Sakura had been put off-duty pretty much the second they came home from Mist, for baby-bulge-related reasons. So Naruto and Sasuke's first Chuunin missions were with some weirdo the mission board had shoved at them.
Sasuke had hated his guts at first sight, but then again, even when all was well, Sasuke disliked everyone on principle to start with and needed a while to thaw out, if he ever did. At the moment he was completely twitchy over this whole wedding thing, which didn't help. Naruto found that kind of hilarious, though it also meant he had to spend his time playing peacekeeper, because it wasn't Sai's fault he was 1) a too-friendly weirdo with no personal boundaries 2) not Sakura and 3) breathing in a ten-meter radius of Sasuke.
Sadly, as his ... interim, maybe, but still teammates, that didn't get them out of inviting him to the wedding. So here Naruto was, jogging his way through Konoha with a fistful of pretty envelopes in hand (most of them specifically for their friends, and some nameless in case he met anyone else they'd forgotten they wanted), and slowly realizing that while he knew where to find his other agemates he had no clue where Sai lived, or who might know, or even what his last name was.
Solution: go to the mission board and ask. Because the other solution was to go back and tell Sakura-chan he'd failed without even trying that hard, and she was just as frazzled as Sasuke these days.
Naruto, though, Naruto was completely cool with things. Wasn't like it was his wedding.
Aha, and there was Kakashi-sensei, strolling all casual-like out of some bar with a jounin he didn't know in tow, with dark owlish eyes and short, bristly black hair. Naruto altered his course to jog their way. "Hey, sensei! Getting drunk already? For shame, it's barely one in the afternoon."
"Maybe we're finishing last night late, instead of starting tonight early, hmm?"
Naruto snickered. "You drunkard. Anyway, good thing you're here, saves on postage." He grinned cheerfully at the man standing a couple steps behind them, smiling in that vague, polite way that meant he didn't want to intrude, but didn't want to leave, either. Then he leered at Kakashi, slapping an envelope into his hand. "Here you are, one plus guest. Bring your boyfriend, we'll be happy to get to know him!"
The man spluttered out a denial. Kakashi rolled his eye; Naruto told himself he did it fondly. "Naruto, this is Tenzou; he was ANBU under my command back in the day. Tenzou, Naruto, one of my brats. Told you they were insufferable."
"Wait wait wait, he worked under you? Okay, sensei, that's way too easy."
Kakashi halfheartedly pretended to cuff him; Naruto dodged with a grin, toward Tenzou.
Huh. He leaned closer, stretching his neck and sniffing, making the guy blink and give him a nonplussed look. "I know that scent -- oh! ANBU-san!" This was the hospital guy who'd given him money for the kid's juice. Naruto's grin turned more friendly, less teasing. "Sorry for the joke, a nice guy like you, I know you've got to have better taste than this old lecher. Anyway, I owe you, so you totally deserve an invite of your own."
"Ah -- thank you, Naruto-kun. An invite for...?" The man turned the envelope in his hand, blinked at the heavy paper and all those fancy curlicues. "--Oh."
"My teammates are getting hitched," Naruto explained with an easy smile. "Only because Sasuke is an Uchiha prick that means he's got to have half the village over or something, but since, as I said, he's a prick, he doesn't know anyone. I swear my part of the guest list is like ten times the length of his, and then again only because we let him have Kakashi-sensei."
He could see the man gearing up to ask why Naruto was even inviting people to a wedding that wasn't his own; he'd gotten used to the signs. Time to jet.
"But anyway! Hey sensei, I was looking for Sai, do you know where I can find him? I swear he keeps talking and talking and yet I know nothing about the guy."
Kakashi watched him wordlessly for a couple seconds before shaking his head; "You might be better off waiting for your next joint mission."
"Ah, senpai, by Sai -- do you mean...?"
Okay, and now Tenzou and Kakashi were exchanging Looks. That wasn't suspicious at all, really. Naruto's brow furrowed. "... Sensei?"
"It's nothing, Naruto. Sai merely has a lot of solo missions, in addition to those he takes with Team Seven." He nodded toward Naruto's handful in a totally transparent attempt to sidetrack him. "I see you have a lot of invitations to deliver today, shouldn't you get to that?"
