Teamwork 3

Okay, this chapter was originally the first, smaller half of a chapter, but I realized I was doing the "stuff everything in, and end up with a bloated monster-chapter that no one can read in one sitting" thing again. So I cut it in two. It reads kind of transition-ish to me, but hey, it's also necessary. More action next chapter.
Tons of thanks to Proanon for the beta help.

Chapter 3: The Island
Evening (Sasuke)

Team Seven disembarked on a picturesque stretch of pale gray beach, tinted salmon-pink with sunset lights and well-deserving of a second and third look, but they hit the sand running and were up the crumbling cliff in seconds. Sasuke took point, his teammates covering the flanks.

"Why are we hauling ass already?" Naruto asked as they rushed toward the closest boulders.

Sasuke snorted, amused that he'd followed their lead first and questioned it second.

"Because, look at this place!" Sakura retorted; Sasuke's sharingan caught the tail end of a demonstrative wave of her hand. "No cover to speak of. If the team who got off the boat at the previous stop ran, they might be waiting already."

Sasuke slipped in the shadow of the boulders and grimly surveyed the land. The ground was made of bubbly volcanic rock; there were cracks here and there, but none wide enough to hide in that he could see, and slight bumps and shallow hollows, smoothed by the sea. Wild grass and hardy, thorn-covered bushes kept close to the ground, and the tallest of the handful of trees Sasuke could see wasn't much higher than he could reach by just lifting a hand; he had a feeling anything taller wouldn't survive the rush of the sea wind.

The black cliff that barred them from rejoining the inhabited side of the island stood huge and smooth like a gigantic marble wall. Team Seven wouldn't be going that way; the only thing they would find was examiners and medic-nin waiting for a forfeit. Far ahead at the other end of the peninsula, faint with distance, creeping evening dark and sea fog, an unlit lighthouse cut into the barren skyline; there was no real relief to block the view.

At first glance, he would have called the place desolate; at second glance... This half of the island wasn't a dead rock by far, but most of the plant life he could see was hardy and compact, often waist-high at most; there was nothing growing there he could recognize easily. They would have to crawl around quite a bit.

"Keep an eye out," he advised Naruto as the blond hunkered down beside him. "What can you smell?"

Naruto shrugged, scratching his hair. "Mostly the sea. Kinda nasty."

Well, that was unhelpful. Sasuke supposed that with the sea wind Naruto's sense of smell would only be of use if something got between them and the beach.

There was enough open space around them to get advance warning if anything moved, so he let his sharingan fade for the moment. "Sakura, see anything edible?"

Sakura tucked a lock of windblown pink hair behind her ear. "There might be berries -- show them to me before you eat any, though. Edible roots, maybe. I think we'll have to make do with meat -- birds, and rabbits if there are any. The biggest mammals around here will probably be rodents. Snakes, perhaps..."

"Ew. Lizards too?" Naruto replied with a chuckle.

Sakura leaned forward to see past Sasuke and rolled her eyes at the blond. "Yes, and snails and insects, if we have to. Just show them to me first, in case they're venomous."

"Oh well," Naruto said philosophically. "Snail, shellfish, it's kind of the same, isn't it?"

"Yes, and bad shellfish can kill you."

Sasuke tapped on the rock between his feet to remind them he was still there, ending the banter. "You studied the flora and fauna before we came, right?"

"Yes," Sakura answered as she pushed a stubborn lock of hair behind her ear again, "but I could only find info on what's on the continental coast. It seems logical that lots of bird and fish species will be the same on the archipelago, but as for the rest, it's hard to tell. There are certainly going to be bad surprises."

"Oh wow, surprises." Naruto crossed his hands behind his head and grinned guilelessly. "Blah-blah-blah steal tokens off people, blah-blah-blah fight other teams as you haul ass to that big tower over there, blah-blah-blah the cute squirrels can kill you -- only this time it's an ISLAND of death. Yeah, I'm surprised."

