Thanks to complexphoenix and windshades for their sorely needed help, and to Sarolynne for the quick beta.
Warning: SPOILERS for the latest manga chapter (296). This will no doubt become AU within the next chapters or so; whatever, it's such yummy crack. XD Mmm, Sai/Sasuke interaction.
(I don't hate Sai as a character, though I'm not sure I have a good handle on his character yet; but he's so fun to pit against Sasuke.)

Sai VS Sasuke, Fight

Sasuke hadn't been told where Orochimaru and Kabuto were going, of course. Nevertheless, he was waiting when they came back, sitting in a tree that leaned far over the cliff. The main exit of the cave that Orochimaru and his court used as their current hiding place was somewhere underneath, just above the surface of the water far below.

Kabuto sighed; while it was the highest point of view around, it was hardly the safest. One hit to the trunk and he would be tumbling down to his death. But Sasuke probably knew that. He was always so open about provoking people.

Sasuke greeted Orochimaru with his customary curt half-bow, graced Kabuto with a quick glance, and didn't seem to give Sai a second look; he immediately zeroed in on the torn, dirty clothes. When Orochimaru took the rope down the cliff, he fell into step with Kabuto.


"Dead. No info," Kabuto replied, letting him assume what he would, and ignored him in favor of climbing down the slippery rocks. Sasuke-kun was a bit too curious about the Akatsuki.

Sai made his way down the canyon on one of his weird, painted birds, and Kabuto was amused to see that, for all the notice Sasuke had apparently given the other boy, he was still watching Sai surreptitiously from under his bangs, his eyes sharingan-red. If his strange ability was anything but a bloodline limit, Sasuke would be able to imitate it within the hour; of course it probably didn't help that the Uchiha didn't have a drop of artistic ability in his body.

The cave was empty; the couple of other ninjas Orochimaru had taken along were outside, patrolling. In any case, they weren't much other than efficient, expendable pawns; it didn't matter much if they weren't around for Sai's ... interview.

It would have been much, much easier to have that talk if Sasuke-kun hadn't stubbornly dogged their heels, but Kabuto didn't even bother "forgetting" to bring out a fourth chair. If Sasuke wasn't included, he would only eavesdrop. It was hard to break someone out of such a habit when he wasn't allowed to inflict any kind of lasting damage.

So Orochimaru watched Sai as the boy explained his mission and his leader's goals, listening for a trap, and Sasuke watched Orochimaru question Sai, reconstructing the story that he probably shouldn't have known, and Kabuto watched Sasuke watch Orochimaru; but Kabuto didn't catch any tell-tale twitch at the mention of Sasuke's old teammates -- not at their involvement in the battle against Akatsuki, not at their current geographic closeness, not at the deterioration of Naruto-kun's seal, nothing.

Orochimaru liked to think that it meant his little weapon was honed to a perfect edge; hard, cutting and empty, so much easier to stifle when he took over. Kabuto was a master spy, and knew everything about locking one's true self away; Sasuke was just too contemptuous to bother throwing a mask over the safe where his feelings were kept.

Sai, really, would have looked less blatantly the liar if he had smiled a little less; as it was, several times Kabuto vaguely regretted not having tackled him just a little harder. It was quite difficult not to voluntarily take him wrong, just to have an excuse. He wondered what the boy was protecting behind his irritating attitude; or maybe he had been chosen despite that over-the-top lack of social awareness. Sai did give a good impression of being a blindly, mindlessly faithful soldier; he didn't seem to see anything hypocritical with following to the letter the orders of a man who wanted to ally himself with Konoha's greatest enemy "for its own good", and then turning around and greeting Sasuke-kun with the name "traitor".

"So you are the traitor."

Kabuto was ready to sedate them both, unwilling to get in the middle to separate them; but Sasuke-kun appeared to have wisely decided that Sai was beneath his notice.

"Children, children..." Orochimaru, at least, was entertained. "Sasuke-kun, Sai-kun, I do hope you will get along. Sai-kun will accompany us for a few days, after all, while I review the inestimable information he provided us."

Sasuke's face seemed about as alive as one of these temple statues. Sai kept on smiling, unconcerned. Kabuto refrained from sighing in amused aggravation; he didn't give it a week.


They changed locations; Sai and Sasuke both two steps behind Orochimaru, because Sasuke wasn't willing to show him his back. Kabuto shadowed them, making sure that the boy wasn't leaving clues for a team to follow; the two Jounin scouted ahead, unseen.

The next hiding place was still on the river, in yet another cave. This time there was something of a riverbank, though. Kabuto had left the task of keeping an eye on Sai's movements to one of the Jounins, as he sat with Orochimaru at the entry of the cave and revised the information they had received.

The acoustics were peculiar; while Orochimaru's soft dictations couldn't be heard from the outside, the scratches of Kabuto's pen as he coded messages for other Sound nins weren't enough, by far, to cover the splashes as the boys efficiently washed up.

Nor was it enough to cover the voices.

"No wonder Naruto is so desperate to get you back; it isn't like he can look at anyone else and feel like a big man."

Kabuto was good at determining where exactly one was looking from afar, from subtle clues in body language and precise measurements of the cant of the head and the set of shoulders. But even a blind man wouldn't have missed what Sai was talking about; the tone was blunt and crude enough.

"Boys," Orochimaru commented softly, ironical and clearly entertained.