Okay, it might have been a transparent attempt to sidetrack him, but it was also totally true, and Sakura-chan was waiting for him when he was done. "You're lucky I've got a lot of shit to do today, Sensei. Anyway, seeya!"
He passed by the mission board anyway, but they couldn't "divulge that information" or whatever, like Sai was some random paranoid Interrogation guy instead of their -- okay, temporary -- teammate.
Alright, whatever. Kakashi was right, he had a lot of personal invitations to distribute by hand. Next stop was the Akimichi house, and after that the Hyuuga compound. The old Clan Head geezers could wait until the postal services got their heads out of their asses, but Team Seven's yearmates were another matter entirely.
Tenten was behind the counter when Naruto walked into her dad's weapons shop, which made things easier on him as he didn't have to brave her dragon of a father asking for her whereabouts. (Dealing with one scary father was enough for one day, and Hinata's was probably the only man in Konoha to give Tenten's a run for his money.)
"Welcome to -- oh, Naruto! Nice to see you." She turned to him with an easy grin and stepped around the counter.
Naruto grinned back, slowing down a little to admire the arrays of blades in their glass cases. Usually he was more for using his own fist than a sword, but these were giving him a twinge of blade envy.
"Are you looking for Sasuke?" She tilted her head toward a closed side door between two pole arm stands, her hands busy with a cleaning rag. "He's almost done."
"Uh. No, actually, I was here about... Sasuke's here? What for?"
Tenten shrugged, taking the envelope he was handing her. "Dad didn't say." She tilted the envelope between her fingertips -- there was some sword oil left on her palms -- and arched an eyebrow. "Ah. Maybe related then."
Naruto seriously hoped she didn't mean Sasuke was back there negotiating for enough pointy traps to corral his guests properly. "So yeah, as Sasuke's best man yadda yadda you are hereby invited to his and Sakura-chan's wedding. Oh, and you can bring a guest, but tell Sakura's mom first so she can count them in or she'll implode."
Tenten's eyes started sparkling in a way that worried him a little bit.
"Lee and Neji get invites of their own, of course. Do you know who you're gonna bring?"
More sparkling. Um. "Hmm, maaaaybe."
The playful lilt in her voice didn't herald anything good, so of course Naruto had to start listing all the guys he knew. Like, uh, their Chuunin agemates... and the guys at the academy who hadn't made it or had only made Genin after them... and the older guys like Genma and Kotetsu and what was his name again, Aoba... She just kept grinning at him and shaking her head, no, nope, haha no, not this one either...
"Are you going with a girl?!" he eventually exclaimed, which was, of course, exactly when her father pushed the door open to come back out into the shop. "... Uh. Hi, Tenten's dad." Behind the man Sasuke was giving him a long, exhausted, completely unsurprised look. "...I was just kidding?" Uh, wait. He turned to Tenten again, waving his hands hurriedly just in case. "Not that there's anything wrong with that!"
"It was a pleasure doing business with you," Sasuke said to the man, very formal and entirely ignoring Naruto.
They exchanged a small bow. Naruto used the distraction to slink toward the exit of the shop.
"I look forward to seeing you at the reception," Sasuke was telling Tenten, still in that creepy too-polite, too-polished Clan Head mode. Naruto grimaced a bit, waved goodbye at her through the door, and snatched Sasuke's arm the second he was in reach, pulling him into a run.
He couldn't help a weird tingle of relief when Sasuke growled at him, not polite and polished at all. He still kept them going at a jog until they'd turned the corner.
"What the hell, dumbass."
"You weren't the one he was going to hack up into pieces with his arsenal! I mean dude, we were standing in the middle of a bazillion waiting blades. Death of a Thousand Cuts, anyone?"
Sasuke predictably snorted in disdain, eyes warming minutely. Naruto grinned a little harder.
"What were you doing there, anyway?"
A shrug as he showed Naruto a silk-wrapped package, long like his forearm. "Another engagement present for Sakura. You're going to her mother's once you're done with those, yeah? You can give it to her."
Naruto kept smiling. Best man really seemed like code for errand boy sometimes. And Sasuke wasn't supposed to see Sakura's wedding clothes before the wedding happened, and they were all somewhat pretending that she still lived under her parents' roof (like that horse hadn't left the barn already!), so Naruto hadn't seen them at the same time for almost two weeks now, apart from every other day when Sakura snuck in after curfew. But usually those days she just thudded into bed. Or maybe they had a little time for a quickie first, but they didn't really get to talk.