Sakura reached around Sasuke's back to smack the blond over the head. Sasuke sighed. "If you two are done... What first? Look for our first targets? Food? Shelter?"

"Water," Naruto answered instantly; Sasuke arched an eyebrow, and then frowned when he caught sight of his face. The blond looked strangely thoughtful, his eyes unfocused. "Kyuubi says fresh water. Prey will come on its own."

Sasuke frowned, and Sakura moved her weight from one foot to the other one restlessly and smiled, trying to hide her discomfort. "Ah... I suppose that's a good suggestion," she said, a little stiff. "We could deal without food a lot longer than without water. But is there a stream out here? They did say nothing would come through the black wall; will there be sources on this side? It's closer to sea level..."

"There might be pools of rainwater," Sasuke replied, frowning as he thought of their next move. "But how to find that..."

"Hey, let's look where birds land, they gotta know."

Sasuke scanned the sky, but the only birds he could see were gulls nesting on the cliffs. "We need to move anyway. Where to? Straight to the tower? Stay on the coast?"

"The sea limits our escape routes," Sakura replied. "It would take a lot longer to get to the tower as well."

"Yeah, but if we get too far from the sea and there's nothing to eat inland then we'll be fucked. At least we know there's fish and shrimpy things in the water."

"So let's follow the coast from a distance," Sasuke decided. It was a good compromise. He shifted his weight forward; Naruto started moving with him, but Sakura didn't.

"Um, Naruto?"

That was her 'I think we have to talk' voice; Sasuke squatted to keep out of sight and looked over his shoulder at her. Surprised, Naruto stood in full sight a second longer before he followed suit.

"Uh -- yeah?"

She let out a sigh and looked up at the blond. "You've been, um, communing a lot with Kyuubi recently..."

Naruto winced and gave her a vaguely nervous laugh. "Ah, yeah, I guess. I don't know what's up, really, maybe he doesn't wanna miss the incoming blood and gore."

Flustered, Sakura tugged her hair back again -- the wind pushed it free the next second -- and gave Naruto a frustrated look. "But he didn't -- say anything?"

"Urgh! He says way too much, you mean. But it's nothing interesting."

Sakura didn't look reassured. Sasuke wasn't, either. But it was visible that Naruto didn't want to talk about it -- and he looked embarrassed and annoyed more than guilty and afraid, so Sasuke thought they could afford not to push.

"Is he trying to take over?" he asked bluntly, to confirm.

Naruto twitched, startled, and waved his hands in insistent denial. "What? No! It's just peanut gallery stuff. And he wanted to eat some guy's cat, can you believe that?"

Sasuke blinked. The fearsome and terrible Kyuubi no Youko, Scourge of the Fire Country... chasing cats. "...Huh."

"But that's it, really. He hasn't been pushing at all."

"Okay." Sasuke activated his sharingan and scanned the rocky plain around them; nothing moved but grass and dust and the wind. "That's good enough for now. Warn us if it changes," he added, and started to move toward lower ground where they wouldn't have to crouch quite so much. They really couldn't afford to waste time to grill him right now. "Let's find water if we can, and shelter before it's dark. Tomorrow we start moving early."

Sakura still didn't seem entirely reassured, but she didn't protest, crawling through the reeds and thistle bushes after him. Naruto followed on her heels, and Sasuke pretended not to notice the easy grace with which he moved on all fours.



She liked the bridge. It was her bridge -- their bridge. It was where she waited, had always waited, would always wait, because if she waited long enough they would come to find her and be together again. It was a bridge of promises. She liked the color of the pillars, too, rust-red, warm but not shocking, and the arches overhead that looked like temple gates. The trees around were a hundred shades of green, so alive, rustling in the wind, offering patches of gentle shadows, and water ran underneath in a clean, sparkling stream of clear blue.

She liked waiting there. It was restful. When she was rested enough, she would (come out wake up) go find them on her own, but for now it was nice.

Then he came to find her but it was weird. He wasn't on the bridge. They were supposed to come on the bridge, unless they came up on the arches. Hey, he said, standing on the water, and she stared in confusion. The river was for (fish water chakra life) other things.

