Shikamaru couldn’t wrap his mind around the text message he had received and really had to see this for himself to be sure it wasn’t just a figment of his imagination. He stepped into the raucous Class 3-4 that morning, and was sure enough shocked to see the familiar blond locks that could only belong to one person. Even more surprising was that Kiba and Chouji were in class as well…even though it seemed they too were flummoxed at the idea of actually sitting through a class they hated.
“I thought you were shitting me,” Shikamaru said as he sat in his usual spot next to Naruto’s desk. “I went to the roof just in case you were.”
Naruto shrugged and coughed self-consciously, unable to control the dull flush of heat that filled his cheeks. “I just thought I’d sit in today and see what the fuss was about.”
Chouji, who was currently digging through a jumbo-sized pack of potato chips, stuffed a handful into his mouth and spoke at the same time. “I think he must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed today.”
“You’re spraying, man,” Kiba grumbled as he brushed away the flakes of chips that had found their way into his hair and on his shirt. “Stop talking with your mouth full!”
“Whatcha gonna do about it?” Chouji dared, spraying even more of the snack in Kiba’s face.
Shikamaru tuned out their argument and turned to his friend, still surprised but actually feeling a little pleased at the new development. Maybe his words, from the other day, had actually registered with Naruto after all. He, too, was trying to change his ways. Perhaps it was his decision to keep playing for the baseball team, finally having a taste of victory or experiencing the joy of his teammates as he was hoisted over their shoulders after his game winning homerun. Whatever it was, Shikamaru had made the decision to take things a little more seriously, and he had hoped to convince Naruto, Kiba and Chouji about it. He had heard of Kiba’s sign-up with the soccer team, which was a good way for the boy to let off some of his inner aggressions. He’d just have to convince Chouji to join some kind of extra curricular activity that would suit him. As for Naruto’s change…
“Hmm…can’t put my finger on it…”
“Can’t put your finger on what?” Naruto asked, feeling a bit uncomfortable at the close scrutiny.
“You look…different somehow.”
Naruto touched his hair. “I grew it out a little…”
“That’s not it,” Shikamaru said with a light chuckle. “You look…less angry.” He shrugged and pulled out his textbook. “You don’t have that sullen look you usually have – the one that makes you unapproachable.”
Naruto tapped his pen restlessly on his desk and cleared his throat just as Iruka walked into the classroom.
“All right, class,” the older man began as he opened his notebook to take attendance. “Let’s take roll call, if you’ll all be quiet for one minute…now then…”
He looked up and glanced towards Naruto’s seat. It was a habit he couldn’t help doing, despite the number of times the seat had always been empty…along with the other three that surrounded it. However, he found himself blinking and resisting the urge to rub his eyes as he spotted not only Chouji (who was still eating by the way), but Kiba (who was staring at his Math textbook as if it was a foreign object he had never seen before), Shikamaru (who was scribbling something in his notebook), and Naruto…the Uzumaki Naruto…actually sitting in class for a lesson. Their gazes met and Naruto was the first to look away – his cheeks darkening with color as he tried to scowl and look disinterested. Iruka hid his smile of pleasure as well as the sudden lump that had risen in his throat to take a deep breath.
“All right, class, looks like we’re going to have a great lesson today!”
It was only a small step, he thought as he began to teach with inspired vigor. And yet a giant leap for the delinquent student.
Lunchtime found the boys in their usual spot beneath the large oak tree next to the cafeteria. It was a beautiful afternoon anyway and would have been such a waste to spend it indoors with the other students.
“It wasn’t so bad actually,” Kiba was saying as he dug into his bento lunch with gusto. “Iruka-sensei is actually kind of cool.”
“Yeah!” Chouji agreed, grinning for he was mighty pleased with himself. He had actually answered a question posed to him in class, much to his friends’ surprise and delight. There was actually more in that boy’s brain than a buffet of full course meals. “Iruka sensei promised he’d take me to lunch at Ichiraku’s if I get at least a 60 in the next test. How about that?”
