"So do we call you Naruto One, Two and Three?"
The three Narutos stared at him across the small living-room-kitchen, two blue glares and a red. Sai wasn't sure what he'd said wrong, but that happened often. He smiled.
"Or perhaps descriptives? Red, Blue and... Hm." He considered the girl twin, sitting in front of him at the table. She also had blue eyes and while her hair was much longer, 'blonde' could get confusing. What else... "Tits?"
The girl was suddenly flailing and in his face, which only surprised him inasmuch as he had known incoherent yelling would happen at some point. It always did around he members of Team Kakashi. He'd made some headway in figuring out some triggers, but it wasn't like this clone was a girl born and socialized as such; he had assumed that she wouldn't have the same unfortunate knee-jerk reaction to self-evident truths. Perhaps he should have gone with 'billboard' after all.
"I wasn't making a judgment on your chest," he explained, though explanations tended to be rather hit-or-make-it-worse. "Just pointing out that you do have one."
"BUT YOU -- oh hey." She stretched out her collar and blinked down at her chest, briefly distracted. "I really do."
"Someone has got to have a talk with you about the mentioning of private parts in public," Sakura muttered, and stretched out of her seat to give the girl clone a slap on the head.
Sai gave Naruto's kitchen a puzzled look. "We're not in public."
"... Just trust me and drop it."
"Anyway, I have a name!" the girl clone said. "It's --"
Sai didn't fully understand the sudden shift in her expression, just enough to know it wasn't good. He snuck a glance at Sakura, who was flinching. Yeah, he'd been right.
He hesitated. All the books said to be cautious with girls who were in emotional distress, and her irritation at his first nickname proved she was more female than he'd first assumed. Anything he said might provoke an explosion there.
Blue Naruto was looking down at the table and making just about the same face as Sakura. Red Naruto didn't show enough emotion for Sai to classify his reaction, if he even had one.
"It's Naruto," the girl clone finished. "My name. It's Naruto."
She looked up and smiled. Sai started to smile back, and then he stopped. That... Hm.
"Only I guess it's not really. First come, first served and all that, so." A little pause. "I'll change it."
Her smile was nothing like Sakura's 'I am pretending to be friendly while planning to slip under your guard and hurt you' smile, but... Hm. He'd seen Naruto smile that way before, but right here and now it was obvious there was something more to it than simple good cheer.
"Would it be appropriate to use Naruto-chan as a nickname?" he asked slowly, puzzling it out as he said it. "My book did say that absence of polite suffixes would give a greater feeling of closeness, but what if it was done with the understanding that the -chan is only there to provide gender information?"
They were all staring at him again and he wasn't sure why. He smiled. "Yes?"
Suddenly she was grinning at him straight-on, cheeks dimpling and eyes crinkled, and it wasn't anything he had ever seen directed his way. He forgot to smile back.
"You know, some days I kinda like you."
Confused, he sneaked a glance at Sakura. She was hiding her mouth behind her hands, but she didn't look angry or surprised at all. Maybe a little... happy? He wasn't sure.
He thought he liked it. That girl-Naruto smile.
"Alright! But... Naruto-chan is a bit long."
"Yeah, gonna be hard yelling that in the middle of a battle," the other, boy Naruto replied with a grimace. "... Also it reminds me of Sasuke being a dick," he mumbled.
Sai knew that reaction, both Narutos and Sakura's shoulders slumping in unison. He was never sure what to do about it but wait for it to run its course.
The redhead growled. Sai tensed up at the rise of killer intent. From the corner of his eye he could see that Sakura's back had stiffened, but she made sure to keep her facial expression neutral, so he followed her lead.
"I'm starting to get fucking sick and tired of that one wandering around the countryside," he said darkly.
"You and me both," Naruto replied easily, like he didn't notice the threatening aura around the redhead.
"And me three," Naruto-chan piped up. "We should buy him a leash."
For some reason Sakura started blushing. Sai tilted his head as he observed her. Women worked in mysterious ways.
"You -- er. What should I call you?" she asked, cautious. She leaned forward; it was the kind of 'attentive' posture that shoved forward the small amount of breasts she had. Sai had only commented on that fact once; he didn't need to learn that lesson a second time. No comments on Sakura's stunted growth.
The redhead Naruto watched her for a short moment, and shrugged. "Kyuubi will do."
"From what I understand, you only have five tails," Sai pointed out. "Shouldn't it be Gobi?"
Sakura stomped on Sai's foot under the table, a fake smile spread wide on her face. Sai understood that sort of signal by now and attempted to keep his pained wince under control.
"Kyuubi, then. You want Sasuke-kun back as well?"
"That's the stupidest question. He's mine. He has no business being anywhere I didn't send him."
He was still scowling; he didn't seem angry at Sakura herself, though, so past the first second Sai stopped considering plans to pull her out of the way of a potential attack.
When Kyuubi fixed his red eyes on Sai himself, he started planning again. Kyuubi was all the way across the room, over by the window, but the kitchen was small enough that this really wouldn't end up mattering much.
"Yes?" he replied.
He didn't really have any expectations of what the redhead Naruto would say to him, but "You work for Danzou" startled him anyway. Everyone else looked as baffled as he was.
"Yes," he replied again, more cautiously this time.
"I want him out of my village."
The declaration had Sakura and the blond pair on their feet and demanding explanations. Sai kept his seat. Kyuubi was still staring straight at him.
"He's our enemy," he replied simply when Naruto-kun grabbed his shoulder and gave it a shake, but he didn't look away from Sai.
"What the hell do you mean -- okay he's an old cranky bastard, but--"
"He wants to lock us up and use us as a living weapon."
Naruto-kun flinched, hand falling at his side. Kyuubi kept talking.
