"So, how was your weekend?"
Sasuke dodged a harried cow and threw a widely grinning Naruto his best suspicious look. The grin was a little too fangy for his tastes.
"Why do you ask?"
"So suspicious! Can't I ask because I wanna know? It's something normal people do, you know, talk about their weekends!"
Sasuke rolled his eyes and moved away; one of the calves was straying. Naruto kept chattering at Sakura and Kakashi.
"So this weekend, I went to see my Hi-na-ta!"
Sasuke rolled his eyes again. "Like that's new. You're there all the time already."
Naruto glared at him, but that didn't last as long as it should have before melting into another vaguely devious grin. Sasuke grew warier.
"So I was there, you know, visiting..."
"Yes?" Sakura prompted politely when Naruto trailed off.
Naruto waited until Kakashi had drawn closer before drawling. "I saw Neeeji too."
Sasuke was struck by a strange sense of foreboding.
"Well, I didn't see him long 'cause he kind of threw me out of his room when I went in to see him -- he's so cranky sometimes, I swear -- but anyway..."
"Anyway?" This time it was Kakashi who dutifully prompted him.
"Gueeess what Neji was wearing."
Sakura moved a little closer, eyeing Naruto curiously. "What do you mean?"
"No, not telling! Guess what he was wearing first! Kakashi-sensei, you guess too!"
"I'm not sure it's entirely appropriate for me to wonder about the state of undress of my colleague's student, you know," Kakashi replied placidly.
He looked interested, though. Sasuke could tell. Oh, fuck. Sasuke growled, reaching for the blond. "Naruto--"
"A collared shirt with the Uchiha ping-pong paddle!"
Sasuke swore and kicked at Naruto, who dodged behind Sakura. Snarling, Sasuke was forced to come to a stop; Sakura was watching him with startled eyes, and it was an even more efficient deterrent than the fact he'd have to hurt her to get her out of the way.
The worst, though, was when Kakashi's eye curved up into a genial grin, and he made a "Oh?" sound that totally failed to be anything but entertained.
"... So what? His top was torn during a spar, and it's not like I own anything else I could have lent -- what?"
Sakura bit her lip and turned her eyes away; Sasuke froze. Did she -- had she -- fuck Naruto for just blurting it out like that -- like it meant anything that Neji had one of his t-shirts -- stupid fluff-for-brains who couldn't stop and think about how others would feel -- why couldn't Sasuke say anything to her, damn it? He was totally frozen on the spot.
...Until Naruto cooed at him. "Aww! Our widdle Sasuke-chan is all grown up!"
Sasuke unfroze and lashed out with his fist; the blow only glanced off Naruto's shoulder, but it was enough to throw off his trajectory. Naruto almost crashed into a cow, and had to barrel-roll over her back to keep from being stepped on.
"What the HELL do you mean by that, asswipe?"
"I mean it's about damn time you got yourself a boyfriend, you stuck-up ice queen!"
The cows scattered in every direction; Sasuke didn't care as long as he got to strangle the son of a bitch, but then Sakura doused them both in the process of using a water jutsu to cut off a few calves' escape. She didn't look all that honestly apologetic; but goddamn it Naruto had just outed him in front of her and he still wasn't sure how she was taking the news.
Kakashi was giving them his vaguely disappointed "mission first, you brats" look. Fuming, Sasuke let Naruto go and started herding cows.
Naruto was going to die. Slowly and painfully. Sasuke would keep trophies. The retard had just outed him in front of them all. Sasuke should have known that Naruto wouldn't give a damn, it figured, there really had been nothing to worry about, and Kakashi seemed to find it funny, the dick -- unless he thought Naruto was just having a laugh at Sasuke's expense again -- but Sakura, damn it! Sure, it had been years since she'd said anything about romance with him, but that was still beyond assholic! 'Oh hey, by the way, he strung you along for years because he didn't feel like mentioning he likes cock' -- Sasuke was going to kill him dead. Several times.