“A 60? Even I could get a 60!” Kiba huffed. “Anyway, you guys wanna set up a study group or something? We could like…study together and try to pass this freaking test. What do you think, Naruto?”
They all looked to the blond who had been relatively quiet so far. Naruto, who was doing a fine job of picking through the colorful sliced pumpkin Ms. Fuyutsuki had packed in his bento, tried to act nonchantly as he replied in as flippant a voice as he could manage. “I…uh…I already have a tutor. I mean…someone to help me…with stuff….”
“Not Ms. Fuyutsuki,” Shikamaru cut in, while sipping from his box of orange juice. “We four could go to the library and study. I know we’re not exactly Einstein, but if we put our minds together, we can figure out the basics.”
It was tempting…oh so tempting to agree to this plan, but he had a feeling that their study session would not last long as their relatively short attention spans would have them trying to do something else to kill time. He really had to buckle down with his studies and the first step was to show that he was determined to make a change. For reasons he was yet to really decipher, he just couldn’t think of disappointing Sasuke who was offering his time to help him with this process.
“It’s not Ms. Fuyutsuki,” Naruto finally mumbled. “It’s…Sasuke…”
“Who?” Chouji asked as he leaned closer. “Speak up, bro. We can’t hear you.”
Naruto looked up and unable to stare into any of their (seemingly accusing) eyes, he said a bit more firmly. “I’m having tutoring lessons with Sasuke.” There. He had said it, his heart now pounding as he wondered what they’d say…especially Kiba.
“Sasuke…Uchiha?” Shikamaru asked with a raised brow. “…wow…since….eh….when?”
“It’s not like I asked him to,” Naruto argued in his defense. “Iruka sensei said if I didn’t make an A in the test, I would fail the class and most likely not graduate…and Sasuke overheard and he volunteered to help me, that’s all. Honest.”
Nothing was said as the other boys continued to eat quietly. Naruto, now feeling that his friends weren’t being fair to him, frowned. “What? You think I’m ditching you for him or what?”
“No one’s saying…” Shikamaru began.
“You don’t have to say anything. I can see it in your eyes. You guys think I’m…”
“I don’t know, Naruto,” Kiba cut in, eyes still trained on his lunch. “You join his club, you go to his house, he offers you rare manga and video games and now…he’s offering to be your tutor. I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but even I know that the guy’s being hella nice to you for a reason.”
Kiba looked up then, a dark look in his eyes as if trying to control his frustration and anger. “What he said the other day…about you not knowing what you wanted yet…or whatever the fuck you guys did in his house…be honest, Naruto. Do you like Sasuke?”
Shikamaru and Chouji, who were both watching this new twist in the drama with acute interest, waited (im)patiently for the blond’s reply.
Naruto scowled and gripped his chopsticks a bit tighter as he met Kiba’s eyes. “What the fuck do you mean, do I like Sasuke?”
“You know exactly what I mean,” Kiba growled. “You kissed the guy for fuck’s sake!”
Chouji’s sandwich fell on his lap with a ‘Holy Shit!’ escaping his lips as his jaw dropped. Shikamaru pounded his chest as his drink went the wrong way. Naruto was red-faced. He really couldn’t believe they were going through this again. What happened to their truce?!
“Oh yeah, Kiba? And what about you, dipshit? Molesting me on the goddamn rooftop doesn’t make you a saint either!”
“Well at least I know what the hell I want and I’m not hiding it from you!”
“I thought we had agreed not to talk about it,” Naruto hissed. “What the hell is this all about?”
“Oh come on!” Kiba threw up his hands as if in resignation. “Sasuke wants you just as bad as I do! …I did…” He finished with a heavy sigh. “Argh! I can’t fucking take this anymore.” He rose to his feet and packed up his unfinished lunch and without saying goodbye, stalked into the building.
“Goddamn Kiba!” Naruto snarled as he too rose to his feet, but instead turned the other way to stomp towards the tennis courts area. He was trembling so hard with his fury, disappointment and confusion at how and why everything had gone so wrong. He had, honestly, thought Kiba would be over this by now, but how naïve was he to assume that the other boy could get over his feelings that quickly? He thought of Sai and how desperate the boy had seemed yesterday. Was that how love made you act? Did it warp your mind and make you want to do anything and everything for that person no matter what it took?