"Make Konoha into our prison." A pause. "I am sick and tired of prisons, too."
"He never really said -- and Granny Tsunade would never let him anyway!"
"So first he'll go after Tsunade."
Sai had to admit this all made perfect logical sense. Danzou-sama didn't approve of the way Tsunade-sama led the village. Replacing her was the next obvious step.
"Why are you telling me this?" he asked. He felt -- strange, in the pit of his stomach. It was unpleasant. "I am his subordinate. I report to him."
Kyuubi pushed away from the window, took three slow steps to the other end of the table Sai still sat at.
"You'll report this conversation too?"
Maybe, if Danzou-sama asked. And he would ask. He'd want as much information about this new development as possible. "... I can't answer that."
Kyuubi's eyes narrowed. Sakura twitched and then she took one step closer to Sai's chair. The feeling in Sai's stomach got worse. He wanted to push her away. Stupid. She had to know she couldn't protect him.
The Narutos were waiting as well, looking at him with surprise. Perhaps doubt.
He opened his mouth, showed them all the seal on his tongue.
"I can't talk about Danzou-sama."
Sakura placed her hand on his head, made him turn it to face her. She leaned down, nudged his jaw open. He allowed it, showing her the seal she'd only seen from a bad angle.
Her face... The Narutos' faces...
"It doesn't hurt." Well, that wasn't strictly true. "As long as I don't talk about Danzou-sama. If I try it, my body will be paralyzed and I'll be unable to speak."
Sakura's hands slipped away from his face. He blinked up at her patiently, and then turned his head back toward the rest. "All members of Root have them," he said. Perhaps it would reassure them to know that he wasn't the only one.
"Sai..." Naruto said, in a voice that told him it hadn't reassured him one bit.
Kyuubi started moving again, making his way around the table. Sai stayed seated, though he turned in his chair to face him. The danger felt less immediate now, but it was still a familiar kind of tension where he would have to be careful not to answer the wrong thing.
Kyuubi sat on the edge of the table and leaned toward him. He didn't look angry anymore. Inscrutable. Dangerous.
"Are you his or ours?" he asked quietly.
Behind Kyuubi, Naruto opened his mouth to protest and then closed it again. Naruto-chan shook her head in denial, muttering about there being better ways of asking on which side Sai was, that it wasn't fair to push him. For some reason Sai felt like smiling a little bit. It didn't last.
"I can't answer that."
"... Do you want to be his, or ours?"
Sai closed his eyes.
Danzou-sama had found an use for him, who had been drifting alone and purposeless and empty. Danzou-sama had given him his brother.
Danzou-sama's ideas for the village -- they weren't all bad. Sai knew what had shaped them. He could see the logic, the need. Even with those he didn't agree with, he could see a lack of better options.
Danzou-sama wanted to lock up Naruto, because he was dangerous both in himself and in what others could use him for, a double-edged sword.
Naruto wanted Sai. He didn't want him as a tool. He just... wanted him. Around. As a comrade. As a friend.
As Sai. Who hadn't even really existed before he joined Team Kakashi. Danzou-sama had given him that codename (he'd given him others, before), but it was Naruto and the others who made him think he'd like to keep it afterwards.
"I can't betray him," he said, and nothing else. Because that was the truth that mattered the most. It didn't matter what he wanted.
Kyuubi's lips stretched into a slow smile, dark eyelashes veiling his red eyes.
He cupped Sai's face in his hands, leaned in, and pressed their mouths together, lips open.
Sai felt a tongue pushing in, flicking at his palate, tracing the edge of his seal.
"Kyuubi!" Naruto yelled. Sai couldn't see him -- head tilted back, he couldn't see much apart from the ceiling, and Kyuubi's eye, almost closed.
It didn't hurt. It was -- he wasn't sure. Wet. Strange.
His skin was prickling all over and he didn't know why. It shouldn't have. He'd had other people's body parts in his mouth before -- Danzou-sama's fingers as he applied the seal, a target's neck as he bit down. Come to think of it, it reminded him more of Danzou. It was possessive.
Kyuubi's lips moved against his, and he followed his lead, without really thinking.
When he leaned back and freed Sai, he was still smiling his strange smile.
"You can tell him about this conversation, if he asks."
He got up and walked out of the kitchen. Sai blinked slowly and looked at the others for a hint, but they looked as mystified as he was. Naruto's face was bright red.
"Uh. That." Blink. Blink. "What the hell was that about?!"
A low laugh came through from the bedroom, though no answer followed. Sai settled back into his chair, still attempting to analyze the encounter.
"Um. Sai. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he replied. Kyuubi hadn't hurt him. But Sakura was blushing as well, and she couldn't meet his eyes straight on more than a short moment at a time. "Are you okay?"
"W-what?" she spluttered, and her laughter was so awkward Sai couldn't help but notice.
"Oh, that's right, you like that kind of stuff. I'd forgotten."
Sakura choked. Sai raised a hand and patted her back.
Naruto whimpered like an injured animal. Naruto-chan sank on the nearest chair, burrowed her head in her arms, and started laughing.
"Whyyy, my brain, oh god. I hate you forever. I hate Kyuubi forever. I hate everyone. Kyuubi's a molester, Sakura-chan is a voyeur. Someone kill me."
Sakura obliged, flinging the nearest potted plant at Naruto's head. Naruto-chan lunged to grab it in mid-air, looking as horrified as if Sakura had been throwing small children around.
Sai sat, and didn't move, and watched his teammates yell and threaten each other.
He didn't know how Danzou-sama was going to react to the challenge -- because it was that, a gauntlet thrown. He wasn't sure what specific purpose the kiss had, but the entire situation reeked of it. He hoped Danzou-sama wouldn't pull him out. He liked being Sai. With them.
He really did like it, on team Kakashi.