(She was supposed to come back every night, but sometimes she was just too tired and spent the night at her parents' or Ino's. It reminded Naruto of the uncomfortable couple of months between their first night together and the time they moved in that house in the Uchiha district, when he and Sasuke were sharing a too-small apartment like two lions in one tiny cage, except this time Sasuke was too busy with other things to get pissed off at him all that much. It should have been better but in practice it felt a little more lonely.)
... So anyway, Naruto had been carting around quite a few weird packages recently.
"I can't figure out how you even remember all those little fiddly traditions. They're all so weird anyway. What'd happen if you gave her dried mackerel instead of cuttlefish, would it symbolize you wanna hook up with her sister?"
Naruto could have sworn Sasuke swallowed back a laugh at that point, or at least a smile, though the look he sent Naruto was of course pretending he wasn't amused. "You've heard of the phrase 'macking on'?"
"Comes from mack, short for mackerel. Mack being another word for pimp. Therefore mackerel implies prostitute instead of wife."
"... That secret language of fishes is so fucked up. I can't even -- wow. D'you think there's stuff like that in Ino's flower language? Oh no, he gave me a dandelion, that means he wants me to blow him? The hell! The hell."
Sasuke made a tiny choked, snorting noise that Naruto had long since learned to interpret as laughter. Naruto grinned and bumped shoulders with him. Sasuke grumbled when he was sent off course and bumped back with interest.
"Can't figure out how you even know all that shit. Wouldn't remembering that take over space you could use for, I dunno, jutsu or something?"
Sasuke gave him a side-look. "I remember them through that useful thing called a notebook, full of things found via something called research in a place called a library. Maybe you've heard of them."
Naruto snickered and bumped shoulders again, though more lightly. "You don't just... know them? Wow, my illusions are ruined."
"How many times do you think I've gone courting before, idiot?"
"... or seen it happen?"
... Sasuke was looking away. Naruto's throat tightened with a pang of sudden panic, shared pain. Of course. Sasuke'd been eight year old when he'd lost everyone. Just eight year old. What kind of kid that age or younger paid any attention to the fiddly details of wedding stuff? Naruto was having a hard enough time paying attention now.
He was still hesitating -- should he reach for Sasuke's... shoulder, hand, should he tease him better or -- or what? -- when Sasuke shrugged, pretend-uncaring. "I don't think my father did even half of this. Hell, I don't think my grandparents did. It's just... I..."
"Hey, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well," Naruto said firmly, though he'd been the first to throw up his hands in sheer disbelief at the list of nonsensical traditions they had to follow. (Seriously, seaweed to symbolize you wished the couple would breed as fast as it? Why not a pair of rabbits, those were cuter and when you were tired of them you could throw them in a pot and make mittens with the fur.) "Besides, Sakura's getting a real kick out of it, and I think that matters way more."
Sasuke paused in his tracks, looked at him. "... She is?" Naruto nodded, an encouraging smile on his lips. Sasuke looked away again, though now he seemed more... embarrassed? It was suspiciously cute. "Ah. That's good." He scratched his neck sneakily, pointed at a nearby backstreet. "... I'm going that way."
'Pff, 'course you are,' Naruto thought, but he didn't say it because if he mentioned it when Sasuke acted cute then he'd get all pissed off and self-conscious and never do it again.
It was kind of strange to find Sasuke cute. The word seemed like it shouldn't fit. Graceful and handsome, yeah; even pretty sometimes (if Naruto really wanted to die); passionate, sort of, if that also covered up aggressive and sometimes violent...
They got along better since the tournament. They still fought, of course -- they both loved it -- but it had gotten a little easier to get under his guard. Made Naruto want to kiss him at some really inopportune moments, though. Like right now.
Which, uh, middle of the street, no, and flustery cuteness being Sakura-related, also no. Bigger no.
"Yo," said Shikamaru from behind them, and Naruto would have laughed at Sasuke for the lack of awareness of his surroundings his startled twitch showed if Naruto himself hadn't jumped.
"Uh, hey!" Quick, quick, a distraction. Naruto pulled his envelopes from the inner pocket of his jacket and started looking through them. "Good to see you, waitasec, I've got something for you..."
