"Don't you guys ever wish for someone to make out with? I mean, not even to date or -- or anything -- just make out? No courtship, no strings attached..."
Now the question wouldn't have been a surprise coming from Naruto. Or maybe even Sasuke -- if he'd pulled the stick out of his ass and stopped pretending that despite everything, he wasn't still a teenager with very teenagery urges.
But from Sakura -- even new-and-improved Sakura -- it did make the two boys goggle a bit.
"Sakura!" Naruto squeaked, gaping at her.
She glared back, cheeks flushed a deep red that clashed with her hair. "What?"
"Yeah but you're always going on about -- I mean, umm, I thought you wanted romance and things and ..."
"Girls have needs too!" she protested, blushing even more.
There was a long moment of silence as the two boys pondered that revelation with all due seriousness, and Sakura wished that the bridge would break under her so she could drown in the river underneath.
Naruto brightened, opened his mouth to say something, then frowned and sat down heavily against the railing, arms crossed. "Huh. You're just saying that 'cause you want in his pants," he grumbled, thumb pointed at Sasuke.
"No!" she protested. "I mean -- I mean... it's not a secret that I l-like -- well. But honestly, sometimes I just want... you think I'm a slut now, don't you?" she added, giving them a miserable look.
Naruto gaped. "What? 'course not, silly. Guys think like that all the time. Guess you're just being honest. I mean, I knew girls think about it too, but they just never admit it! Makes me feel like a pervert."
"You ARE a pervert," Sasuke replied, arching an eyebrow. He gave Sakura a look, then shrugged. "Being a slut would involve you actually going through with making out and more, with a lot of different people -- and so what if you were?"
"Well -- it's not... I mean, it's bad."
"So long as you don't want sex so much that you stop training or let others manipulate you through it, or forget to keep safe, I don't see how it's bad."
Naruto and Sakura gaped at him.
"Heh. But I don't see you randomly making out, mister 'I wouldn't notice a pretty girl throwing herself at me if she got naked, walked up to me and grabbed my junk'," Naruto countered.
"I actually have standards," Sasuke sneered back. "Besides, most of the people who want in my pants either want to influence me or pressure me into things, or they fancy themselves in love with me and want to parade me around as a trophy. I really don't wish for romantic entanglements of any sort." Sasuke privately thought that he was already entangled enough in his team bonds, whatever his adolescent body had to say about it.
Sakura looked miserable. Sasuke gave her a wary look, ready to change the subject as brutally as was necessary if she started going on about how she didn't "fancy" herself in love with him, but she sighed and her expression smoothed out before he could hit the "AVOID! AVOID!" button.
"... Guess I understand... I probably wouldn't have too much trouble finding an old pervert or a random ex-classmate, but -- I don't know, I couldn't trust them to keep quiet or not turn into creepy horny guys who believe it means that now I'm their new blowup doll."
Naruto actually giggled, a kind of "god, did I really hear THAT?" laugh that made Sasuke twitch.
"... If I could find someone I trusted... but apart from you guys, the only close friend I have is Ino."
Naruto sighed dreamily; Sakura kicked him. "I meant that there's NO WAY for me to do anything with Ino, you lecher!"
"Oh, come on, I had a nice fantasy going there -- oww, oww!"
"No way, really?" Sasuke asked absently.
Sakura blushed again. "Well -- she's a girl..."
"And you don't like girls?"
Sakura turned even redder, if that was possible. Sasuke watched her with detached fascination, waiting for her to finish.
"Yes--no -- I mean -- if it was just... just cuddling, and maybe some kissing, I wouldn't mind... it would probably be all, um, you know... softandcomfyandniceand..."
Naruto squirmed. He had no problem imagining it. None at all. Ohh glorious vision.
"So why don't you?" Sasuke continued, snapping Naruto's jaw shut to keep him from drooling.
"Well, um, in the end I don't really like girls like that, I mean if it was just physical it would be nice but..."
"It would make things weird with her?" Naruto asked with an encouraging -- and almost non-perving -- smile.
"... I think she might. Like me, I mean. I mean, if I encouraged her. We're barely getting to be friends again, I don't want to hurt her like that."
"So you think she might confuse sex and love," Sasuke commented, arching an eyebrow at her.
Sakura stared at her feet. He probably meant that she could, too, especially with him.
"I don't know... but I don't want to risk it. And why are you two staring anyway! Like you never talk of sex -- you, um, you do, right?"
Sasuke muttered under his breath, not actually answering. Naruto laughed at him, and nodded. "Yeah, sometimes. It's more like a few comments here and there than long discussions, though."
"You never talk about it around me," she grumbled, almost pouting.
"Uh, well, sorry for thinking you're a lady!"
"Like that's ever stopped you before?" "Like that's ever stopped you before!"
