Well, the cuddling could have gone better -- they'd all been a little tense and there had been a few where-the-hell-should-I-put-my-hands moments -- but it had still been nice while it lasted.
Naruto could count the hugs he'd ever been involved in on one hand. Including the one where he'd been clinging to a dead, needle-full Sasuke. There had been a few flying tackles on Iruka and Jiraiya, but most of the time his teachers were in the habit of dodging. So, even despite the clumsiness, and the way Sakura kept fidgeting as if she wanted to reach out and grab but thought it was improper or something, and the way Sasuke never quite relaxed and kept avoiding their eyes, Naruto wasn't too keen on the letting go part.
They smelled nice, each in their own way. Sakura's skin was soft, and Sasuke's calluses scratched in a weirdly interesting way. Naruto caressed her hair, and teased Sasuke's cheek with a pink lock, making Sakura giggle and Sasuke roll his eyes in annoyed tolerance. Naruto smiled as her head rested on his shoulder, as her eyelashes fluttered against his collarbone, as Sasuke put his own chin on her shoulder, looking as bored and indifferent as he always did whenever he did something that mattered to him.
Sasuke -- the sneaky bastard -- escaped first, disappearing in the kitchen to cook lunch, and Naruto had Sakura for himself for about ten minutes -- his nose in her hair and her hand on his chest, arms wrapped around each other, sheer bliss -- before she decided to go and help. She did seem to feel a little better than she had earlier, so he let go, for all that he wanted to cuddle longer.
The meal itself was awkward all of two minutes, with shifty eyes and Sakura blushing whenever she looked at either of them, and then he and Sasuke started fighting again -- about the ownership of the saltcellar of all things -- and everything was back to normal.
Normal, as in before-The-Night standard behavior.
Naruto didn't protest the avoidance. He regaled Sakura with his adventures in Sasuke's barren kitchen the previous day, and laughed as she launched in return in a grand tale of her sparring session against Ino that morning -- a tie, as always with them two -- and both of them ignored Sasuke's bored looks and sarcastic comments with ease. Clearing the table went with lots of "where does this go?" and "ah, I was going to take that!" and a few "crap!" as a plate or a bottle slipped out of their grip. He wondered if he was the only one who noticed how similar the atmosphere was to the afternoon before that night -- though the tension behind the casualness was, sadly, nervousness and not desire.
When it was time to be a little more serious, he listened to them making plans, listing places and people to see, laws and regulations to check, income to calculate. He only kept them supplied in snacks, and made a few comments here and there, and discreetly brushed against them both, touching a waist here, a shoulder there, breath ghosting briefly against a bowed neck, all the while grinning like he had no clue he was doing anything out of the ordinary. If they were going to be stuck up about it, then he would have to get things moving on his own.
He held Sakura's hand when he walked her back to Ino's place, and then went home to Sasuke.
Naruto rose to consciousness crouched on the windowsill. He didn't wonder where he was; he just admired the sight. The view he had on the sleeping Konoha wasn't one he was used to, but he liked it; it gave on a courtyard from which grew large trees, with footbridges suspended between them. That was one of the things he liked in his hometown, the dozens of passages from one building to another, from one street to another. Other towns were boring, all on the same level, trees pruned, contained behind wire fences. In Konoha, there were always layers upon layers, a veritable maze of stairs and catwalks and platforms, tunnels and arches that seemed to have grown more than they seemed to have been built. It reminded him of a man-made forest. It was a nice compromise.
Sasuke's building had good security, he observed absently, letting a claw-tipped finger brush against the wall under his perch. Though it could be done, it was hard to stick with chakra. Maybe Sasuke wouldn't bitch too much about leaving the window open. Naruto wanted to explore the courtyard, and the trees. But it would wake Sasuke up, and he didn't like leaving like that.
Though Sasuke hadn't woken up when they had prowled through the small apartment, trying to get used to the cramped space and the feeling of being an intruder.
The moon was shining on the tiles, in the leaves. He couldn't see her directly from here, and Kyuubi was restless. Sasuke would understand, and if he didn't, well...