You're not in the right place, she said. And he was making the river a little weird, a thin trail of gold-rust-red trailing downstream like a ribbon. It was pretty, though, like liquid fire in the middle of all the sky greens and spring blues.

Weren't you waiting for me? he said. He was tall and he was strong, wide shoulder, corded muscles, loose-jointed gait. And he was blond. Rusty? Blond. She'd been waiting for him. Him and SasukeInoKakashiMomDad, but they'd come too.

But you're in the river, she explained, very seriously. You can't be in the river. Because he couldn't. It wasn't a people place.

Then he grinned at her like a little sun and he held out his (paw claws) hand. So pull me up. You're strong, aren't you?

And she wanted to say she wasn't, but then she remembered she was. So she grumbled (smiled back) and held out her hand and his eyes were liquid fire and she woke up.

Sakura tried to gather her memories before the dream evaporated into meaningless wisps. It frayed faster the harder she tried, though, and in the end she was left with the vague image of a bridge, a feeling like something not in its place, and a question she wasn't sure how to answer. 'Did I take his hand?' She couldn't say.

So strange. Pleasant on the surface, but a little eerie, too... Just like night on this island, with the darkness of an almost moonless night and animal calls in the distance that only managed to highlight the unnerving silence. Sakura wouldn't be going back to sleep just yet.

It was pitch black in the little hollow they had chosen to camp, and there was barely enough space for two people, but they'd been taking turns keeping watch, and she had the last slot. Naruto had been on watch first, and Sasuke next; someone should have been beside her, but when she stretched her arms, the blanket was cold and there was no one to bump into.

Where were they? Squinting, she pushed her blanket aside and crawled to the mouth of the shelter they'd made, with dried, thorny bushes for walls and a camo-patterned cloth stretched overhead for a roof.

There wasn't much more light outside, but she could still see the edge of someone's body, a blacker shadow than the rest.


Sasuke. She relaxed. That was one of them. "Ah, yes... I had a dream..."

"Bad?" Sasuke asked quietly, and she imagined a little I'm-not-concerned-really frown on his face to go with his tone.

"Just weird. Something about a red bridge. And Naruto." She paused, frowned a little. Maybe not Naruto... And that reminded her. "Where is he, by the way?"

"I don't know. Around." Sasuke gave a short sigh of vague annoyance. "Go back to sleep," he advised. Sakura shook her head.

"I don't think I can yet." She crawled out of the shelter, squinting in the dark. It was cold, so close to the sea.

The Sasuke-shadow leaned back; her memory provided the image of the rock he was probably sitting on, a vaguely couch-shaped stone, but she was still disoriented enough to have a hard time judging distances. The terrain was tricky and she didn't remember where all the ankle-breaking cracks were. She stayed down in a crouch, feeling around with her hand. Sasuke nudged her with his foot, and she leaned on his knee to straighten up, shivering a little.

"Did he say where he was going?"

She tried to find a comfortable seat on Sasuke's rock. He didn't move away, so she leaned against his side tentatively, and shivered at his warmth. She sort of wished he would wrap an arm around her, but Sasuke would probably refuse to compromise his mobility more than he already had.

Something was sniffing her neck.

"Gah!" She elbowed back, stumbling off the rock and whirling around.

From the little puffs of breath up and down the back of her head, she'd been expecting some kind of predator, maybe a wild cat, but her palm bumped against a human cheek. But then there was a yip of pain, and then a growl, and what kind of human made those noises -- oh.

The realization came simultaneously with Sasuke's annoyed whisper. "Naruto, cut that out already."

She crouched against thorny bushes, eyes wide and still not seeing much of anything. Oh -- there, a shape, perched on the back of Sasuke's rocky seat. "Ah -- Naruto? Sorry -- you could have warned me!"