"Take your time. You were going to Kiba's, weren't you? I'm coming with." He threw Sasuke a quick, measuring look, stopping him as Sasuke was turning away, mouth opening to excuse himself. "Come along, Sasuke, if you don't mind."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed in turn, brow furrowing in puzzlement. "... Alright, fine. I've got five minutes."
Shikamaru started walking again; Naruto followed, a bit confused. Shika and Sasuke weren't especially close, so it was a bit weird. Thankfully the Inuzuka compound was just past the corner; it took about ten seconds between Naruto's whistle and Kiba's dust-raising arrival, which ended all that awkward silence nicely.
"Hey Kiba! You gotta have heard about the bastard's wedding, yeah? So I'm the best man and apparently it falls to me to hand out the personal invites. Which Sasuke can't do right now even though he's standing right here because he's a lazy bastard or something. Anyway, here's your invite, and -- hey Akamaru, here's yours." He handed the dog a piece of cardboard, onto which Sasuke and Sakura had (after much nagging) run their fingers in looping patterns to leave a scent trail.
Kiba blinked at him as his dog's tail started wagging, and then beamed, giving him a rough backslap. "Bet that was your idea."
Naruto ruffled his hair, embarrassed, especially with the groom standing right there and being somewhat ignored. "The scent thing, yeah, but only 'cause Sasuke and Sakura-chan don't have any sense of smell worth speaking of. Uh, Kiba, just a question, I mean, if anyone knows, you will -- should we invite just Shino, or Shino and his bugs?"
"Haha, funny," Kiba retorted with a grimace.
Naruto preened, and then dodged as Kiba tried to cuff him. "Yeah, huh, I thought so."
It could have gone on a while, Sasuke standing there holding his package in the crook of his elbow and frowning a little, Shikamaru patient, or maybe half-asleep, but then it turned out that heavy-lidded look wasn't bored so much as thinking, and that always spelled trouble.
"Anyway," Shikamaru eventually said, in a way that brought Kiba and Naruto to a stop. "Sasuke, Naruto. We've got a question for you."
"Uh. Sure? What kind?"
"... Let's step inside. Kiba, if you don't mind?"
With a frown Kiba lead the way past the gate. Naruto followed, confused and a bit wary. Sasuke had gone all stiff, like he expected an ambush waiting for him in the Inuzuka's overgrown garden. They didn't go far, just to a corner away from the house, where thick stone walls would block sounds and they'd see people coming, and okay, yeah, it was starting to seem a bit worrisome.
Especially with the way Sasuke turned on Shikamaru the second they were stopping. Naruto didn't think twice before stepping up to them, close enough to get in the middle if necessary. "So what d'you want to talk about, Shika?"
Shikamaru looked away from Sasuke after a long second of staring. "... To be honest, Sasuke is really the one we need to talk with. But you wouldn't leave now, would you?"
Naruto's jaw dropped with indignation for a second, and sudden worry. "Of course I wouldn't!"
"Good. We still need to talk to him and not to you, so don't interrupt. Please."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed and he widened his stance, just barely, like he expected trouble. Naruto's brow furrowed, because the look Shikamaru was sending him right back wasn't joking or laid-back in the least. Kiba touched Naruto's shoulder, tugged him backward, and when he opened his mouth to protest Kiba shushed him.
"We wanted to ask you guys before... or even just get to observe, but you guys have been really insular ever since you got together, and even more recently."
... Oh, um, yeah, maybe they'd been.
"Who's 'we'?" Sasuke demanded to know.
Shikamaru shrugged. "Rookies. Team Gai. The usual."
"... You've been talking," Sasuke said in a soft, dangerous voice. "Behind our backs."
Naruto winced. "Sasuke, what--"
"Of course we did," Kiba retorted before he could finish, "on account of we're your friends!"
Sasuke's upper lip curled up in a disdainful, disbelieving snarl.
"More Naruto's friends than yours," Shikamaru acknowledged, so easily Naruto almost didn't wince. "Which brings us to this: how long do you see your arrangement lasting?"
"Our arrangement?" Naruto asked, baffled.
"... The three of us, you mean." Sasuke's voice was soft, so emotionless it almost came across as pleasant. Naruto tried to speak again and Kiba pressed his hand on his mouth.