Decision made, Naruto stopped thinking. Hand gripping the top of the window frame, a swing to the left -- catching the edge of the banister that ran along the left side of the building, and then climbing -- jump, roof, chimney -- handstand -- roof -- flying -- and a branch finally.
'Maybe we're a squirrel demon instead,' he thought, vaguely amused. Kyuubi snorted, and scaled the rough bark to settle in the highest fork able to bear his weight.
They couldn't run through Konoha tonight, not with a mate to protect. Bastard was still injured, his den unsecured; they couldn't stray too far. Other mate was staying with a family of vicious, underhanded fighters. They'd check on her quickly, later. For now, they watched the moon, and the way it shone over the roofs of their territory, soothed by the gentle swing of the tree and the faint rustling of its leaves and the caress of the midnight breeze.
Yawning, Naruto sat on his heels in front of the Yamanaka flower shop and closed his eyes against the morning sun as he waited for his teammates.
He felt almost bad for letting Sasuke go in alone, but Ino was nowhere in sight; her father was manning the shop today and Naruto didn't feel like dealing with him. Most adult ninjas didn't like him much, and he was too sleepy to bother with any kind of hostility.
Stretching lazily, he leaned back against the wall. Maybe he could catch a quick nap; spending half the night prowling around Sasuke's building had left him borderline comatose and he didn't want to force himself awake just yet. Shikamaru had it right; laziness was of the good.
It didn't last long. He'd counted on Ino and Sakura needing about a half-hour of applying make-up and goodbye hugs and girly things -- maybe only fifteen minutes if Sasuke felt particularly pissy. He hadn't counted on Sakura stomping out, barely remembering to say goodbye to Yamanaka Inoichi, a mildly bewildered Sasuke trailing after her.
"He refused my letter. He REFUSED my letter. He said if I wasn't about to stop being a coward and come back home, he wasn't about to read my apology. MY WHAT?!"
"Your letter?" he repeated, blinking owlishly. Who -- oh. Her father. "You wrote to him?" he winced -- that was, after all exactly what she had just said.
She kicked the wall. Sasuke glanced at Naruto in askance; Naruto winced again. For once, Sasuke was asking him what to do, and Naruto didn't know any better than he did.
"Yes! And Ino went to give it to him and he wouldn't open it or even tell her anything but, 'please convince Sakura to come home', as if... ARGH!"
Naruto wanted to tell her that maybe his father just wanted to hear it from her because he believed it felt too impersonal otherwise, like she didn't care enough, but he wasn't even sure he agreed with that reasoning himself and she would have killed him. Besides, what did he know of what was acceptable with parents?
"I just -- I mean -- ARGH! It's just so. So. ARGH!"
"You said that already," Sasuke commented dryly, eyeing her critically.
Sakura whirled around, and for a second Naruto thought she was actually going to hit her precious Sasuke-kun over the head. Sasuke looked bewildered enough by her reaction to forget to dodge. Before either of them could say or do something they would regret, Naruto jumped on his feet and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Sakura, babe, breathe. Okay?"
She snarled at him. "I don't want to breathe, I want -- I want--!"
"To beat on something until it breaks into tiny little pieces, which you can then stomp into the ground. Don't you?" he replied, before she could find her words.
She was fuming, her green eyes throwing murderous glares around. She pulled away from him, pacing, raking her hands in her hair carelessly. She was flushed, disheveled and absolutely furious, and he reminded himself that it was a very bad moment to kiss her.
He glanced at Sasuke, smiled at him in a I've-got-everything-under-control way -- the bastard had the gall to look wary -- and put his hands on his hips decisively. "Good. I've got exactly what you need."
She paused, and looked at him with narrowed eyes. Behind her, Sasuke was arching an eyebrow. Good; they were intrigued. He grinned confidently.
"Come on. Let's spar."
/Huh. Maybe your pink slut is not as ill-suited as I thought./
Naruto was too tired to comment about the demon's vocabulary. He just groaned softly, leaning forward to rest his hands on his knees.
'Glad she meets your approval. Now heal me up a little.'
