Locker Room Therapy : Basketball

So it's been two week since Naruto's Unexpected Vacation From School (and therefore one week since Naruto's Not So Unexpected Uchiha-Enforced Vacation) and he's back with his posse, playing basketball. The bruises and slices have faded, his buddies have stopped giving his face sneaky looks, so he can pretend the scars aren't here. His wrist still complains a bit when he does slam-dunks, but whatever.

They're alone at the hoop, the four of them -- Shika, Kiba, Chouji, and Naruto himself. Playing an almost lazy game. Sometimes they'll shove each other around, sometimes it's barely if they can be bothered to aim -- it's like things haven't changed at all, like they never will.

He aims carefully at the hoop, his eyes trained on it.

"By the way, I'm dating Uchiha."

He lets the ball fly. It bumps against the circle and wobbles at the edge for a teasing second. Kiba fails to kick the stand to prevent him from scoring. Yay, one point for Naruto.

The ball rebounds and for once it's Chouji who catches it, Chouji who gives him a vaguely surprised look as he tucks it under his arm.

"Oh." A pause. "Is he nicer in private?"

For a second Naruto could kiss him. (Except not really because kissing anyone from his posse is eww.) Chouji looks more worried for him than narrow-eyed and calculating like Shika, or halfway through a small heart attack. Kiba's hand is even clenched on his chest.

The next second Naruto remembers the actual content of the question and turns bright red. "Uhhhnotreally. Yes? No? Kinda? I really don't wanna talk about that with you and throw me the ball already?"

Chouji blinks and obligingly passes the ball, which Naruto aims at the basket again. He makes a little woohoo noise when he scores again, and Kiba growls at him and snatches the ball before Naruto can go for a third. "Bitch," Kiba says, jumping for an attempt of his own.

Shikamaru doesn't say anything, just listening, but he's right where the ball rebounds and he flicks his wrist -- bam, three points. Naruto tells himself so long as the guys are still playing it can't be the end of the world. He trusts them anyway, through thick and thin. Yeah. He wasn't gonna lie to them, and... well.

"You're gay? You know, I was joking when I said you were overcompensating with the girl-watching."

"No!" Naruto snaps, blushing twice as hard as he already was. "It's not my fault he's got a girly face, okay."

Kiba makes a face like he's just bitten in the unripe bastard son of a lemon and a chili pepper. "Oh god." His voice is faint. "I can sorta see it."

Naruto grins. "Yeah, huh, it's crazy. He's got eyelashes up to-- uh. Sorry."

Kiba is making the pepper-lemon face again. "Naruto?"

Oh, wow, the courtyard is all messed up. Holes in the pavement and shit. It's dangerous, someone could twist their ankle. Okay, the holes have been here as long as Naruto's been coming to play -- five years? -- and he knows every single crack by heart, but you never know. One of 'em could have opened today.

It would be really convenient if one of 'em did. Right here under his feet. Yep. "...Hmm?"

"You're my buddy. Yeah?"


"So long as you keep your hands to other guys I'm ready to be all supportive. A hundred percent supportive! In that 'I never ever want to hear any details on it' way."

Naruto's lips twitch. It's really hard not to laugh right now, insane relief and evil delight warring for control. "You sure? Not even the--"


Kiba tackles him and they spend a minute or two trying to headlock each other. Shika and Chouji watch them, still absently throwing the ball in the basket. Naruto and Kiba don't hear them steadily calling points until they have to stop fighting because they managed to get all tangled up.

"Hey, you bastards, that's cheating!"

"Neither of you called for a break", Shikamaru points out. "And three which makes twenty-one. What did we say you would owe the winner again?"

Naruto and Kiba pounce to get the ball, and it would work great because Shika can never be bothered to fight to keep it, except then they start fighting each other and Chouji calmly bumps them apart and scores. Damn it.

Naruto can't stop grinning. He's got the best buddies in the world.

They play until night falls, and the air turns cooler, and it starts sounding like a good idea to put their shirts back on.

"So... Does that mean Naruto win the 'first to get a girlfriend' bet?" Chouji inquires as he riffles through his backpack for a post-game snack.

Kiba looks envious for a second, and then lemon-faced again. Naruto snickers. "Muahaha. I totally do! Oh, you celibate losers."

Shika ignores him. "Only if he manages to call Uchiha 'girlfriend' to his face and leave with his balls still attached," he replies, blank-faced. Naruto winces and squeezes his legs together, and the corner of Shikamaru's lips lifts in a faint smirk. "Bet still running then?"

"Oh, shut up."

Kiba shakes his head in bemusement. "I can't wrap my mind around it. I mean, seriously, Uchiha? You hate his guts! You kept bitching and bitching about him..."

Naruto blushes. Oh, look, a crack in the pavement! Fascinating. "I think it you really want an explanation it's gonna have to go very far in that area you don't want to hear about. If you get my meani--"

"LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU -- okay, you know what, I can deal just fine with not knowing. Actually, probably better than I'd deal with knowing. Yeah."

"Good because I'm keeping that explanation for when you really deserve it."

Kiba makes a quiet little whimper and glares at him like he stepped on a puppy. Naruto cackles a little bit, and pretends he's not still blushing.

He likes how none of them are even going to bring up the Sudden Vacation Time thing or ask if maybe Naruto's doing stupid shit in reaction to that. No, they just go with it. Bitching about it, sure, but they just go with it.

He slings an arm around Kiba's neck and an arm around Chouji's and he wishes he had a third arm for Shika, even though Shika's too smart to get in hugging range. Neither of his friends try to pull away from his sudden, possibly contagious team-switching either. He doesn't tell them 'I love you guys' because then Kiba would feel honor-bound to make a 'not interested!' crack and Chouji would probably blush. He just hugs, rough and tight, kind of like play-strangling.

"I can't believe you're dating Uchiha," Kiba grumbles, giving him a jaundiced glare and not really trying to get free. "Uchiha of all people. I mean, hell, if you wanted a bitch you coulda gone for Karin."

"Oi, oi," Naruto protests.

A pause. Dawning horror on Kiba's face. "...Does that mean we're gonna have to be polite to him?"

Naruto bursts out laughing, folding in two. "Bwahahahaha. Oh god no. Shit, you think I'm polite to him?"

"Oh, phew."

Naruto is still chuckling. Alright, it must be kind of weird for someone to not want to protect their significant other from verbal abuse, but Sasuke can take it and dish it back with interest, and if he was deprived of it he'd probably go all wilty and bored. "Seriously, go ahead, anything you say he probably deserves it. He's a giant dick-- uh, assho-- DAMN IT."

"Bastard?" suggests Shika, smirking for all he's worth. Naruto gives him a halfhearted glare.

"Yes. That."

"Sounds romantic," Shika says. Even Chouji muffles a snicker.

Naruto narrows his eyes. "Hey guys, guess how many bases I've made it to."

His friends pile up on him and noogie him until he doesn't know which way is up anymore, and he knows his scalp is gonna hurt longer than the bruises on his ribs did, but all the way along he's laughing because he knows he's won.

Who knew Sasuke was the absolute weapon.