"It was so funny to see him in Sasuke's things," Naruto commented in passing to their teammates as he dived under a cow's belly to avoid another attack. "It looked so weird. I think I saw a hickey or two, too!"
"What made you assume it wasn't bruises?" Especially since Sasuke really had accidentally destroyed Neji's top during a fight.
What had happened afterwards really wasn't anyone's business, and what was more important, Naruto didn't have any proof. It was patently unfair of him to assume that something totally innocent and coincidental meant there was anything going on -- even if he happened not to be entirely wrong. Especially if he happened not to be entirely wrong!
"Oh, Sasuke, we've known for so long."
Sasuke paused and stared at his old teacher. "You... What?"
Kakashi gave him a faintly teasing look, but a kind one; Sasuke twitched. "That you weren't interested in a relationship with a charming young lady."
"I'm not interested in a relationship with anyone. I've got better things to do." He tried to sound dismissive, but it ended up a denial. And he still couldn't look at Sakura.
"Kakashi-sensei, Naruto, the cows are straying off the path," she commented calmly.
Kakashi nodded. "Why, so they are. Come along, Naruto."
Sasuke almost expected Naruto to refuse, but he heard Sakura's knuckles crack and then he was alone with her at the back of the herd.
"Sasuke-kun... It's alright. I've -- well, I wasn't sure, but I've suspected for a while."
Sasuke kept quiet; he didn't know what to say. It wasn't like he had decided not to be attracted to girls. He'd always somewhat been aware that in that impossible perfect ending, after he outlived his brother, Sakura would... be part of his future, somehow. Except he was fully aware that none of it would ever happen, since after his brother died there would be a big fat nothingness as far as he was concerned. And then he had outlived his brother anyway -- and wasn't that just wrong in a way-- and yet it hadn't seemed so perfect, and... he didn't know. He'd kept telling himself 'it's over now, you can live again' but it hadn't ended up being this clear-cut.
And Sakura was part of his present, but not in any way that made him yearn for what he'd thought he should. She was there, and it was good -- good and fitting and normal -- exactly as it was.
And then his hormones had caught up, and, well.
If he could have chosen, he would have chosen her. It wasn't like he'd decided to be attracted to males. It made his life a little more awkward and bothersome than it already was, added yet another conflict between his self and his goals, gave him something else that people would look down on him for. If he had been straight...
It just hadn't worked out that way.
"I didn't mean to -- not tell you..." he muttered.
Sakura smiled softly.
"I know. It wasn't your fault I assumed... I just figured you were too focused to think about things like that... and I put that stuff on the back-burner. Training, and tracking -- him;" she didn't say the name, but Sasuke heard it anyway; and she pretended not to see him swallow; "--and then when all was said and done, I figured you needed time to heal before you could think about anything like that... and helping you was more important."
She smiled at him, soft and melancholy. "When you healed, you still didn't look at me like that, but you looked at me like you trusted me, on the battleground and out of it, and that was still more important. And I realized that you were never going to look at me like that, and I -- I didn't let go... I just... Made space for someone new."
Sasuke avoided her eyes once again. She made it sound so painless.
And if there was anyone who was nothing like him at all, and would never, ever be 'instead of', Lee was it.
"Sure, it hurt a bit when I realized that I was never in the running -- and I wondered why you hadn't told me, and yes, I resented you a bit for stringing me along, but... When did you know, Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke shrugged and ignored his faintly flushed cheeks. He considered pretending that he didn't get her meaning, but no doubt that she would spell it out if pushed. "... Little over a year."
She stared at him.
"Little over a year?" She blinked, shook her head as if trying to get water out of her ear. "As in, one?"
Sasuke frowned. "So what?"
"You mean I knew before you did?!"
"What? -- how long have you -- what?"
"I figured it out when we were seventeen!" She flung her hands in the air. "What the hell were you doing?"
Sasuke's face was growing warm. He told himself to pretend it was sunburn, from herding the stupid cows all day. "Sakura. Shut up now."
Sakura giggled in his face. "It figures. Ahh, it doesn't matter now. It's alright. I'm still -- we're still comrades. And I'd still go to war for you. With anyone. Would you... go to war for me?"