"You're marrying her. What's going to happen to him?"
No reply for the longest time, though Naruto could see in Sasuke's eyes a string of snarled 'not your fucking business' and 'back the hell off'. Naruto... couldn't speak, he couldn't, because suddenly he wanted to hear it too, even though there was almost no chance--
"Wedding's a political necessity."
... Oh. Sasuke actually answering. Curt, but not even insulting them. Saying -- saying... it didn't matter, not between the three of them, they had to and that was all, and Naruto wanted to believe that, but...
"It's a social institution that binds two people together. Something the two of you will have with each other that Naruto won't. Makes it damn easy for him to drift off--"
And Sasuke lost patience, his hand slashing forward to slap Kiba's off Naruto and catch Naruto's wrist and yank him to his side. "Over my dead body."
A long pause, as Shikamaru stared at Sasuke's hand on Naruto's wrist, as Naruto flushed red, because -- because this was a mine, something he already knew Sasuke felt, but now, crazily private as he was, he was saying it to someone else. Someone he didn't even like, just because -- staking a claim -- saying 'I won't let go, you just try it and see'...
Shikamaru's lips curled up at the ends. "What does Sakura think of that?"
A snort, as Sasuke weighed him up -- a long silence -- and then slowly, so slowly, he uncoiled from his battle-ready high. "...Over your dead body."
Shikamaru chuckled and when he looked up again his eyes had lost all blade-sharpness. "That works. Where do you guys want your new house built?"
Naruto and Sasuke had the same reaction, the off-balance blink and stare, the confusion that Sasuke didn't have time to hide, that Naruto didn't even think to.
"Wedding gift. So? I figured in the Uchiha district, since you've got the land already, but apart from that?"
"... oh," Sasuke said, very quietly. Naruto's throat tightened.
"Some of us thought it woulda been nice to make it a surprise," Kiba grumbled, arms crossed, defensive and embarrassed. Shikamaru sneaked him a vaguely sarcastic, amused look.
"And some of us thought it would be smart not to startle the paranoid ninja with surprise construction in his backyard. So when can we come to discuss the floor plans?"
When Naruto looked at Sasuke again he was still off-balance -- he didn't know if Kiba and Shika could see it, but he could -- still teetering, baffled, really not getting it, not getting why they would bother to do that.
But -- oh, they'd gotten to him. They really had.
"I... made those already."
A shrug, avoiding everyone's eyes. Naruto made a surprised noise.
"What? I was bored, and we already talked out everything we wanted. Just have to get a professional to format it into a proper floor plan." Sasuke smacked the package he was holding in Naruto's hands, still without quite making eye contact. "Plans are in the office, bottom left drawer. Show them to Sakura, see if there's anything either of you want to change, and then..." a vague hand gesture toward Kiba and Shikamaru that meant 'arrange it with them on your own'. "I've got to go now."
"Sasuke," Shikamaru interrupted quietly. "...Where your old house used to be?"
He was almost all turned away now, and he didn't turn back. He just paused, and then gave a tiny, almost hesitant nod. And then he blurred from sight, disappeared over the wall, and left Naruto alone with the package and his friends.
Naruto was almost glad Sasuke had escaped so fast, because he really, really wanted to kiss him right now. And hold him hard and tight and not in a sexy way, just in a -- just like...
He kinda wanted to kiss Shikamaru too. Though not in the same place.
Also cry. A little bit. Goddamn wedding nerves, getting to him by pure contagion. He turned to his friends and smiled, and if it was a little shaky they both pretended not to see.
"Did you guys really just grill him about his intentions? Heh. Heheh."
The Harunos' door wasn't locked, but no one would have wanted to come inside that madhouse who didn't have business there, so Naruto didn't worry much when the door opened under his hand. Sakura and her mother were in the living room, all furniture removed or pushed to the walls to make space, Sakura standing perched on something as a friend of Sakura's mom who happened to be a kimono dresser went around her and clucked as she tugged the cloth this way and that.
It had only been a short time, felt like, but she was getting rounder almost day by day. Not waddling yet, but there was no way she looked anything but pregnant. Gave him a twinge every time he saw it. It almost annoyed him that her obi would be arranged so it didn't show much; he wanted everyone to see.