The fox was smirking, he could feel it. /Weak. Beaten by his own female./
'Oi! She hasn't beaten me! I'm just letting her vent, that's all. Fuck, I didn't remember she could be so vicious.'
Though the strength levels were nothing alike, it was, in fact, quite reminiscent of his fights against Sasuke, if only for the sheer aggressiveness. Of course, she didn't have a varied array of taijutsu skills, so she was confined to some pretty basic moves, but she used these basic moves with such fury ...
'If only she had more power, she'd be...' She'd be close to their level, Sasuke and him. But she wasn't, and would probably never be. Her chakra reserves were low; she had almost no strength and no stamina compared to the two of them. It wasn't really her fault. They were both freaks, each in his own way. For a normal, not-demon-possessed, not-from-a-bloodline-clan human, though, she really wasn't that horribly bad.
'Yeah-- wait, no, that wasn't what I was going to say! I was going to say --'
He was knocked on his ass and ended up staring dumbly up at Sasuke. The black-haired ninja was standing with his back to him, a hand wrapped around Sakura's fist.
"Dodge, dumbass. Or get out of the playground."
Sakura gritted her teeth, and pulled her fist free. Her knuckles were bruised. Naruto made a note to buy her gloves; maybe they'd help.
"Sasuke-kun, you're still hurt," she said through clenched jaws. She was trying to soften her expression, but it didn't really work. Naruto wondered if she'd ever given that sort of I-AM-trying-to-be-patient-here-so-god-help-me look to Sasuke before; the blond sure had gotten his share of them.
"Not enough for it to matter," Sasuke sneered back, and even unable to see his face, Naruto knew that the son of a bitch was smirking, with that smug, mocking, superior smile that never failed to make Naruto want to...
...yeah, just that. Naruto cringed, rolling away as they flew over his head, Sasuke thrown back and Sakura jumping after him. He watched them worriedly for a few seconds, as Sasuke twisted to land on his feet -- god, how did the crazy fucker keep from breaking his still healing ribs? -- even as Sakura pounced again. He didn't like the idea of them both sparring; Sasuke was a naturally vicious fighter who hated to lose -- what would happen if she managed to graze him and he instinctively counterattacked? And Sakura needed to beat on something, not to have the bastard run circles around her without letting her land a hit.
Naruto grimaced and pretended he wasn't blushing. The scenarios the bastard fox was sending over were quite explicit. Graphic, even. A bit too much -- Kyuubi's tastes ran to more blood than Naruto thought healthy, but he couldn't deny that there was something oddly compelling about ... gah. No, there wasn't. 'Cut it out, hornball. I thought it was bestiality to you.'
/Seventeen years of not getting any. Even that goddamn pipe-smoking toad of yours is starting to look good. Besides.../
The image of a pink vixen was rather ridiculous, but there was something in the dainty, delicate paws, the slim and graceful body and the long, silky-soft, fluffy tail -- ack. He was so not thinking about a black, three-tailed fox either, with corded muscles rolling under tousled, midnight fur. He was NOT. 'Stop iiiiiiiit...'
"LOOK OUT, IDIOT!"
Sakura rolled through the space on which he'd been standing just a second before, kicking up a cloud of dust on her way, and immediately jumped back up. She thwapped him over the head in passing, throwing herself back at Sasuke.
Naruto rubbed his head and scowled at her back for a second, then chuckled ruefully. For once, he was thinking too much. He made himself watch instead.
He was glad to see that she wasn't using as much anymore the straightforward, "let's bulldoze our way through the enemy's defenses" way which worked so well for Naruto himself but didn't do much for someone of her body weight and power, and was instead starting to feint and use a few swapping jutsu. He was also glad to see that Sasuke was, so far, managing to keep a balance, not so fast and strong that she couldn't connect at all, but not so slow that she felt like he was throwing it because she didn't deserve a real match.
Though, in all honesty... well. Watching Sasuke's effortless taijutsu was a lot like watching a dance -- he had perfect control, not only of his body, but of Sakura's as well. Even when he didn't manipulate her so that she would attack exactly the way he needed her to so he could counterattack, he always responded to her kicks and punches and lunges as if they had been working on the choreography for months. And he wasn't even using the Sharingan.