He clenched his fists, uncomfortable, even more with the return of that soft, sharing mood than the teasing and ridicule; but he owed her. "I'd kill for you, and you know it." A half-hearted scowl. "And if you bring that up again, it's you I'll kill."
She touched his arm and smiled again, ignoring his grumbles utterly; he nodded, not quite smiling in return, but -- relaxing a bit.
And then they were attacked by C-level bandits, and then the cows stampeded, and then Naruto almost lost the secret scroll they were transporting to a hungry and insistent bull, and Sasuke was sure it was the last he'd ever hear of anything romance-related.
And then, as they had finally crossed the border into Fire country, Naruto beamed at him, disturbingly happy. "Oh hey! I've just realized -- it means we're going to be cousins in law now!"
Sasuke gritted his teeth. There was so much wrong with this sentence he needed a few seconds to even decide where to start. "Naruto, do you know what 'fuckbuddy' means?"
Naruto's arms flailed wildly in protest. "But -- you get along with him! You don't get along with anyone!"
"He knows when to shut up and do his job. He's highly competent. He despises gossip. I approve of that. It doesn't mean I like him. It just means it's convenient. ...Why do I have to explain my sex life to you, anyway?"
"You don't," Kakashi agreed cheerfully, and maybe a little too fast.
"Sure he does! We're his teammates! His precious comrades! He owes us some dirt, damn it! -- though, not too detailed 'cause I kinda wanna keep my lunch."
"You think I want to hear all about you and miss Double-D sucking face?"
Naruto grinned. "You're such a fag. She's a simple D, like any real guy could tell at a glance, and that's more than fine enough for anyone."
Sakura coughed. "I'm sure Hinata-chan will be delighted to hear that you like her, ah, assets so much you have to debate them in public. Loudly."
"Oh yeah, she got herself a real winner here," Sasuke muttered in assent. "You go on farting and scratching your balls around her if it makes you feel like your dick isn't as small as it really is, I'm sure she'll never think you're overcompensating."
"Hey! My dick's not small!"
"Yeah? I've seen it, and I have to say it is."
"I'm a grower, you son of a bitch!"
Sakura's shoulders were shaking, and she seemed caught between hitting them and bursting into flames; her cheeks were red enough to rival her top. As for Kakashi, he was rubbing the bridge of his nose in a clear 'you are giving me a headache' way.
"What's with you talking about my dick anyway, you interested?"
"Like hell I am."
"Liar, you so are."
"I wouldn't touch your dick if it were the last dick on earth."
Naruto's scowl melted like snow in the sunlight. "Uh huh. Sure. It's horrible for you, I know, but I'm not into guys." Naruto patted his shoulder, nodding his commiseration. "But don't worry Sasuke, if I were, I'd... well, I probably still wouldn't do you. You're almost as pretty as a girl anyway, and if I were into guys, being with you would probably not be -- hahaha, missed!"
Sasuke's follow-up roundhouse kick didn't miss. "Do I have to beat you into the ground to remind you that I'm just as much of a man as you are?"
"Lighten up, will you? I'm kidding." Naruto rubbed his jaw and gave him a slightly wincing grin. "But you had a crush on me, right? A little fantasy or two? No, seriously, you better have."
Sasuke's mind boggled from the strain needed to follow Naruto's train of thought. "What kind of straight man are you?"
"Well, it's not like I wanna tap your ass, but dude, if you like guys and you didn't even fantasize about me even once? My ego!"
... What. The. Hell. Just for vanity's sake? Asshole. That, right there, was why Sasuke wasn't interested in Naruto, as trustworthy and handsome as he was. His fat mouth kept ruining the picture. Sasuke sneered at him. "No, sorry. Compared to Kakashi, you lose."
Sakura spluttered; Kakashi did a double-take; Naruto exploded in a fit of righteous indignation. "What's Kakashi-sensei got that I don't?!"
"He doesn't have a fat ass, for one thing."