Sasuke wasn't allowed to see Sakura in her wedding kimono before the big day, but there was nothing stopping Naruto. She looked really nice right now, wearing nothing but the under-layer, though to him it still looked pretty much like a shimmering, embroidered bathrobe. Beautiful but not really sexy; it hid too much skin for that and fell straight like a sack. Though the idea that it would fall open if he just undid the belt and there would be nothing underneath...
Yep. Naruto got to see it and Sasuke didn't, all that half-dressed prettiness and the hundred neck-baring hairdos and nailpolish. He bet the bastard was jealous of that. (Wouldn't be jealous when he got to undress her, though, but it'd be really petty of Naruto to complain about that.)
Sakura caught him moving in one of the mirrors and turned her head like an eagle, eyes harpooning him. "Naruto! Did you complete all the deliveries?"
The kimono dresser complained that she was moving damnit and the second layer she was trying to put on Sakura's shoulders wasn't going to settle properly, but Naruto ignored it as he ambled out into the mess. "Yup! Well, uh, almost. I couldn't find Sai, no one knows where he lives."
Sakura's eyes narrowed. She had on a really surprising red-orange coat of makeup stuff on her eyelids; made her eyes really dramatic and even greener somehow. Naruto wasn't sure if he liked it but it certainly was interesting, though it was likely she'd be trying something totally different next time he came by. "Did you look hard enough?"
"Hey! I even asked Kakashi-sensei and the mission board. No one'd tell me."
The kimono dresser went around Sakura again to move her belt one inch up, displacing Naruto, and producing no difference he could see. No difference the older woman could, either, because she started muttering again.
"How about a break," Sakura suggested. "I'm starting to have cramps in my legs." She was undoing the ties and shrugging off the kimono before anyone could tell her not to.
Sakura's very last layer was a very unsexy cotton slip that looked like some kind of hospital wear, which Naruto felt was a grievous injustice. Thankfully, being very light cotton, it was also almost see-through, if one squinted the right way. The front halves layered over each other, so no nipplage that way, but the curve of her belly...
A quick grin, a deliberate half-bow, leaning toward a little table to drop a hair accessory, making the vee in front gape just a bit, and then she jumped off and flicked his forehead. "Stop ogling. Come on; eaten yet?"
"Okay. Mom! We'll be in the kitchen." Alone, her suspicious glare seemed to say, and don't come nosing in. Haruno Hana hmphed a little, but didn't protest as she would have protested if Sakura had tried to get him up to her bedroom. Maybe she didn't think kitchen counters and tables were as enticing as beds. Showed what she knew. Mwahaha.
... haha. Man, he wished.
"Here's the fridge, get what you want." She went to the cupboards and started looking for snacks there; Naruto went to give himself ham and other sandwich things. "So did you see everyone?"
"Yeah, pretty much." He reddened a little at the memory of the meeting with Shikamaru and Kiba. Ino and Lee, Sakura was inviting by herself, so they hadn't been on his list. "Hinata wasn't there but Neji said he'd get her invite to her. That's okay, right?" He wasn't entirely sure. It would feel a bit like handing her an invitation to his own marriage, in a way -- even if it wasn't, he was still taking himself off the market. That'd be kind of... he wasn't sure how she'd take it, and it bugged him a bit.
Sakura hesitated, sneaked him a look he couldn't read. "...Probably. But what about Sai, then?"
"Kakashi-sensei and ANBU-san said maybe I should wait until the next mission." He frowned a little bit, paused in the middle of slapping his sandwich together. "... Actually I think they might have known where he was, but they didn't want to tell me. It was really weird. They kept looking at each other all meaningful-like."
"Ah." Sakura's eyes narrowed in thought. "That's what I thought. He's a spy."
"Whurgl--" Naruto swallowed his first bite, tried again. "What?"
"He's reporting about what he learns from you guys, and if Kakashi-sensei doesn't want you to go to him, that someone is probably not Tsunade-sama or anyone on her side."
Naruto gave her another disbelieving look over his sandwich. "He's like the most conspicuous guy ever! I mean, for example, Sasuke sucks at blending in but it's because he's an asshole and doesn't even try, but Sai sucks worse because, he just sucks at... being a human being or something! He doesn't even seem to get he's doing it wrong! Who would be stupid enough to make him a spy?"