Bastard was pretty hot, Naruto admitted to himself as he watched him do a backflip as effortlessly as if obeying the laws of gravity was beneath him. He wasn't graceful in the way Sakura was, but he was flowing from attack to defense so flawlessly, and there wasn't one unnecessary move in his kata. It made Naruto wonder what it would take to make him jerk and twitch and struggle mindlessly.
He guessed he should feel more worried about the sad state of his heterosexuality as of late, but then, the thought of most every other guy still made him grimace. Sasuke was an exception -- both because he was almost as pretty as a girl anyway, and because he belonged to Naruto in the first place. Naruto wasn't sure what he'd do if Sasuke actually tried to top him in bed, though.
Sasuke still wasn't as hot as Sakura, the blond decided as he watched her flushed cheeks, furious eyes and heaving chest. She had unzipped her tunic slightly at some point. Mm, cleavage. It was a shame that she was so self-conscious about her breasts -- it was his guess that she'd been told she was too flat to be sexy many times by her girlfriends -- but maybe with the pregnancy... heavy breasts, belly full with a child that may be his...
Okay, maybe he should join them before he embarrassed himself by popping a boner.
Kakashi was leaning over his shoulder, watching Sasuke and Sakura. The man gave Naruto a glance and one of his weird eye-smiles -- Naruto had a theory that the rest of his face was actually perpetually frozen and thus all his facial expressions were eye-expressions only, but then he had lots of theories about Kakashi's face -- and went back to watching, nodding approvingly.
"Hm, I do think he's actually teaching her a few tricks. Amazing."
Naruto grinned. "Yeah. If I had known some shagging would..."
"Naruto, so long as your teamwork's improving, I don't actually want to know how you improve it."
Naruto's grin widened. "I know."
The blond chuckled, and waved at Sakura who was glancing back at them to see what he'd been yelling for. "If I wasn't, you'd be bored."
Kakashi rolled his eyes -- eye? -- but Naruto had a feeling he was amused. It felt good. For so long his teacher hadn't really paid close attention to him; any sign that Kakashi actually liked him, even a little, always made Naruto content, like an unexpected present. He didn't really need the man's approval anymore, not like he had needed it when he'd been twelve, and it actually helped, because it made him glad when he got it and he didn't bother feeling slighted when he didn't. Naruto had other people to love him unconditionally now. It was okay that Kakashi-sensei would never do what Iruka and Jiraiya had done, go from teacher to father figure. The blond guessed that Kakashi had his emotionally stunted hands full with Sasuke's emo self anyway.
They watched as the sparring bout relaxed into a teaching session. Sasuke guided Sakura's arms, her posture, showed her how and where to strike. He looked serious and concentrated -- as if he didn't notice he had his hands all over her. Sakura was starting to blush, which meant that she did, but she followed his instructions with the same concentration echoing on her features. Naruto wanted to tackle them both and kiss them breathless. But, yeah, Kakashi-sensei.
"Hey, what are you doing here? I thought we weren't supposed to meet before Monday."
Kakashi shrugged. "You always complain I'm late. You should be happy."
"... Did you take bullshitting classes or does it come naturally?" Naruto asked with a cheeky grin, before sobering up. "Seriously... is there a problem?"
Kakashi actually looked at him this time. "No, not really. I was just walking past."
Translation, I wanted to check on you all so I followed you out here. Naruto was fluent in strong-and-silent-ese by now.
"Sakura's staying with Ino," he commented. It sounded almost random if you didn't know he was answering a question Kakashi would never stoop so low as to ask. "And Sasuke's place is really cramped with the two of us. Maybe you'll be lucky and we'll kill each other before the end of the week."
Kakashi eye-grinned innocently. "Ah, don't say that as if I wouldn't miss you two." Before Naruto could formulate a sufficiently sarcastically disbelieving answer, the man had teleported to a pole close to where Sasuke was showing Sakura a particularly vicious heel-strike. Rolling his eyes and laughing at the same time, Naruto started jogging to join the little group.