“Urgh!” He kicked at a tree in frustration, ignoring the pain that ran up his stubbed toes and up to his wired brain. Naruto had never truly been in love…at least anything deeper than superficial feelings of lust and attraction to beautiful things. He had once been convinced that he was in love with Anko Ai, the model/porn star, but he doubted love meant a five minute work out with his hand, lotion and a box of tissues. Then there was his infatuation with Amaru, which had quickly dissolved after their night together. Wasn’t love supposed to be a deeper emotion? Like the way his mother and father must have been? In the few pictures he had of them, they had looked so happy together….so in tune with each other as they either mugged for the camera or stared into each other’s eyes. Was that true love at its finest? If so…who was he to find such a person or to experience such an emotion anytime soon? He knew it was hard to deal with relationships – look at his uncle for instance, for all his talks and lectures and books, he was yet to settle down himself. His tastes in women weren’t all that great and Naruto had to wonder if his uncle was even searching for that perfect person…his soul mate…his one true love.
“Stupid…stupid…love crap!” he muttered, becoming more aware of his surroundings as the happy cheers of the girls cheerleading squad, practicing behind him, filled his senses. He watched them for a while, admiring the way they leaped and spun in the air like weightless butterflies. Their laughter and enthusiastic cheers lifted his spirits a little…
“So this is where you were hiding,” Shikamaru said, causing Naruto to turn in surprise at the interruption. His friend lit up a cigarette before offering one to Naruto. He leaned against the wall beside the blond, and together they watched the girls in silence for a while, neither saying anything despite the many questions that hung like a heavy curtain between them.
“We’re missing Geography,” Shikamaru finally muttered as the girls began to make their way into the building.
“Fuck Geography,” came the flat reply.
They fell into companionable silence again, until Naruto crushed out the stick to sigh deeply. “Why don’t you just go ahead and ask whatever the hell you want, Shika.”
The other boy shrugged. “You’ll tell me when you’re good and ready, Naruto. Who am I to judge?”
“Stop acting like you’re so damn cool.”
“But I am cool,” Shikamaru replied with a light smirk. “Temari says so anyway.”
Temari. The girl from Seiwa Gakuen. “She’s not from Kusanagi you know.”
Naruto blinked. “What? But she was dressed in…”
“She’s Amaru’s friend. She came to visit and decided to wear Amaru’s uniform to trick people into thinking she was a student. It was a joke between the two of them or whatever. How did you know she wasn’t a student of the school anyway?”
“She’s going to be in the Martial Arts tournament representing Seiwa Gakuen. She must be tough.”
Shikamaru nodded and listened as Naruto rattled off the names of their three main opponents and what they were up against.
“…Sasuke thinks…no…he knows we’ll have a chance with most of the teams until we get to Akatsuki. He wants us to train extra hard and I guess I’ll have to…but yesterday, you wouldn’t believe what happened, Shika. We went to the diner…Sasuke invited me actually…and then I ordered the same thing he ordered which ended up tasting really good and I swear I’m going to keep ordering that freaking burger from now on…oh and Karin started messing around with the mustard and ketchup and Suigetsu joined in…or was it the other way around? But either way, before long we were all spraying each other with the condiments and making a mess of things and we all ganged up on Sasuke and I thought he’d really be pissed off, but he was laughing and having fun with us. I swear it’s the first time I’ve seen him laugh like that and it was kinda cool to see him relaxed and all….and then we came back to school and then…”
“Listen to yourself, Naruto,” came the quiet interruption laced with amusement.
Naruto, who had been speaking a mile-a-minute, his voice slightly breathless as he recounted the events, stopped long enough to ask in confusion. “What’s wrong?”
“If I had a yen for every time you mentioned Sasuke’s name in all you’ve said, I’d be pretty rich right about now.”
The blond could feel the heat creeping up his neck. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he muttered and looked away. “I was telling…”
“You like him, don’t you?”