"It's more like the person who sent him doesn't care that we know about it, because we can't get rid of him either way. But he probably reports everything he sees."
It was weird how he didn't even like the guy much and they were all real clear on how temporary he was and Naruto'd had people watching him in the village for years, and yet he still felt mildly betrayed. "... Huh. Maybe we should give him something to report, then," he said sourly. "All those C-rank. Gotta be boring."
"Better the spy you know than the one you don't." A sigh, a half-hearted little smile. "Also if you guys are bored by your C-ranks, imagine having to listen to someone giving a detailed report on them."
"Heh, yeah, I guess."
"Ah, who cares!" Sakura exclaimed suddenly and without warning, throwing her hands up. It made the cotton shift slide against her rounding belly; Naruto's eyes crossed a little. "Even that guy I have never met and who is taking my spot in our team cannot ruin my wedding!" There was a hint of manic glee in her eyes. "I should probably meet him, though. To make sure."
Oh god no, Sai would probably blurt out something about her being fat or some other horribly inappropriate comment (like wondering if Naruto was so competitive with Sasuke because he had a smaller dick, hahaaaaargh), and he'd never survive it.
... Did Naruto even want Sai to survive it? Hmm. Pregnantly hormonal and highly stressed; no jury would convict her! ... well, hopefully, but there was still a chance, so he sighed, finished his sandwich in three big chomps, and decided to distract her before she decided to do something with the kitchen knives she was eyeing a bit too intently.
"Sakura-chan? Waitasec." He went back to the kitchen door, looked around the living room. Clothes draped everywhere, mirrors, girly stuff all over the place. In the middle of it two older ladies were muttering to each other about things he didn't wanna know about. "Uh, Haruno-san?"
He tried on a friendly grin and shook Sasuke's silk-wrapped package at her. Hana blinked at him, and her puzzled little frown disappeared. "Oh! Is that another...?"
Hana hurried to the kitchen, giddy like a schoolgirl. Naruto made note to mention to Sasuke that Sakura's mom got just as much of a kick out of his weird fiddly traditions as Sakura herself, and surely getting along with your mother in law was worth any kind of trouble. When she was in the kitchen with them, Sakura looking on curiously, Naruto gave his best bow and offered the package on both palms. He was a little too theatrical to make it seem like he meant it -- he couldn't judge things like that real well -- but neither of them seemed to mind.
"I come to you through storm and flood and arrows to bring another token of my master's high devotion and higher hopes." Pff. He'd heard Samurais would just pile up the gifts in a room and have the girl's family pick them up all at once, but of course ninja tradition had to be sneakier than that. To be really traditional he should probably have come through the ceiling in the middle of the night, but he doubted they'd appreciate that much.
Hana took the package from his hands with a little bow of her own, eyes sparkling with a familiar glee. "It better not be another fish," she chortled; totally not the appropriate response but Sakura laughed all the same. Naruto straightened up and snickered. God had he carried fish around the last few days. Dried tuna and dried cuttlefish and a big nacre shell (shellfish counted as fish too, right?) and friggin' seaweed.
Hana handed the package to Sakura in turn, with a bow of her own; Sakura took it with the same gesture, both hands coming up to cup it from underneath. They were both giggling. Sakura tugged on the rope holding the package closed and unfolded it, and then she stopped laughing, eyes going wide.
"Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked, since he couldn't move closer due to Hana being in the middle.
She picked up one -- no, two golden-edged metal things, like big, thick rulers, with red tassels swinging from one end, dropped the wrapping cloth on the kitchen table, shuffled one of the things to her free hand, and flicked them open.
Red unfolded, crossed by phoenixes in flight.
"War fans. Oh my god, they're gorgeous."
Oh man, not even normal basic wooden fans, but tessen, steel with sharp-edged spokes under the silk. That explained what Sasuke had been doing with Tenten's dad. Not that Sakura would have a lot of chances to use them -- they were more accessories for formal occasions than a weapon she'd get much use of in the field -- but, Sasuke being Sasuke, he probably didn't see the appeal in getting her stuff that'd be pretty but rust through or lose its edge after the first use.
"Look at that." She slashed down experimentally, eyes sparkling. "I could probably cut off someone's hand at the wrist."
"--Oh, um, and of course they're really gorgeous. The phoenixes are hand-painted, see, they're not identical!"
