time Sasuke made sure not to give a twinge of warning before he swerved.
Bonk. Bonk. Fuck them both very much.
When they dock in the ... let's call them as they are, pirate satellite's bay, the man who greets them is redheaded, his face so full of piercings he must be a pain to get through Customs; Sasuke has the vague cynical thought that maybe it's why he'd rather live in lawless space.
The man is also a Naruto. What the fuck ever.
"Hey, Yahiko!" Naruto calls. "Nice hair! Dye it?"
The man grunts an answer and jumps over the guardrail to join them on the dock floor. Kyuubi snorts, arms crossed, eyes narrow.
Yahiko moves as if he had a dozen blades on him, and is thinking of the best way to stick them all into his clone. Sasuke's fingers twitch with the restrained desire to yank Naruto back by the collar and leave them free to go at it, but in the end the redheaded clone's eyes slide away from Kyuubi and onto Naruto, and there they warm a bit.
"Naruto. Of course it's dyed, how else?"
"Gene therapy?" Naruto suggests with a shrug.
Kyuubi leers, and it's ugly. "If taking it up the ass from a natural redhead was a viable sort of gene injection we'd know it."
Yahiko's eyes freeze over again. Sasuke thinks equally interested and troubled thoughts about how lethal Naruto's clones seem to be so far, where Naruto is the safest person Sasuke knows, temper notwhitstanding. But if he reads that little telling twitch right... (and he does, as different as they all are there's distinct, disturbing similarities.)
Yahiko doesn't think Kyuubi should know about his redhead lover, and didn't want him to.
"So do you match now?" Kyuubi sneers. "Cute. Carpet matches the drapes, too?"
"No," a dark-haired, ice-faced woman says from the door up there on the gallery, from where she can strafe them at will. She has a very big gun in her hands. "It's blue, to match me."
"...And this is my girlfriend Konan," Yahiko deadpans, and then he cracks a smile that's Naruto straight through. Sasuke's lip quirks up somehow. He bites it.
"Yeah? Nice to meetcha, Konan! I'm Naruto." He sneaks a glance back, and Sasuke knows what he's going to say and doesn't manage to stop him fast enough. "... And this is my boyfriend Sasuke!"
"The hell, since when am I your--"
"No badass sexy girlfriend, though, so you still win, Yahiko-bro. For now!"
The thwap Sasuke delivers to the back of Naruto's head is totally deserved. He hooks his fingers in the back of his flight suit and twists until Naruto chokes a bit, and he starts dragging him to the stairs. He's getting sick of standing in the background of their crazy family show. "So?" he demands, as Yahiko falls into step with him, eyebrow arched. "Where's that intel?"
A little amused smile. "With our in-law."
Naruto twists around in Sasuke's grip so he isn't walking backward up the stairs anymore and goes "Oh! Oh! Oh!" like he's excited enough to go back to being a happy monkey. His eyes are bright with pure happiness. "Is it big sis Kushina?! Is it? Oh man yes!"
A step behind Kyuubi's eyes have gone ice-cold, and a strange, feral smile slids on his lips. It's like he hates that woman and cannot wait for the chance to show her exactly how much.
"Who the fuck is Kushina?" Sasuke growls, and lets go without warning. Naruto doesn't trip and fall on anything. Hrngh.
The blue-haired woman falls into step with him when they reach the landing, slanting him a look of subtle sympathy. "Kushina is Minato's wife," she explains sotto voce. "She's also our boyfriend Nagato's cousin; she introduced us."
Sasuke grunts an acknowledgement. Not that he cares in the end but concise intel that doesn't leave him floundering in the dark is worth that much.
Naruto is racing ahead, calling to that Kushina woman. Kyuubi's stride lengthens, passing them. The redhead Naruto and shotgun-chick exchange a look over Sasuke's head and then nod together. "Afraid you're not going to leave the satellite without another passenger."
Sasuke eyes Yahiko. Another Naruto clone? Fuck, he's collecting them all, it seems -- but, wait, no, that isn't it.
"... That Kushina woman."
"Yeah. She's the one who knows where they have Minato, and she's not the type to hand over the info and let others take care of the rescue."
There's still that faint sympathy on their faces. Yahiko grimaces. Sasuke massages the bridge of his nose.
"... Kyuubi and her are going to gut each other, are they."
"Oh, not on the way in," Yahiko says, and tucks his hands behind his head in a gesture Sasuke sees once a day. It means 'I'm pretending not to care' or 'it's fucked up but whatever' or 'not my problem', depending. "They both want Minato back too much. But on the way out..." He shrugs. "I never could tell if it was hate or jealousy, between her and Kyuubi."
Sasuke doesn't want to know, just plain doesn't, at all, ever.
In the room where his Naruto went there's a redheaded guy in a wheelchair and a redheaded woman in Kyuubi's face, and they're both bristling with weapons and snarling at each other from so close they could start kissing any second now.