“Naruto,” came the voice that had an edge to it. “This is me. Don’t lie to me or play games with me. Be honest with yourself…you like him…even if it’s just a little, right?”
Like him? Naruto sagged against the wall and closed his eyes. He admired Sasuke sure enough. He liked his fighting style and that strong sense of conviction and determination. He liked the fact that the boy enjoyed the same video games and had great taste in manga and food. He realized, with faint alarm, that there were a few little other things he had noticed about Sasuke that he liked too. The way the sweat rolled off his skin after a fight…the way his brows furrowed in concentration when reading through something as simple as a note…the way Sasuke’s eyes could flash with either anger or …
…when provoked…or the way his lips would quirk in that smug smile…or the way his face seemed to light up when he laughed (the rare occasion that happened). And what about the way his warm breath felt against his skin, or how husky that voice became whenever they were too close together.
“I…I guess…he’s all right…” he finally whispered as if ashamed to admit such a thing. “I don’t hate him…anymore… if that’s what you want to hear.”
“Why did you even hate him in the first place?” Shikamaru asked in genuine bemusement.
Why indeed? “You didn’t like him either,” Naruto argued with a childish pout as he opened his eyes. “We agreed he was a first class dickwad, remember?”
Shikamaru chuckled. “Yeah, I guess, but then again…we didn’t really know the guy had a heart of gold beneath it all, did we?”
“Geez, he’s not a freaking saint.”
“No, he isn’t, Naruto and that’s one of the reasons you like him.” Shikamaru pushed himself away from the wall and paced away, only to stop to look at his friend with eyes that were dark and serious. “Whatever your feelings for him, I’m still glad he’s trying to help you. I want us all to graduate together, Naruto and if he’s one of the ways to succeed, then I say go for it… in every aspect.”
Naruto blushed at the knowing wink and shook his head. “Don’t even think I’m going to…”
“But seriously though…what’s wrong with being with a guy if you really like him?”
“But I don’t like him like that!” Liar, screamed a voice so loud, in his head, that Naruto was sure Shikamaru had heard it. “I mean I…”
“He kissed you, right?”
“Yes or no?”
Naruto opened his mouth to protest, but seeing that Shikamaru wasn’t joking, muttered a low ‘yes.’
“And you liked it?”
“Did you like it, Naruto?”
“I didn’t hate it, all right?! Jesus fucking Christ! What is this? Interrogation Central?”
“You kissed Kiba too, right?”
“He kissed me! More than…kissed me,” he finished with growing embarrassment, but Shikamaru didn’t seem interested in how he felt. He was, apparently, not yet done with his questioning.
“Between Kiba and Sasuke…who was better?”
Naruto groaned. “Okay, you know what? Let’s just end it now, Shika. I’m flattered you want to know about my fucked up sex life, but really…”
“Kiba or Sasuke?”
“I don’t have to answer this.”
A low curse. “I’ve known Kiba like forever, man! I can’t…I can’t….just no!” Naruto shivered and shook his head. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, my body likes being touched like that and I couldn’t resist it, but still…it wasn’t…it just didn’t feel right with Kiba,” he finished quietly.
“Sasuke it is then.”
“Why…why not?” Naruto gasped in disbelief. “Because he only wants my ass, that’s what?! All he cares about is fucking me, Shika! He doesn’t give a shit about me otherwise!”
“Really?” The boy smiled, causing the blond to look even more flabbergasted.
“Naruto, Naruto, Naruto.” Shikamaru chuckled. “Wow, you really don’t know the signs, do you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Idiot. If Sasuke only wanted your ass, why would he go the extra mile for you? He didn’t have to talk Kakashi into letting you into the club. I’m sure they were damn fine without you joining them. He didn’t have to let you into his house that night. He didn’t have to lend you his video games or his prized manga. Goodness knows I wouldn’t lend them to you, knowing how you manhandle books…”
“He especially didn’t have to offer his time to become your tutor, you jerk. For a guy who only wants to fuck you, he’s going out of his way to be extra helpful with other things not related to having sex with you, don’t you think?”