Hana gave her bloodthirsty daughter a jaundiced look, but allowed herself to be placated into admiring the phoenixes.
Eventually, she went back to her friend the kimono dresser, and Naruto and Sakura were alone in the kitchen once again. Sakura was still cuddling her fans -- closed, luckily -- and tapping the tassels against her cheek with a dreamy look on her face. Naruto couldn't help but smile, all soft. Sasuke had really chosen well, if they could make her happy like that.
"Shirae-san didn't want to let me stash kunai in my sleeves or they'd hang weird, but no one will say anything about those!" she said, really pleased. Naruto burst out laughing.
"What's gotten into you, Sakura-chan? You're all bloodthirsty today."
Whoops, evil glare of evil. The reddish eyeshadow didn't help. She looked like a demon bride, a bit. ... Alright, a demon bride from weird softcore hospital porn, because most brides wore actual dresses or kimono, but still.
"I'm not! ... Okay, maybe I am a little. It's all the obi knots, oh god. Shirae-san told me to stop growing, the curve was making her job harder! Hah, as if I could, what am I going to do, go on a diet? And tomorrow we're trying more hairdos and they're already saying my hair's too short to do anything good with it, argh! And then that Sai guy..." She caressed the war fans, a disturbing gleam in her eyes, a strange little smile floating on her lips. "I'd really like to meet him at some point, make sure he doesn't misplace my groom or best man by accident..."
"I'm Sasuke's best man, not yours," Naruto reminded her with a strangled little chuckle. Scary.
"What's his is mine!" She looked at him, then, and sobered up. "... If we could both ask the same person, I'd have asked you too."
Naruto chuckled again and looked away. "Ino would have gutted me."
"... Well, yes, there's that."
Naruto ruffled his hair, stuck his hands in his pockets. Paper rustled. He could bet it'd make him cry again but he was gonna have to mention this at some point, so... he pulled out the plans, put them on the table. Sakura leaned over them and squinted, flattening the edges with a hand.
"Honeymoon gift," he said. "Shikamaru says all our agemates are in on it."
Sakura's breath caught in her throat as she realized what this was.
"They went and asked Sasuke where to build it..." The words still didn't want to come out easily; the more he thought about it and the more his throat squeezed. "And he said, where his old house used to be."
When Sakura looked up she was crying, fat tears running down her cheeks. Naruto gasped and pulled her into a hug immediately, patting her back, trying to be soothing. "Aw, come on, no, it's alright -- Sakura-chan? Oh man, oh man--"
"No, no, it's okay, it's -- just hormones, I cry for everything, it's nothing, really." She sniffled, rubbed at her eye, smearing her eyeshadow. Naruto sighed and hugged her close, waiting for her to be done and trying not to follow suit. He might have sniffled a little, but she didn't say anything about it.
"So, um... Any additions you wanna make to your dream house?" he asked, sheepish, once they were both done and grinning awkwardly at each other. "You didn't happen to make your own floor plan, didja?"
"Um, nothing so detailed as a floor plan, no." Blushing, she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "I just, a pond?"
"... Yeah, it's on it," Naruto said, voice going soft all on its own, thinking how out of it Sasuke had been when they discussed it, ages and ages ago, how much he personally didn't care, how he'd remembered anyway. "Oh -- and a gallery, too," he added, fingers smoothing down the paper as he followed the inner curve of the L-shaped house and its garden.
"We could get it closed with glass, so the light would come in... Oh, wait! There's a sun room, too, with a skylight -- what's that note?" Sakura turned the paper toward her, and then she pressed a hand to her mouth and snickered behind it.
"It's called 'Naruto's Security Risk'."
Naruto was torn between blushing, laughing at that asshole's assholishness, and going worryingly gooey inside, so he chose to laugh, and the blush took care of itself -- mostly by spreading all over his face. The gooeydness had to show through, though, because Sakura moved into his arms again and cupped his face and smiled, all soft and tender and a little amused, and even with her makeup all smeared she still made his heart kick. She nudged him down and tilted her face up and she kissed him, all soft and intense and 'I love you, I love you'.
He kissed her back, hands gliding around her waist, but there was a niggling little voice at the very back of his brain that couldn't stop wondering if she was kissing him as a proxy for Sasuke.