He made a strange grumpy half-growl and leaned back in to sniff some more, close enough for her to catch a faint glimmer of white in his eyes. She wasn't sure how he managed to stretch forward that far without tumbling face down off the rock.

"... Naruto...?"

"Don't bother. He's sleepwalking," Sasuke confirmed with an irritated sigh.

"...Oh." Sakura shivered, though she didn't move away. Well, at least it sounded like she wasn't the only one he'd done that to.

Naruto slunk off his rock with animal grace, making her tense up, and then he just bypassed her and disappeared between the bushes, barely ruffling the leaves at all.

"...Brr." Sakura rubbed her arms, attempting to warm herself up. Sasuke settled himself back in his seat, making her realize that he'd tensed up too. She bit her lip, worried. "It's kind of..."

"Yeah," Sasuke said. "Not the best time to roam."

He nudged her with his foot, and she followed his leg back to his seat, grateful for the offer.

"No, I mean -- creepy?"

She didn't need to see to know that Sasuke was frowning at her.

"... Listen, I know it's not Naruto's fault, but -- it makes me nervous, you know? It's not Naruto -- it's not even Kyuubi..."

Sasuke snorted. "I'd rather he'd be like that than like Kyuubi. The way he is now, he might cross paths with someone he shouldn't, but if he were Kyuubi, he'd go looking for them."

Sighing, Sakura conceded the point. "Well, yes, but ... I can't even tell if he's thinking at all when he's like that." She bowed her head, fingers tangling and knotting on her lap. "It's almost like there's no one home. It's creepy. And I think -- I don't know -- when Jiraiya-sama said Naruto's seal wasn't going to cause problems -- I mean, that it would be a little inconvenient, but otherwise okay..."

Sasuke didn't say anything, waiting for her to finish. She did so in a whisper, so quiet she barely heard herself.

"Sometimes I'm not sure he was telling the truth."


Sasuke was silent for a few minutes, and Sakura huddled against the rock at her back to get out of the cold sea wind as she waited.

"What makes you think that?"

"I don't know. He said it was fine to the councilmen, but, you know..." Jiraiya and Kakashi hadn't seen anything wrong about lying to anyone but Tsunade about Team Seven's experiments with the chakra pipeline. So just because he'd waved off Sakura and Sasuke's concerns regarding the seal...

"He'd have told Naruto."

Sakura bit her lip. Sasuke's tone was decisive, but then again he rarely allowed himself to sound unsure. And she didn't know Jiraiya that well; he was more secretive than his loud flashiness and frank words hinted at, and who knew whether he wouldn't hide some things for Naruto's own good... But if Kakashi knew anything about that, he would have told them. He didn't believe in sparing his students.

Naruto had been known to fail to mention some things to his teammates if he believed it would worry them too much, but she didn't want to go there. He'd said nothing was wrong -- he might have tried to downplay things, but he wouldn't outright lie to them.

"You're right, I guess. I just... It really is creepy," she finished lamely. "He hasn't been doing it much since we moved in together -- maybe two times? I didn't expect him to start again in the middle of the test."

"... Huh." Sasuke sounded like he was scowling. "... Maybe the stress," he muttered, but he didn't sound entirely convinced. "He was doing it more when he lived with me. New surroundings, perhaps."

Sakura didn't reply.

She was cold, and tired, but Sasuke was warm and she still felt unsettled; it was hard to summon the determination to tear herself away from him and go back to sleep. She'd almost mustered up the resolve when an animal yowled somewhere close by. She slipped off the rock into a crouch and went still.


Leafy thickets rustled wildly as a big predator gave chase to something. Sakura was pretty sure it was Naruto -- the island just didn't have the ability to support many predators bigger than a coyote at most -- but pretty sure wasn't a hundred percent sure, and she wouldn't be surprised if the Mist ninjas had stuffed it full of exotic beasts for the occasion.

There were snuffling sounds, and a faint, grouchy growl, and dry grass crunched their way. At her side, Sasuke relaxed slowly. "... Idiot. That's discreet."