Sasuke and Sakura blinked at each other. Naruto stuck out his tongue.
"Figures you only gang up on me in non-fun ways!"
"And what exactly would you call fun -- NARUTO!"
"HEY! You're pervier than me, I didn't even mean it like that!"
"You didn't?" Sasuke snorted.
"Well, maybe a little," he replied with an impish grin, and then threw himself off the bridge to avoid Sakura's fist.
"Mou." She pouted, and gave him a hand as he climbed back on. He could have had the decency to at least fall in the water instead of ricocheting off the surface. Then she could have told him he'd catch a cold if he didn't get rid of -- ack. "Oh god, this is getting ridiculous," she whimpered, and sat down gracelessly against the closest pillar.
"What do you think?" she snapped. "What are we talking about?"
"Sex!" Naruto replied, managing a fair imitation of his old "Iruka-sensei! I actually know the answer to that, wow!" tone.
"Good boy," Sasuke replied, patting his head mockingly. Naruto swatted it away, scowling at him.
"Oh shut up -- what's getting ridiculous about sex?"
Sakura opened her mouth, then closed it. Then opened it again, and yet again closed it. Her face was so far past red it was a wonder there was blood left anywhere else in her. "Listen guys I know it's weird and um let's promise never to talk of it again if you say no alright because I really don't want to ever remember the humiliation so it's a promise right -- so err doeseitherofyouwanttomakeout?"
Sasuke was still rewinding the sentence when Naruto jumped on his feet, waving his hand. "Me! Me! -- uh. This ain't a case of 'and by either of you I really mean him', is it?" he finished, suspicious.
Sakura bit her lip. "No! I... I said either, and I meant either. But it would be just -- just that, and then nothing more, I mean you can't behave like you expect it to happen again and we're certainly not allowed to speak about it."
Sasuke frowned and looked away.
"... Um... Sasuke-kun?"
"I doubt that can work. However much you pretend it didn't happen, it did. And it could result in feeling closer, or it could result in feeling awkward, or in resentment -- but in the end what it means is that two of us would share something that the last one wouldn't. That would mess up the balance of our team."
"I don't see why it would mess anything up if we don't let it," Naruto countered.
Sasuke shook his head. "You've always been good at not thinking about anything that bugs you, but Sakura worries and I brood, that's the way we are. It's not so easy for us."
Sakura sighed, mortified. Naruto whined.
"What kind of teenager are you! We're going to pass up on a great opportunity for some serious necking here! Can't you think like a guy your age instead of a sixty-year-old for once?"
"You mean, with my balls and not my brain?" Sasuke sneered.
"YES! That's exactly what I mean!" Naruto yelled back, pointing at Sasuke accusatorily. "What's with all that 'wahh, wahh, consequences'! You don't think about consequences when we beat each other up! Who was the fucktard who wouldn't back down last time even though he knew we had a mission? We spent it aching all over because of you!"
"...What, ME back down? You were the one--"
"GUYS!" Sakura yelled, punching the wooden beam she was sitting by. The bridge trembled. "... We're drifting away from the subject here," she muttered, blushing, as they both fell silent and stared at her.
"... He started it," Naruto muttered sullenly. Sasuke ignored him haughtily.
There was a long moment of silence as Sakura moped, Sasuke sneered and Naruto sulked.
"... You don't like girls, do you, Sasuke-kun? Is that why...?" Sakura finally whispered, lower lip quivering just a tiny bit.
"What? Who said I don't like girls?" he shot back, alarmed.
"You look as interested as if I was -- if I was Gai-sensei, or something!"
Sasuke actually spluttered. "What! I don't -- you -- I'm taking that teammates thing seriously! It's too important to mess it up for a half-hour of physical gratification, okay?"
Sakura and Naruto both looked at him, stunned. He rarely admitted that, and even less in actual words.
"...Oh. So, um, you don't... like boys, then."
"... I don't care."
"I don't care," he muttered once again. "So long as they're not civilians, healthy, in good shape and reasonably attractive, I don't care."
Naruto snickered. "What he means is that his standards are so ridiculously high, if he didn't consider both girls and boys, he'd probably die a virgin. Even now he still might, what with his winning personality and all."
Sasuke kicked at him. "... Shut up."
Sakura turned it over in her head. So Sasuke was potentially bi, but effectually asexual, because so far he hadn't found anyone he wanted enough. "... so it's just me," she muttered unhappily.
Sasuke pushed away from the guardrail, huffing with irritation. "No, goddamnit, NO, you're perfectly fuckable, I just don't want to mess up the team!"
Wincing, Sakura took that in. A few years -- even a few months -- ago she couldn't have accepted it. But... he was right, however loath she was to admit it; their teammates were more important than romance. At least he found her attractive.
"... I guess... that's good enough. Thank you, Sasuke."
More important than romance, all right, but her hormones were singing another tune.