Sasuke studiously avoided his teacher's eyes -- and Naruto's antics, as the blond tried to drag Kakashi in front of Sakura so that she could judge whose ass really was the best.
"Ah, well... You have very different builds and bone structures..."
"That's interesting. So, how was your weekend, Sakura?"
Sakura threw herself at Kakashi's tangent like a woman drowning. "Nice! Very nice. Relaxing. Peaceful. Resting. Very... nice."
Naruto didn't look convinced. "Relaxing, bushy-eyebrows? Hah!"
"Naruto, shut up about Lee-san," Sakura growled warningly. "I still haven't forgiven you for that last stunt."
"The last stunt?" Kakashi repeated, eyebrow arched in question.
"He told Lee-san that if he ever wanted to ask for my hand in marriage, he had to defeat all three of you first!" She growled again, and gave Naruto an unfriendly look.
"That sounds perfectly reasonable to me," Kakashi mused. "Good job, Naruto!"
Sakura gave Kakashi a 'I can't believe you sometimes' glare, and glanced at Sasuke, probably hoping for some support. Personally, he agreed with Kakashi, and scrupulously avoided meeting her eyes.
Sakura threw her hands in the air. "Oh, you're impossible, all of you."
"Aww, you totally missed us."
Sakura rolled her eyes and slapped Naruto over the head. "I see the three of you every week. Believe me, it's great to get a break sometimes."
"Oi, oi! That's mean! And wrong. Totally wrong. It's loads better when we're together."
Sasuke scowled, uncomfortable with Naruto's carefree sappiness. "It's not like you can be with your girlfriend when we're together, moron."
Naruto huffed, and then a switch seemed to click on in his head, and he beamed. "There's an easy way to fix that!"
"What, an orgy?" Sasuke shot back, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah! Wait, no. But a quadruple-date? That would be awesome."
Sasuke stared. Kakashi blinked, slowly.
"Well, it isn't that I'm not touched, but personally I don't have anyone to bring. I would be woefully out of place. But I'm sure the six of you will have fun," he added cheerfully.
"By the way, how long have you been dating Neji, Sasuke?"
The bitch. Sasuke was going to kill Kakashi too, as soon as this mission was done. Only Sakura still deserved to live.
"I'm not dating him. It's just sex," he reminded him, and if there had been a subject he had never wanted to broach with Kakashi, that was pretty much it.
Naruto snickered, "Uh huh. Did it start when he was taking his turn at the guard thing? You know, after you were out of house arrest and all that?"
Sasuke threw him an unfriendly look. "Contrary to you, he can actually be professional. Not everyone lets his hormones do the thinking when--"
Sakura giggled behind her hand.
"--It's just sex, alright?!"
"So, um, how long has this 'just sex' thing been going on anyway, if I may ask?"
If Naruto or Kakashi had been asking, Sasuke would have told them to go fuck themselves with rusty spoons. It wasn't. Curse her. "... A couple of months, maybe."
Kakashi smiled pleasantly. "And to make sure that we're all operating under the same terms here, what is your definition of 'a couple'?"
Sasuke glared death at him, but his teacher irritatingly failed to keel over. "...Four. Maybe five," he muttered. On second thought, it was probably closer to six or seven. "Like I remember!"
Naruto burst out laughing, and Sakura hid her mouth behind her hand again. "So long? ... And you really just... um, have sex?"
"Nah, they spar too!"
Kakashi nodded ponderously, his single eye shining with mirth. "My, but they're practically married."
Kakashi would die first.
"Alright! Me, Hinata, Sakura-chan and fuzzy-brows, Sasuke, Neji, Kakashi and..."
"For the last goddamn time, I am NOT dating Hyuuga Neji!"
To his great annoyance, his teammates totally ignored him as they fell back to flank their teacher.
"So who will you bring, sensei?"
"Ah -- Naruto, Sakura, I've just told you..."
"Oh, a man like you, without anyone in his life?" Sakura commiserated.