"Say, Sasuke, have you ever thought of becoming a teacher?" Kakashi was drawling as Naruto reached them.
Sasuke's face was so funny, Naruto had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing. It was a mix of "gnhuh?", "ick, no way in hell!" and "how am I going to get rid of him?" Even Sakura was grimacing at the thought.
Sakura was trying to cover up how badly she was panting, but Naruto had a close eye on her chest -- uh, on her, and he could tell that she wanted to sit down pretty badly. She was sweaty and streaked with dirt, and she looked tired enough to finally let go of her anger. Naruto wanted her to laugh a little, so he took the most sadistic-glee expression he could muster up, and tried to imitate Sasuke's clipped tones and hoped she didn't jump to the bastard's defense. "This would be the best job ever. I know so many places to hide the little pests' bodies."
He evaded a slap to the head from the bastard, laughing, then forced his face to freeze in another, forbidding Sasuke-expression. "Water-walking is the easiest thing on earth, even for morons like yourselves. If Masao can't manage it, he deserves to drown."
Sakura let out a giggle, that she muffled quickly with an apologetic look at Sasuke. Sasuke gave him a dark glare, and Naruto wisely jumped behind Kakashi who was pretending not to hear or see anything at all.
"Keiko, if you can't master enough subtlety to ogle my ass without my noticing, then I'm certainly not going to pass you on your stealth test."
Sakura was turning red with the effort she made not to laugh too loudly, and even Kakashi was looking suspiciously amused. Naruto gave himself a mental pat on the back.
Sasuke paused, gave him a narrow-eyed glare, and then he smirked. "We'll be learning how to throw kunai today. There's Naruto. Go for it."
Naruto snickered, and emerged from his hiding place. "I'm sure you would, too. Bastard."
Sakura sat down heavily, hands wrapped around her waist as she laughed hard enough to make tears gather on her eyelashes. "Oh, god. The -- the poor children -- the trauma -- worse than Kakashi-sensei--"
"Oi," their teacher shot back, pretending to feel hurt.
Sakura was laughing so hard, it worried Naruto a little. It hadn't been that funny. He went to her and sat on his heels at her side, touching her shoulder gently. She crumpled against his shoulder, still giggling herself breathless.
"Sorry... sorry... I'm just tired, that's all... But -- god, Sasuke-kun with students!"
He patted her back gently, grinning. "Hell yeah. Sasuke in charge of kids? I'm terrified just to think of it."
He realized what he'd just said when Sasuke turned away, back stiff, and moved to leave.
Letting him leave would be a bad, bad idea -- when Sasuke was allowed to sulk, he tended to pick at whatever had hurt him until the sting changed into a festering wound. Naruto lunged, snagging his waistband, and pulled him back sharply.
Sasuke landed on his lap, and immediately twisted free, a knee in the dirt, between Naruto and Sakura. He was about to jump on his feet, eyes blazing, when Sakura touched his arm, giving him a pleading look. He paused just long enough for Naruto to sling an arm around his shoulders and give him a quick, awkward -- and still manly -- hug.
"Hey, don't sulk. We didn't mean it like that. You know we love you."
He'd meant to say that casually, as a joke almost, but somehow seeing the way Sakura's cheeks pinked and Sasuke stilled so totally, to them it had probably sounded a lot more... declaration-y. He almost started gibbering that he hadn't meant it like that, and then -- watching Sakura's head bowed in a mix between a nod and an attempt to hide behind her hair, and Sasuke's mildly stunned look -- decided that he did mean it, even if he hadn't planned to actually say it out loud right then, especially not with Kakashi so close.
He wasn't going to take it back. But he wasn't going to let the situation slide into shy-and-stuttering romance, so he grinned and let Sasuke go.
Kakashi was still perched on his pole, his back to them as he observed a flight of birds with rapt attention. "Fascinating, these little balls of feathers. I'm pretty sure the flight of this one just drew the kanji for shoe. I wonder what it's trying to tell us."