"It's already risking to mess it up anyway; curiosity's gonna eat us alive," Naruto whined. "Besides there's a good way to make sure things stay balanced even in fuckedupness."
"... Which is?"
"Well, you two could gang up on me in the fun way. Or we guys could gang up on Sakura-chan. Or, hell, Sakura-chan, I'm even willing to help you push the bastard down and do things to him, if I'm allowed to feel you up a bit too. You said it would be okay, right? Right?"
Sasuke gaped. "What? Are you crazy?" he spluttered, and looked at Sakura for support.
She looked like she was actually considering it. Oh god help.
"Oh, hey, mister 'I like both' can't handle having both?" Naruto leered as he climbed to his feet, watching him closely.
"And you -- mister -- mister -- don't you prefer girls anyway!"
"Well, yeah. I just like boobs. But then Sakura will be providing -- um, you will be, right? I'll get you Sasuke's ass if you let me. Fair?"
Sakura bit her lip, still blushing, and looked up at Sasuke as if she was seriously thinking about it. Sasuke glared at her, incensed.
"...Just sex. I swear. No romantic ideas. I think -- I think I like being your teammate more, anyway. I mean, not that I wouldn't love being your -- your significant other, too, but if it's either that or the teammates thing, I'd rather have the teammates thing. With the three of us."
"And making out," Naruto added helpfully.
"And making out -- uhm... yes."
Sasuke shook his head and backed up a step, almost bumping into the guardrail. "You two are -- who says I even want you?"
"You said Sakura was fuckable," Naruto countered.
"I never said YOU were. Besides aren't you straight?"
"You never said I wasn't, and if Sakura's allowed to be gay for Ino, I can be gay for you."
Sasuke glowered at him, at a loss for words. Naruto only stalked closer in response, an impish grin on his face, wriggling his fingers teasingly. "Come on, you know you want a piece of me -- Sakura, flank him!"
She obeyed to the hand signal and the order, more by habit from all their missions than because she really felt brave enough to corner Sasuke.
He could have sidestepped them with a quick burst of speed, or even just jumped up on the guardrail. He wasn't moving, though. That could mean that he was getting tired of playing and would get angry in a minute, or it could mean that he just wanted them to convince him. Or both.
"Come on, just see it as a... a..." Naruto glanced quickly at Sakura.
"... A team building exercise!" she continued, jumping on the opening. "We'll succeed together or fail together and --"
"Oh, please. Stop bullshitting me."
"Well then see it as making sure that sexual tension won't make some of us perpetually pissed off," Naruto countered, giving him a pointed look.
"Ha. Ha. Ha. N--"
Naruto had a hand on the banister, less than a foot from Sasuke's hip. Sasuke wasn't moving away. That meant something... Now to make him move closer, she just needed to give him a little mental push, but she wasn't used to pushing Sasuke into anything -- but then she hadn't been his teammate so long without learning some of his buttons. She prayed for it to work; if it didn't, then that would be the end of it. They could just chalk it up to a fit of crazies and never talk of it again, she told herself, trying to make it sound convincing.
"You're scared, aren't you," she said softly. "I understand. It's pretty daunting, especially when you've never had these urges before and don't know what to --"
Sasuke's shoulders stiffened. "Me, scared? Of what, of your tits? His spit?"
Sakura knew exactly what to say, but it always worked better coming from Naruto, so she let him say it -- complete with the fangy grin and more mocking undertones that she could have fit in a ten-minutes speech.
"Well, then... Prove it. Scaredy-cat."
It worked pretty much as it was meant to work, too.
Of all the days to arrive in advance. Or, well, not as late as usual.
"Sakura, zip up your top please, you'll catch a cold," Kakashi commented from his perch on the guardrail, watching a school of fish in the river underneath with rapt attention.
There were a few startled gasps and some mad scrambling on the wood planks. Kakashi put a grin in his voice and asked genially, "Everyone's hands back to their respective owners?"
There was some sullen muttering from Naruto that he took to mean as a yes.
It was a very good thing that he needed to cover his one sharingan eye. The image would have been burned in his retina literally forever. As it was, he kind of hoped that his brats would have the decency to find a replacement for his one original eye. Ahh, his cute little students, how fast they grew.
"I see that you have taken your first steps on the road of Life. It would be my pleasure to provide you guidance on that path, alas, I have a grandma to rescue from a tree. Isn't it just your luck that Maito Gai is already planning to give this talk to his own team tomorrow morning at seven sharp, though?"
Ahh, the looks of denial and horror on their faces, now that was something that never changed.
"Now do a run around the walls. Last one pays for dinner for the team."
Instructions given; now he needed to set up his traps. He jumped off his perch, hands in his pockets.
"Oh, and try not to die before the hickeys fade. That's not the kind of last impression you want to leave."