Squinting, she caught sight of Naruto's shape. He ambled toward her and nuzzled her shoulder, and then slumped between her and Sasuke, his head propped up on her knee. "Uh -- Naruto?"

No reply. Wincing, she tried to find a comfortable position without dislodging him. Sasuke had no such compunction, and shoved Naruto's ass off his foot remorselessly. Naruto growled and snapped his teeth at him, and then slumped on them again, stubborn.

Sakura smothered a chuckle in her hand, only slightly nervous. That was such a Naruto attitude, even if the behavior was strange. And it was dark enough that she didn't have to watch the disturbing lack of expression on his face. It was still a way to signify affection. Gently, she petted his head; he sighed, wriggled a little, his cheek on her lap, and went still. Sakura combed his spikes with her fingers.

"You'll need a haircut soon," she mused, brushing long bangs away from his forehead.

Naruto sighed contentedly and buried his nose in her lap.

"...That does it, he's totally Naruto."

Sasuke made a little amused noise. "Like there was any doubt." He nudged Naruto's body with his foot again, but Naruto shifted his weight so that his hip crushed Sasuke's toes.

Sakura's chuckle was cut off by a yawn.

"He's done wandering," Sasuke remarked. "Go to bed."

"Fine, fine. Perhaps he'll join me and stay put..." Sakura started maneuvering to free herself. Naruto grumbled, making himself heavier, but she was cold, tired and sitting on pointy rocks, and she didn't want to deal with it any longer. "Goodnight, Sasuke-kun."

"Mmh. 'Night."

She crawled back in their shelter, burrowed under the blankets, and shivered. But a minute later a warm body crawled in after her and curled up against her back. It didn't take her long to go back to sleep.

She dreamed of the man in the river again, but the water was cold like sea winds and she didn't want him making a mess on her bridge, so she went and dreamed somewhere else.



"You're awake, aren't you."

Naruto grunted an affirmative before he could think better of it. He blinked in the dark as he realized his mistake, and then groaned and let his head fall back on Sasuke's foot.

"How long?"

He sighed when Sasuke bounced his toes a little, making Naruto's head move. Naruto should have stayed in the shelter with Sakura instead of coming back out to listen to the night. He'd been comfortable with her, spooned against her back. Well, physically so.

"... Dunno. A while. Kinda." The words felt strange, tongue too thick, jaw a little too tense. At least it wasn't gibberish; fifteen minutes ago, it would have been. Even now making whole sentences seemed like a hassle.

Sasuke didn't push, of course. Naruto sighed and closed his eyes. He sort of wished he would. But the day Sasuke grilled him on his little feelings... Hah.

It was so quiet now that they were alone. And moving away from Sakura did nothing to stop him thinking and allow him to sleep.

"Hey Sasuke..."


"Is it really creepy?"

Sasuke, of course, didn't as a rule spare Naruto's feelings any more than he asked Naruto to share them. "Yeah."

Naruto hunched a little. 'Creepy.' Even if Sasuke didn't care much either way, the word still stung.

It hadn't been like an on-off switch, between him and the weird fox-mind, more like a sliding scale. He'd heard and registered most of the conversation -- he just hadn't understood the implications right away. It hadn't hit until he was curled against Sakura's back.

He sighed; Sasuke kicked him lightly in the kidneys. Well, lightly for Sasuke. Naruto lifted his head and glared in the approximate direction of his face. "Ow. What the hell?"

"What's the use of working out a schedule if you won't sleep when it's your turn?" Sasuke grouched. "Go get some rest already."

"I'm not tired."


"I'm not!"

"You are. You're distracting me, too."

Naruto made a noise of indignation. "You're the one talking to me! I'd be quiet if you weren't all 'it's chatty hour' or something. Do you want me to go back to Sakura that bad?"

Naruto hadn't really intended to say that -- hadn't intended to even mention her, because then it reminded him that it wasn't just the tent he didn't feel like returning to. Guilt closed his throat.