Sasuke rolled his eyes as he straightened up, which relaxed Naruto enough to let him snort at his teacher's weirdness. "Our next mission will involve a lost slipper, probably," the blond chirped very seriously.
"Or someone will throw a boot at your head," Sakura replied, managing a reasonable facsimile of a teasing smile.
Sasuke grunted in annoyance, arms crossed. "Or I'll kick both your asses for being stupid. Sakura, can you still train, or do you want to stop for today?"
She fidgeted, wilting under Sasuke's abrupt tone. "Well... It's around noon, so maybe we should eat first and -- I mean, if it's not a problem, this afternoon...?"
Sasuke shrugged. "Fine." He still sounded miffed, though, and didn't wait for them as he stalked off toward the village. Sakura gave his retreating back a miserable look.
Naruto threw a rock at him, that the bastard dodged without even looking back, then pulled Sakura on her feet. "Hey, Kakashi-sensei, d'you want--"
"It's about time for my meeting with Hokage-sama," the man replied cheerfully.
"About time -- do you mean that you had to be there at ten?"
"Nine. See you Monday." And with that, Kakashi teleported away.
Naruto rolled his eyes, wondering why he had bothered to ask. Kakashi never socialized with them. Maybe he was afraid to let them grow too close, or maybe they just tired him out enough during missions. Or maybe he was being thoughtful by refusing to intrude -- nah.
Sasuke wasn't openly waiting for them, but he walked so slowly he might as well have been.
"Hey, you think he'll ever stop wanting to save face so obsessively?" Naruto whispered at Sakura.
She was a bit quiet; he wasn't sure why. Maybe she was just tired...
"He wouldn't be Sasuke if he didn't," she replied, and smiled, but Naruto caught the worried glance at Sasuke's back and frowned.
"Whassamatter, Sakura-chan? He's not still angry about the teacher thing, he's just pretending to."
"I know, it's just --" She bit her lip, and looked at her feet. "He called me stupid. He never calls me stupid usually."
Naruto blinked. She must be really worn out if she was so oversensitive. "He calls me stupid all the time. I'm pretty sure it's Sasuke-ese for 'sexy, adorable person that I'd love to boink.' I mean, honestly, half the time when he says that, he ends up tackling me."
Sakura made a little sound halfway between choking and snickering. Naruto grinned and continued.
"And when he says 'shut up', what he really means is 'I want to silence you with my tongue'."
"Oh, a little bit like 'that was childish' means 'I've never seen anything so hilarious in my life'?" she replied tentatively, smiling at him -- and her smile was sincere and it was all for him, and he wanted to kiss her pretty badly, but he hesitated and the moment passed.
"Well, it's more something like, 'gosh, Naruto, I wish I'd thought of that myself; you're a true genius!' but yeah, you're getting the hang of it."
Catching the end of their conversation, Sasuke looked at them over his shoulder, arching a sarcastic eyebrow. "You, a genius? You're the king of all things stupid."
He turned away again, and Naruto winced comically for Sakura. It had been fun, but Sasuke hated to be teased and hated it even more when it was behind his back. But at least Sakura-chan hadn't hit him for badmouthing the bastard -- he'd made her laugh!-- so Naruto was very glad.
He was about to reach Sasuke when Sakura nudged him, a weird glint in her eyes, and mouthed silently at him, "I think he just asked you to marry him."
A flock of birds took off, scared away by Naruto's howls of laughter.
Naruto slipped in his usual seat at Ichiraku's, grinning. He had washed up quickly after the afternoon's three-way sparring session, and his hair was still dripping water over his shirt. He didn't like being late to their weekly meetings, though. It would dry on its own.
"Hello, Naruto. Did you lose track of the time again?" Iruka asked, giving his hair an amused glance.
The old cook put a bowl down in front of him, not bothering to ask what he wanted since he always asked for the same, and Naruto gave him a grateful grin before starting to dig in. "Ehh, yeah, a little. We were sparring, with Sasuke and Sakura-chan."
Iruka blinked. "I wasn't aware that you sparred with Sakura-kun. She was a bright student, but not really in your league..."