“It’s all a ploy, Shika. He’s only doing this to butter me up.”
“Seems to be working.”
“Like I said earlier…you look different now, Naruto. Less angry with the world and a little bit more at peace with yourself…well for the most part. You have more friends now, don’t you? And knowing that Uchiha Sasuke – the one guy most of the school would gladly die to be friends with – actually seems to be showing that much of an interest to you, makes you feel good, doesn’t it, Naruto?”
He wanted to lie – to tell Shikamaru that he wasn’t making any sense – that it was all a façade put up by Sasuke…and yet…
That ache in his heart…the one he had felt the other day seemed to be worsening each time he really thought hard about his team captain.
That wasn’t a good thing….was it?
“At least I can see you’re thinking about it now,” Shikamaru said as he stretched and twisted to the left and right to ease his tense muscles. “Kiba will get over it eventually…might take some time…but at least he’s the kind of guy to rebound quickly from a rejection.” He held up his hand to silence Naruto’s protest. “You on the other hand, have to decide what you want to do, Naruto. No one’s asking you to write out a public declaration of your feelings for another guy, but what the hell, if your heart tells you to go for Sasuke, then for the love of all things right and just in the world, stop fighting it and take the plunge. If after a while, you see things can’t work out between you two, then you can always end it and go back to hunting after babes. No one’s gonna sue you for it. Live a little, my friend.”
He tapped the blond’s shoulder gently. “Give Sasuke what he wants and who knows…you just might like it. Sayonara.”
With a two fingered salute, the dark-haired boy sauntered away, whistling softly beneath his breath as he wondered if this talk would be the final push Naruto needed to step over that line he had been so scared of crossing all this time.
Practice was brutal – more intense - as the fighters knew that the clock was ticking with every punch and blow. However, it was the underlying tension between the teenagers that had Kakashi a little worried. Karin and Suigetsu had, much to everyone’s surprise actually, not argued even once today. Unless he needed a pair of glasses, Kakashi was sure those two had been looking at each other with shy(?) glances, as if discovering each other for the first time. Sai, who was usually quiet, was even more so today. Naruto was distracted – not unusual – but even more so, especially whenever Sasuke tried to help him out with a particular move. He didn’t think the dojo was that hot, but for some reason, the blond seemed to be in a perpetual flush, which had the teacher wondering if Naruto was coming down with flu. That was the last thing they needed.
“Good work, everyone. Go home and rest up those muscles, okay? Naruto…I see you’re working on what I told you the other day.”
The blond looked sheepish and grinned. “It was hard having to sit still for so long, but I think I got the hang of it.”
Kakashi chuckled. “Keep at it – controlling that ki of yours is going to help you in the tournament. All right everyone, have a goodnight!”
As they left the dojo, Sai excused himself to attend his art club meeting, while Juugo left for a rendezvous with his Chemistry teacher – something about him not doing so well in his last test. As the rest of the fighters approached the gates, Suigetsu cleared his throat and announced a bit louder than necessary. “So…eh…I’m walking Karin home so…yeah.”
Karin, who was blushing up a storm, nodded and waved shyly to the others. “We’ll see you guys tomorrow. Bye.”
“Bye!” Naruto waved enthusiastically, trying to hold in his laughter until they were gone from sight. “Hehe, methinks Suigetsu got some last night. Lucky bastard.”
“No wonder he kept asking me how the fuck to take off a girl’s bra in class today,” Sasuke said with a chuckle.
“No shit. Can you take off a girl’s bra?” Naruto asked.
“I’m not a virgin, Naruto,” came the simple reply that had the blond’s stomach tickling with a million butterflies. Talk about too much information. “Ready?”
“Where’s your bike?”
“Where’s your bike?” Naruto looked incredulous. Sasuke didn’t really think he was…
“I didn’t come to school with it today because we’re going to your house to study, remember?” Sasuke retorted with slight impatience. “What is it? You don’t want me riding with you?”