It took him several seconds to notice Sasuke hadn't answered, was still suspiciously quiet. Naruto pushed himself upright with his hands and blinked. Squinting, he could see the pale oval of Sasuke's face, just enough detail to realize Sasuke was staring at him right back.

"... Heh." He laughed, slightly nervous. "Almost looks like you're jealous." He regretted the words as soon as they were out; there were shittier things to say to someone you were in a three-way relationship with, but not a lot.

Sasuke's voice turned frosty. "Shut up."

Naruto had had the vague thought that maybe Sasuke wanted to be the one in the tent with her, because if Naruto had been sitting out in the cold while his teammates were all cozy and asleep, that's where he should have wanted to be, too. He hadn't been serious, though -- Sasuke was so haughty and emotionally constipated that accusing him of jealousy always got a twinge of response, even when it had nothing to do with anything.

But that reaction meant Naruto was right.

And wrong, too -- he knew that suddenly, something in the pitch of Sasuke's voice, the precise nuance of his frustration. It wasn't Naruto Sasuke was jealous of.

"... Oh. Seriously?"

"That meant no, retard. Now go back inside, you're bothersome."

Somehow it wasn't very convincing when Sasuke sounded vaguely wounded.

Naruto sat on the ground in silence for a minute, trying to figure out what to do. He'd never been exceedingly sensitive, and it was a little strange to think that Sasuke would be jealous of Sakura over him. Maybe he'd misunderstood. And even if he hadn't, how was he supposed to fix it? He wasn't in a mood to fix anything.

Now he felt even shittier for threatening to go back to Sakura. A bit alarmed too -- Sasuke just had to love Sakura. He couldn't not love her -- the thought of how much it would hurt her made Naruto sick to his stomach...

But he didn't know how to say that without making a bigger mess of things -- the wrong words would make Sasuke really think that Sakura mattered more than him to Naruto -- and there was something else Naruto should say first anyway. So he blurted it out, before he could overthink everything some more. "I'm sorry."

"...About what?"

"Just... Shouldn't have said that."

Sasuke didn't ask 'That what?'; Naruto relaxed and laughed weakly. He couldn't be that angry if he wasn't forcing Naruto to give his apology in excruciating detail.

"I'm an ass, yeah?"

Sasuke snorted. "Yeah." There was a moment of silence. "...At least you're in good company."

Naruto's smile grew a little less shaky. An acknowledgement that Sasuke too behaved like an ass on occasion, so Naruto's own lapses weren't too surprising, was worth a dozen formal 'Apology accepted.'

But he didn't have a clue how to broach the 'How jealous of her are you exactly' topic. What if he pissed Sasuke off and then the bastard felt even more isolated? What if Sakura woke up and overheard? What if ...?

... What he really wanted to ask was whether Sasuke was in love with Sakura. But it wasn't his place -- Sasuke should tell Sakura, or Sakura should hint, or -- whatever, Naruto didn't have the right to ask, not that the bastard would ever answer him.

Maybe he wasn't in love with Sakura, not yet -- or maybe he was, who knew, he was king of denial -- but Naruto had eyes and he could see the tenderness, and the growing reciprocity in the way he touched her shoulder, brushed his lips against her hair. But asking point blank was guaranteed to trigger the bastard's amazing stonewalling capacity and delay even more his and Sakura's situation.

What Naruto really, really wondered, was whether Sasuke was in love with him. Except, in a way, he really didn't want to ask.

The thought made him feel strange. Their bond was unbreakable, deeper than anything, but at times it seemed too painful and weird to claim the name of love. It was just... there. They belonged with each other, wouldn't be complete, wouldn't stand upright properly on their own. The annoyance and the fights were real enough, but the way they could -- and would -- tear each other to shreds inside and out didn't change a thing. In a way 'love' seemed too ordinary.

And in another way, if Sasuke declared himself to him, it didn't matter that they were totally (non-girlishly) soulmates, or they'd been sleeping together for months, Naruto would probably fluster himself into an early grave, by way of blurting out something dumb and catching a fist-shaped backlash in the face.

