"No, seriously, I'm just glad you're not wearing an ass-bow."
Sasuke froze in his tracks. "... a... what?"
He hadn't changed much. He was dressed all in black, with pants instead of shorts, but he still favored large collars and arm-warmers. His hair was a little longer. And, okay, he was still just as drop-dead gorgeous. Sakura couldn't help but stare, and smile at her teammates standing face to face, even though one second ago, they'd all been that close to killing each other.
"An ass-bow. I used to wonder what it would be like to find you again, and in half of them you showed up in that purple rope with the huge bow over your ass, and then I couldn't help it and laughed in your face and you stomped off in a huff."
They were still standing in the middle of the field, in combat-ready positions. But somehow the pre-fighting tension had totally vanished.
"... You were... thinking... about me in an ass-bow," Sasuke repeated slowly, half in wonder and half in utter contempt. Sakura wondered if he'd forgotten that much of what Naruto was truly like.
She would have wondered longer, but then Sai -- what the hell was he doing here anyway? He wasn't supposed to be here with them -- apparently decided that the pause had lasted long enough and moved to attack. Not a word of warning, just lethal intent and a bloody line traced on a summoning scroll. Sasuke's cold-as-ice mask slammed back on, the bewilderment disappearing as he turned to face the new threat. Naruto yelled a protest -- at being ignored, at the fight starting up again, she didn't know.
Sasuke was still moving his hands through seals when she punched Sai in the head from behind, knocking him out cleanly.
Sasuke blinked again, and Sakura desperately fought the urge to giggle in pride. Now she was the one who was totally bewildering him.
"So," she started brightly. "How about we have a chat. Just the three of us. I do mean a chat, Naruto," she warned him. Naruto pouted.
"What makes you think--" Sasuke started.
"Or I could knock you out, and have Naruto sit on you, and then we'd have our chat," she added, still as brightly.
Sasuke was sneering again, but it looked like it was because he didn't have anything to say.
"Come on, scaredy-cat, we're not gonna eat you."
"Do you believe I'm scared?"
"Nah, I believe you're an asshole, but that hasn't changed. At least you're not an asshole in ass-bow."
Sasuke's control on his temper slipped. "Will you drop the fucking ass-bow thing already?"
"Seriously, Sasuke-kun, we just want to talk. It isn't as if we're expecting the cavalry; there's no risk in losing a few minutes."
She had more pride than to try the puppy-eyes trick. Naruto didn't. "Here! We'll even sit on this rock, and you can sit... uh... on that trunk. Or something." Naruto sat, hands stuck under his thigh, and grinned hopefully at Sasuke, who was staring at him as if he was trying to figure out how many times Naruto had been dropped on his head before it took.
He looked at Sakura, too, as if expecting her to be sane. She sat on another rock, primly, knees together, and gave him her best winning smile. "Just a few words, Sasuke. Promise."
Sai was stirring. She picked up a rock and threw it at his head, and went back to smiling.
Sasuke's eyelid twitched.
"We'll follow you until you listen, bastard." Naruto was still grinning happily. Of course if Sasuke hadn't left yet, he wasn't going to.
"Just a minute, Sasuke-kun," she added.
"I've been listening for more than that, and you haven't made sense yet," he snorted, but he did lean against the closest tree gingerly. Naruto and Sakura exchanged a quick, triumphant glance.
"So how long d'you think you have before you gotta hightail it out of Sound?"
Sasuke actually blinked. For a doujutsu user, it was Significant. Sakura refrained from bouncing.
"Well, we thought," she explained, taking pity on him, "if you were done with Orochimaru, you'd be long gone already. But you aren't. So, how long do you think you will need, and where should we ambush the ninjas chasing you?"
There was a difference between a silent, sneering Sasuke and a silent, stunned Sasuke. This was definitely the second.
Naruto rolled his eyes. "What? Don't tell us it doesn't make sense. They won't be expecting us."
Sasuke finally recovered enough to snarl, "That's because you won't be here!"
Sakura sighed. Ah, Sasuke and his denial. "Of course we'll be here, silly. It's a good team strategy."
And back to stunned.
Sasuke stared at her, then at Naruto. Then at her. Then Naruto. They didn't look away. They didn't stop smiling. They probably looked as manically happy as each other.
Snorting, Sasuke turned away.
"Two months, three weeks. The bridge on the Naga river."
He left quickly, not wanting to give them any time to reply.
On the ground, Sai stirred again. Sakura was too busy dancing with Naruto to care.