"Well, usually I don't, but she needed it pretty bad. She was pissed. Besides, I think she's starting to really not like needing to be saved. Been a while since we fought anyone that strong, but -- eh." He knew it would happen anyway; he and Sasuke were freak magnets and she would get pulled along for a ride whether they wanted it or not.
"Yes, trouble does tend to find you, doesn't it?"
Naruto gave Iruka a suspicious look. "What does that mean?"
The man gave him an innocent look that seemed way too natural on his face. Naruto had known Iruka long enough to realize that appearing clueless and harmless was the best ninja technique in his old teacher's repertoire. "Merely that trouble tends to find you. What did you think I mean?"
"... right. Anyway -- how are you?"
They started chatting about Iruka's students, especially about a few of them that seemed to want to compete with Naruto for the title of most aggravating student ever, and that quickly slipped into reminiscing about the good old days. It was always amusing to Naruto ; he was seventeen and he talked of himself at eleven as if it had been decades ago. But he truly had changed in that time, and Iruka had been with him every step of the way.
And now Naruto was taking another step, and he hoped -- well he was pretty sure, but he was still a bit nervous -- that Iruka would stay by his side anyway.
"Say, Iruka-sensei... did you learn anything else about the incident the other day?"
The man blinked slowly, and shook his head, his expression turning more serious. "Not really. You look fine, you and your team, and I don't have the clearance to demand more information. Being in the right place at the right time to catch a few snippets of conversation is one thing, but actively trying to pry into an operation of that size... Well."
Naruto toyed with his chopsticks for a few seconds as he was reminded that despite the large number of people involved in the latest Kyuubi scare, only a handful of them had been briefed about the details. "... Wanna know?"
"If you want to tell me." The reply was cautious, tinged as always with a hint of worry.
"We should go somewhere else." Naruto finished his fourth bowl of ramen and put it down on the counter, paying the old ramen guy before Iruka could protest that he was buying. He then pulled his ex-teacher off his stool and down the street, guiding him to one of the training grounds behind the academy. It was deserted this day of the week, especially at this hour.
Iruka listened with a worried frown on his face as Naruto summarized everything that had happened -- well not everything everything, because his head would probably explode if Naruto gave too many details about the night itself -- but everything about the Kyuubi-induced sex session and the child and the sharing.
"Okay. So you are having a child. Together. And Kyuubi no Youko is involved. And the Council is watching you. God, you really know how to make your life interesting."
"Hehe. Guess so," Naruto replied, grinning.
"In Snow country, they believe that 'may your life be interesting' is one of the most powerful curses ever thought up," Iruka snarked back.
Iruka took a deep breath, then nodded, more to himself than to Naruto.
"Okay. You're... You talked about this? The three of you -- you thought about it? You're committed to the idea?"
Naruto sobered up, and nodded. "Yeah. We talked. We really want to make this work."
"It's important for you, isn't it?" Iruka asked, voice softening.
"Yes... it is. They are."
Iruka still seemed faintly worried, but he smiled anyway. "Then... if you need my help, I'll be here."
Naruto grinned, relieved, and grateful that his ex-teacher hadn't bothered to lecture him about how difficult and complicated the whole situation could get.
"You can ask questions, you know," Naruto offered. "I won't get angry. I mean -- you have the right to know. Anything."
"Anything?" his ex-teacher replied, arching an eyebrow. He looked surprised and embarrassed and touched and amused, all at once, and Naruto wondered how complex his brain had to be to handle so many different feelings at the same time. It was always amusing to try to figure out which side was going to take over, though.
Naruto grinned. "Yeah, anything, 'cause I'm pretty sure you'll die before you ask anything about my sex life and it's the only thing Sakura and Sasuke would have a problem with me babbling out."
Iruka grumbled. "I should ask, just to show you how stupid it is to promise so much."
Naruto snickered. "Do you want to start with Sasuke's kinks or Sakura's interesting beauty spots?"
"MOVING ON. There's one thing I've been thinking about... It's -- well, Kyuubi no Youko is male, right?"
"Iruka-sensei, you filthy pervert!" Naruto gasped out between two giggles.