At least there was probably zero risk of Naruto having to figure out what the hell he should do with an armful of red roses.

"Your brain is going to overheat."

Naruto blinked, startled out of his thoughts. "... Hey!" He glared up, not that it mattered much. Sasuke could talk about Naruto being in good company -- so far the Uchiha still had the unbroken record of assholishness across the whole of Konoha. Naruto wouldn't be surprised if he died at eighty in his bed still holding the title.

"... It's not gonna overheat in this weather anyway," Naruto muttered.

A cold gust of wind ran through the island, giving him all the excuse he needed to climb on the rock Sasuke used as a seat and lean against his side. Naruto hugged his knees to his chest and stared straight ahead, pretending the contact was a total accident.

Sasuke nudged him in the ribs with his elbow, but the lack of hard shove to the ground was all the confirmation Naruto needed.

"What is this, 'lean on Sasuke' night?"

"Oh shut up, it's your fault you're warm."

Sasuke made an irritated noise, but refrained from otherwise counterattacking. Naruto relaxed with a slow sigh.

He was sure now; Sasuke liked him -- perhaps not in a heart-aflutter way, Sasuke would never ever let that show, but at least enough to allow him to mope and sulk without kicking him into shape, and even enough to be nice, in a stealthy Sasuke way. And his moments of Sakura jealousy couldn't be that bad or he'd have been more of a grumpy, sulky asshole, and he'd been downright sociable recently, especially in that shower stall. And maybe Naruto had overreacted about Sakura's words; by the end, she'd been petting and cuddling with him, after all -- maybe she'd just needed some time to get used to it and was already over it. It wouldn't be right to mope for days because her acceptance of his scary freakishness had taken a few minutes.

"... Do you find it creepy too?"

Sasuke shrugged. "It's weird. Wild foxes aren't supposed to be human-shaped." His matter-of-fact tone said he didn't care much, though. "But you don't ravage the countryside or piss on things inside the house. I'm sure I can survive."

Naruto leaned into Sasuke and licked a long wet trail over his jaw.

"Hey!" Sasuke shoved his shoulder and rubbed his cheek dry with his sleeve. "That wasn't an invitation to be disgusting."

Naruto laughed. "Oh, come off it, like I never licked you other places."

"This conversation is over."

Naruto's shoulders shook with a laugh he couldn't let out; it would have been too loud. He nudged Sasuke with his shoulder, leaned more of his weight against the other teenager. He really was warm; Naruto made a pleased sound and burrowed closer, wedging an arm between Sasuke's back and the rock.

"If an enemy attacks, I won't hesitate to go through you."

Naruto rolled his eyes, unconvinced. "Uh huh."

He closed his eyes. The night air was fresh and clean, carrying the smell of night-blooming flowers. His foot was wedged against Sasuke's thigh. Granted, there was gravel embedded in his ass, but it wasn't pointy enough to matter.

It was almost cozy, really.

"...Are you really determined to stay up?" Sasuke asked with unconvincing annoyance.

"Yeah. I'm not sleepy."

Sasuke grumbled under his breath. "Fine, if you want to be exhausted tomorrow." He crossed his arms and leaned back against the rock -- against Naruto's arm too, incidentally. Naruto would lose circulation in his fingers pretty soon. "I'm taking a nap. Wake me up when you get tired."

"Heh." Naruto didn't bother pulling free, so Sasuke wouldn't 'be reminded' of the fact that technically Naruto was kinda-sorta holding him. "Okay. 'Night, boyfriend."

"... Don't call me pet names."

"Sure thing, darling."

"... Naruto."



Hehe. "... Night, Sasuke."

Sakura was supposed to have the last shift once Sasuke's was done, but Naruto kept watch until the sky turned from black to peach and gold.

After that of course he fell asleep, and Sakura had to wake them both up, and just about anything could have attacked them with no sentry my god what were you thinking, but nothing had, so he groped them both and ran.

[Chapter 2] [Chapter 4]