This time she isn't dressed up à la gothic doll. No black lace, no satiny ribbons, no candycane stockings. Not even The Boots.
She's wearing overalls, and while the hems are a bit fancy and it's, well, pale purple and soft blue, it's not that girly. It could fit a non-macho boy. (Okay, he'd look very gay, but since when did most ninja own anything like a dress sense?)
In fact, the only reason he knows that this is his Saki-chan and not Sasuke-bastard is that she's wearing lip gloss. And, okay, that her hair is combed -- or looks combed, but it's hard to tell, what with the rain weighting his usual messy hedgehog spikes down.
Actually, the sheen of the lip gloss could be water -- she's that drenched. So he knows this is Saki-chan because... he's not sure. He just knows. He watches her from the abode of the ramen stand, walking in the torrential rain, and he wonders if she's looking for him -- he can't think about Sasuke dressing up for anyone but him. He just can't. It hurts.
"Hey," he says, as he steps beside her, sheltering her under his jacket, and wonders vaguely when he left the ramen stand. Bah, it doesn't matter, not when he can stand so close to her and share his little improvised rain shelter. "You're going to catch a cold, baby."
Saki is staring at him, and for a second there's a weird, "who the hell do you think you are" expression on her face -- a Sasuke expression, and he cringes, thinking he misread it and the clothes are just a laundry accident -- and then she softens again, eyelashes shadowing her eyes. "... Naruto-kun."
He grins, relieved. "You're all wet. You're going to get sick. Come on, let's get you out of the rain." He nudges her gently, herding her toward his apartment, his arm around her shoulder as he holds the vest over them both. He has a hard time imagining Sasuke getting sick from so little, but as much as he pretends otherwise, the bastard is still human and as prone to colds as anyone else.
Saki-chan is silent as they walk in his empty apartment. For a minute he can't talk either, and there's just the plic-plic of the raindrops falling on the floor. She's all pale and wet and her eyes are so dark, it feels like falling. He doesn't understand what it is that's stretching between them.
Then he sees her shiver, just a bit, and jumps into action. He throws his dripping jacket into the laundry bin, and pulls off his shirt as he looks around his bathroom for dry, clean towels.
"Aha!! Here, get out of your wet things, baby, I'll find you a shirt..."
She's staring at the towel in her hands as if she'd never seen one before. She's starting to frown. "Naruto..."
"Tut-tut. You're wet, it's cold, get naked. I'll warm you up." He leers, and reaches out to tickle her chin.
She flinches, and glares at him. "He" glares. Naruto starts to feel nervous. Saki lets him get away with things Sasuke would dismember him for, and today, weirdly, it's not as easy to tell one from the other.
They stare at each other, Sasuke tense, jaws clenched, Naruto unsure, scared -- he knows that he's allowed to have Saki-chan only so long as he lets Sasuke pretend he doesn't even know she exists, pretend he doesn't know the taste of Naruto's lips and the feel of his body.
Last-ditch effort to get to his girlfriend before he has to go back to the best rivals behavior, he reaches out to cup his-or-her cheek, brushes a kiss against his-or-her lips. "I'm not going to let you get sick on my watch, baby. Either you let me take care of you or I'll tie you up and do it anyway." Naruto waits for the punch, for the outraged snarl, the destruction of the weird friendship.
Sasuke tenses. Saki doesn't pull back.
He undoes the straps of her overalls, lets them fall at their feet, unbuttons her shirt, all the while nuzzling her cheek affectionately.
It's weird to keep on thinking "she" when he's faced with such a masculine body. Wiry muscles on a slight build, scars everywhere -- he knows how almost all of them happened. They belong to Sasuke, not Saki -- and he realizes that it's the core of Sasuke's problem. When there aren't clothes -- a costume, a disguise -- to mark them as separate, he doesn't know who he's supposed to be. Saki-chan can accept concern and comfort, but Sasuke can't -- and when he's nude he definitely doesn't look weak or girly.
"You're trembling, pet," Naruto whispers, and envelops his lover in the biggest towel he owns, and starts to rub her -- him, whatever -- dry.
Sasuke closes his eyes and turns his face away. He's still scowling, and there's a unhappy twist to his lips that worries Naruto. But his teammate is a minefield everyday, even without the Saki-chan issues. He's not sure how to navigate it.
"... I... still have your red panties. Bet even your underwear is wet." He leers; it's a bit weak. If she was a real girl, that's about the point where he'd start coaxing her into sharing her problems, but the problems are definitely on the Sasuke side of the barrier. Sasuke doesn't share and that's it. Argh.
"... you're wet too... your hair..."
Naruto feels like bouncing when she lifts a corner of the towel and rubs his hair dry. There's a wry, weirdly soft smirk on his -- her lips -- an expression he can't tell belongs to whom.
"You're dripping everywhere," and he can hear the "idiot" at the end, even if it's left unsaid.
"Yeah, well... I know!! We can get warmed up together!!" He leers, fondles Saki's rear over the towel half-seriously. When he snorts, and the corners of his lips twitch, and he -- she -- lifts a hand as if to hide her mouth, like demure, well-bred girls do, Naruto swoops down, and wraps his arms around a slim-but-strong waist and brings a muscled-but-pliant body against his own and kisses her. Him. Whatever.
"Naruto-kun... you're such a pervert..."
She doesn't sound as shy and submissive as she always does, but it's definitely not Sasuke's mocking, sarcastic tone. It's soft and amused; indulgent almost.
"I'm not! You're just that hot." He gives her the kicked-puppy eyes, and her shoulders jump as if she was holding in laughter. He wonders if he ever heard Saki-chan openly laugh -- and then wonders when was the last time that he heard Sasuke laugh -- but a real laugh, a happy laugh, not a mean snicker or a contemptuous snort, or that evil cackle whose memory makes him shudder.
He tickles her. She yelps, and glares -- oh hooo.
"Naruto -- I don't -- this isn't -- STOP!!"
He laughs with her -- with him -- and kisses her arched throat as she pants, breathless, and runs his hands all over scars and muscles and a skin that's still softer than it has any right to be.
Tonight, it's different. She's not as submissive; she's squirming and glaring. But he's not really fighting either -- he's not outraged, he's not running away to put as many layers of clothes between them as possible -- weapon pouch or corset, ways to keep them both in their assigned roles.
Naruto knows that it won't last; Sasuke's not going to stop being a weird, frigid, strangely shy asshole in one day. But he's glad -- yes, as awful as it might sound -- for that thing that made his rival-lover-bestfriend so willing to forget his usual boundaries just to get some comfort. Whatever it is -- memory, nightmare, anniversary -- he doesn't care. He crushes on his girlfriend, he loves protecting her and getting her in all sorts of kinky situations, and he really really admire-rivals his best friend, he loves fighting with and against him -- but there's always something missing. Saki doesn't have any of Sasuke's combativeness; Sasuke's spine would break if he only thought about doing half the stuff she does.
This, here and now, this person under him, squirming and struggling not to laugh, flushed and eyes shining with annoyance and relief and gratefulness and the faint hint of tears -- this is one thing he'll have to work long and hard to have for real. But he doesn't care. He still loves Saki-chan and Sasuke, as separate people and as two faces of the same person. He doesn't care.
Him. Her. Whatever.