Sasuke had paused, thigh-deep in the water. The jounin was clearly wondering how he was supposed to stop him.

"Yes," Sasuke suddenly replied, voice so soft Kabuto strained reflexively to catch the words, rebuild the sentence. "It must have been hard for him to be teamed up with two women."

His nod toward Sai's groin made his meaning clearer than it needed to be; angry enough, Sasuke rarely bothered to be subtle.

Sai laughed. Sasuke finished washing, with quick, efficient and unalluring gestures. Kabuto returned to his notes, shaking his head. Five days, maybe.


"They're almost mirror images of each other," Orochimaru commented that evening, as he watched the teenagers eat.

Sasuke paused, gave a look at his own wiry kimono-clad body, then at Sai's bared, slightly thicker midriff. He didn't say that at least he didn't look like a slut, despite how visible it was on his face; Kabuto privately agreed that he didn't have much room to throw that kind of stone.

"Slanted eyes and short black hair are hardly rarities," Sasuke finally replied, frowning slightly.

Orochimaru smiled; Kabuto wondered if the rest of them would be ordered out tonight, despite the risk that Sai would backstab them.

"Your builds are rather similar too, Sasuke-kun," Orochimaru chuckled softly, eyes narrowed. "Even though this isn't the only similarity I'm seeing."

"We're similar enough in built and coloration to pass as brothers," Sai agreed cheerfully. "The idea makes me sick."

Kabuto ate, pretending to concentrate on his food. Sasuke was silent for the longest time, and then replied, voice deceptively soft, "you break my heart, aniki."

Finally, Kabuto gave them two days, tops.


The morning after, Sai gave them a quick rundown on Tsunade, Shizune, Kakashi and a handful of others over breakfast. The information was nothing that Orochimaru's own spies couldn't have found out on their own, but in the interest of polite conversation and getting a fuller idea of the current mood amongst the higher ranks in Konoha, Orochimaru encouraged him with a few pleasant questions.

The boy, Kabuto reflected, was either the worst or the best spy in the world, and if he was the best, then Kabuto wasn't sure who he worked for, in the end. One minute he was insightful and detached in his observations, the other...

Having a scale to compare Tsunade's strength and her student's was useful; a cheerful commentary about Sakura-kun's ugliness, a bit less.

Kabuto was watching for a twitch, but it didn't come. Sasuke only coolly replied, "rather pitiful, yes," when Sai added something about her blind faithfulness to a traitor as relating to her overall intelligence.

He didn't miss the faint, fleeting smirk when the sucker punch was mentioned, though.

"I think they have sex Henge'd as Sasuke. She probably tops."

Sasuke's voice was smooth as silk. "I think you need to practice your own sexual perversions; would you like a hand, aniki?"

Later on, Kabuto tried to share his misgivings with his master; Orochimaru only smirked. They had gotten as much useful information out of Sai as they needed to make an informed decision; Orochimaru saw no problem in leaving his fate up to his vessel. Of course, he wouldn't mind watching the spectacle; though Sasuke was, of course, still his favorite, Sai was very much his type.

Kabuto decided to wash his hands off the matter and enjoy the upcoming schadenfreude.


They had to separate to avoid a border patrol; when they found Sai's body, he was covered in ink and snake bites. He was also missing his head; in the mud, it was a bit hard to tell how much of the blood belonged to him.

Sasuke was, predictably, nowhere to be seen.

"There are still five months left," Orochimaru whispered, velvet on steel, barely covering an incensed hiss.

Yes, and Sasuke-kun had learned intrigue and deceit too well at his court to miss the increased security around him, even masked behind the distraction offered by the most secret of Orochimaru's techniques.

Besides, Sasuke had always been curious about the Akatsuki, and Kabuto had never thought Orochimaru's brief allegiance a particularly well-kept secret. These arcane techniques, Itachi already knew them.

Life in Sound had also taught him to plan ahead, to cut his losses; and the unveiling of such a huge, deeply rooted conspiracy against Konoha's own Hokage? Sai had talked so much, and Orochimaru hadn't thought anything about letting Sasuke listen. This was as good a bargaining chip as he was ever going to get.

The river was so fast; he was probably halfway to his old team by now. It didn't prevent Orochimaru from calling onto his seal to slow him down; maybe that would be enough.

As they raced on Sasuke's trail, alarming and subsequently silencing several patrols that they had been trying to avoid, Kabuto couldn't help but sigh.

If Sai had really been a Konoha spy, then he had succeeded in his mission above all expectations. And it hadn't even taken him two days.

Of course, now he was a little dead.

Maybe Kabuto had been a spy too long, and was thinking about it too hard and overestimating both teens.

...Sasuke would never have been rash enough to simply kill him in a fit of pique, would he?



Oro: -brings Sai back home- lookie I gots me nother pretty boislut n.n
Sasuke: -doesn't care-
Sai: -blahblah oh look a traitor to Konoha-
Sasuke: -yeah whatever kettle-dude-
Sai: -Naruto's penis blah-
Sasuke: ... -twitch-
Sai: -blah Sakura sucks ugly witch blah-
Sasuke: -twitchtwitch-
Sai: -they so boning eachother zomg lolz-
Sasuke: ... -say what bitch-
Sai: -yeah so Naruto's penis is prettier than Sakura's face...-
Oro: -there there boys, don't be jealous of each other.- -gropes both-
Kabuto: -so glad I'm too old for him now- u.u;;