Okay, he had deserved that bonk over the head. But it was a small price to pay to see Iruka torn between embarrassment, anger and mad laughter.
"So, is he?" Iruka asked when he managed to regain his composure, crossing his arms sternly and pretending he wasn't still trying to keep the corners of his mouth down.
The use of the teacher-voice prompted Naruto to actually think about it. "Well, uh. Yeah. I always assumed he was, anyway. I mean he definitely knows what to do with my -- I mean. Yeah."
"So then how did he get into heat!" Iruka retorted, and started pacing in frustration. "Females are supposed to go into heat, not males -- it's not different for foxes, I know that -- okay, male deer and hares go into rut, but canines only react to females' heat, and maybe it's different for kitsune but I don't see why it would, the biological imperatives are probably the same -- damn these idiots who thought burning all the information available on kitsune might negate everything the Kyuubi ever did... Anyway how would he come into actual mating drive? Most predatory mammalian males don't go through any sort of reproductive cycle..."
"Uh." Naruto stared at his teacher, bemused. THAT was his all-important question? "I dunno. Maybe he was just getting blue balls or something."
Iruka gave him a frustrated look. "But that's --"
"Look, I'm not waking him up just so I can ask him if his balls always existed only in his imagination. You're just gonna have to live with the mystery."
"But don't you even care?" Iruka asked. Naruto wondered how his ex-teacher could have forgotten how little like a scholar he was.
Naruto shrugged. "Biologically possible or not, I know what happened. Wanted it bad, managed to make them want it too. Lots of kinky sex. Baby. None of that's going to change if it happened 'cause kitsune are weirdly fucked up like that or if it happened 'cause Kyuubi's actually a transsexual. So no, I don't really care."
Iruka rolled his eyes and sighed with exasperated fondness. "Right. Well, that's certainly a very practical attitude. But if you understood how he works better..."
Naruto sighed. They were going into territory he didn't like to think about, much less worry other people with. "... Iruka-sensei, when I think about him or at him too much, I tend to spend the next nights running around on all fours and hunting stray dogs. If it's not very important, I'm not going to bother. And if it turns out to be important -- well, I have you and Sakura-chan to do the research for me, right?" he added, grinning impudently.
Iruka sighed again, then nodded. "I wish you weren't so lazy, though. You're best suited to know what to look for and where, after all."
"But I'm not smart enough to do anything with the inside tips, so... Heh. Anyway I expect Sakura-chan will grill me about lots of stuff. She's kinda concerned about what it might do to the kid."
"Hm, yes," Iruka agreed. "And what about her? Will it have any effect on her?"
But that, contrary to the state of Kyuubi's manhood, was definitely something he should find out. Because having abnormal chakra from birth was different from having it shoved at you when you were already almost an adult, and maybe ... well, he definitely should find out. They already knew it was doing strange things to her chakra coils, and she wasn't going to be happy for the next nine months, but he didn't know if anything more... permanent could happen. There was a difference between being nauseous for a few months, and being crippled for life -- or made sterile -- or even die -- because the child had claws in the womb, or the chakra drain was just so severe it never let her heal. And seeing as her being at risk was definitely his fault, yes, he definitely had to find a way to fix it.
Iruka had to slap Naruto over the head before he remembered where he was. Grinning sheepishly, he made a note to himself to figure it out as soon as he was home, and brought up what he knew was a sure fire way to change the conversation.
The sad state of the Hokage's sex life.
[Hug Her Damn It] [Long Day]
The end was not that funny, but then I was reaching the end of my rope there. That chapter refused to end properly. Argh.
More notes (copied from the teamwork drabbles) : I'm almost positive Iruka calls Sakura "Sakura-kun" in canon. As far as I know, that's not because he thinks she's a guy; that's because he acknowledges that she's young and way under him in hierarchy (this not a -san yet), but still not intimately close, like family or lovers would be. Yes, it IS a real use of -kun, though not as frequent by far. It shows respect to her anyway, but not as it would to an equal. So it wouldn't be out of place for a student/teacher relationship. That was today's lesson in fangirl Japanese. Yay. XD