Naruto nudged Kakashi with his shoulder, receiving a wary look in answer. "Yeah! You're a great catch -- well, I'm sure someone out there's gotta think you're a great catch. Somewhere."
Kakashi grinned in that totally fake way of his. "I'm sure there are! It's regrettable for them, really."
Sakura was visibly determined to persevere despite their teacher's elusiveness. "Perhaps you should take Kurenai-sensei out, I mean, not as a date, obviously..." It was obvious to Sasuke that Sakura was lying out of her ass. "But to distract her a bit. It would be good for her!"
"Ahh..." Kakashi didn't seem all that convinced.
"Yeah, or -- who else? Tsunade-baachan is really too old... Oh, hey, that crazy chick with the body-mesh is single too. Do you get along well with her?"
"... As well as anyone can reasonably said to get along with Anko, I suppose, but..."
"Well, you've got to pick one of the two of them! Or, er, Shizune-san, maybe... I could arrange something!"
Kakashi sighed mournfully. "Sadly, I make it a point not to think sex thoughts about my coworkers."
"Aw, come on, that's boring! We don't know any of the civilians you know!"
"That's because he doesn't know any," Sasuke muttered.
"Sasuke, that's patently false!" Kakashi countered. "I know the library lady by name."
"She's forty-five and married with six children."
"...I know the grocery lady pretty well, too."
Sasuke gave him a look and didn't even bother retorting anything. Sakura and Naruto tittered. Good; that would teach their teacher to throw him to the wolves to save his own skin.
"You don't have to concern yourselves with me. Dating is for young people anyway."
Naruto crossed his arms behind his head and grimaced. "Yeah, you'd better hurry up and find a wife or you'll die alone with your dogs."
Sasuke didn't have a clue how Kakashi arranged for that cow to suddenly think she was a bull and get really friendly with Naruto, but he was sure it was his fault. There was just no way it wasn't.
The blond flailed, and ran, trying to lose the amorous cow, which caused another miniature stampede. He didn't concede defeat though; a minute later, he was back to peering suspiciously at the teacher.
"You sure you're not gay?"
Kakashi sighed in despair and shook his head. "Naruto..."
Sakura coughed. "Um, Naruto... I'm, ah, pretty sure that Kakashi-sensei's usual reading material isn't geared toward homosexuals."
Naruto pouted, thwarted. "Well, there are lesbians."
Naruto snorted at Sasuke, and peered at Kakashi again. "So you're straight?"
Kakashi sighed, again. "You do know there are things a teacher is not supposed to talk about with his students, yes?"
"But you said we're comrades and equals now!"
"You cheat," Naruto protested.
Kakashi smiled. "Yes."
After that, there was silence for a blessedly long time -- or, well, Sasuke pretended there was. He took point, ignoring Naruto and Sakura's gossiping and plotting and Kakashi's aloof amusement to the best of his abilities. They were so -- so retarded, sometimes he wasn't sure why he hung out with the lot of them. It wasn't like he had to, they were all jounin by now, and yet somehow he kept taking pointless missions with them -- herding cows! What the hell. Talk about a stupid cover story, just for a glorified postman job.
And how dare they not give a damn he had sex with men, when sometimes it still bugged him? Assholes. The nerve.
He had never been so relieved to sight the Konoha walls in years. He let his teammates wrangle the cows into an enclosure, snatching the scroll from Naruto's pocket and stalking off toward the village.
Naruto was wrestling with the enamored cow, so he didn't notice until Sasuke was almost at the gate. "HEY! Don't abandon us now!"
Sasuke looked over his shoulder, though he didn't slow down. "Like we need four people to deliver a scroll! Just get done with your cows."
Sakura sighed, but didn't say anything; and Kakashi waved him off, so he went.
"Oh, fine, you asshole. HAVE GOOD SEX WITH NEJI!"
One day, they would find bloody chunks of Naruto strewn all over the place. And they would commend him for services rendered to humanity.
And if Kakashi and Sakura kept choking on smothered laughter, they would meet the same fate.
Some days he couldn't imagine himself without his team; but today he could, and it was glorious.