“I don’t give a fuck if you ride with me,” Naruto hissed. I’m just going to have a pretty damn hard time trying to concentrate on the motherfucking road.
True enough, it was hard to focus, much to Naruto’s dismay as he felt Sasuke’s arms around his waist while speeding down the highway. Glad for the helmet that covered his heated features, Naruto wondered why Sasuke wasn’t holding on to the seat as any normal person would. Why was he going out of his way to act so…
Shit! He’s pressing even closer to me…I can feel his…his…!
“Whoa! Easy now, Naruto,” came Sasuke’s muffled voice from behind him. “You want to get us killed? Slow down a little.”
I can’t! I want this ride to be over, you bastard! I’m fucking dying here!
Never had his uncle’s home looked so wonderful, and as the gates parted to let them in, Sasuke gave a whistle of admiration at the stupendous architecture.
“So this is the home of the famous Jiraiya,” he said, taking off his helmet as Naruto finally came to a screeching halt in the garage. “Impressive.”
Naruto shook his head as his helmet came off. “Yeah, well wait till you see the inside.” He winked and then got off the machine, now glad that Sasuke wasn’t so close and he could think again.
He opened the door which led directly into the kitchen and both boys were assailed with the delicious smells of roasting chicken, pastries being baked, and coffee being brewed. Ms. Fuyutsuki, who was just walking in, gasped in surprise at the two boys drooling over the plate of chocolate chip cookies she had baked.
“Mmm, these smell good, auntie!” Naruto gushed and trained his best puppy dog eyes on her. “Please…just one for me and my friend.” He hardly noticed the quick but shocked reaction that word had garnered from Sasuke.
Friend. Had Naruto actually introduced him as a…friend?
“Oh don’t look at me like that now,” the woman said with a mock stern look on her kind features. “You won’t get me to fall for that. No snacks before dinner, young man. And what’s your name, you handsome devil you.”
Sasuke blushed and bowed politely. “Uchiha Sasuke.”
“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Sasuke. And just because you’re so much nicer than Naruto, you get a cookie.”
“No fair!” Naruto wailed as he watched Sasuke reach for the delicious treat. He mock wailed and fell to the floor in a dramatic gesture of agony and torture, rolling around and pounding his fists while promising never to eat ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again if Ms. Fuyutsuki didn’t give him a cookie. Sasuke couldn’t help laughing as he watched the scene, feeling his heart stir at the jovial camaraderie between the two.
/My parents are dead…/
Sasuke’s smiled wavered as he remembered Naruto’s words. The boy had stated it so matter-of-factly…as if he was no longer bothered by such a loss, but he had to wonder just how easy it was to get over such a thing. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how he’d feel if he lost his parents. Sasuke was sure he’d go mad. And yet, here was Naruto … a boy who could still laugh despite all that life had thrown at him. Sasuke discovered that he too wanted to be a part of this…to be among the few that made Naruto…happy. However, he knew it was going to be difficult trying to convince Naruto about his intentions. His initial blatant sexual approach was a hindrance he was working hard to get over. He didn’t just want Naruto for his body…he wanted so much more.
“Your uncle is back,” Ms. Fuyutsuki said as she finally gave in and allowed Naruto to grab the cookie from the tray. “He returned an hour ago and should be in his study.”
“No kidding,” Naruto mumbled around the cookie he had stuck in his mouth. “Come on, Sasuke, let’s go say hi.”
He led the other boy up a small flight of stairs which led to the living room that was decorated in rich beige and cream. There was an European flavor to the décor, and Naruto explained that his uncle was fascinated with everything English especially of the Victorian era. Despite that, it was clear that Jiraiya also had a love for the Japanese theater, in particular anything related to the Kabuki genre. Expensive-looking scrolls lined the hallway, each featuring detailed images of famous/historical kabuki performers dressed in elaborate and intricately designed costumes.
Naruto motioned for Sasuke to keep quiet, as he pushed open a heavy door, giving the dark-haired boy a sneak peek into a room specifically reserved for even more historical artifacts. “Many came from the Edo period,” Naruto explained as he closed the door gently, after the brief view. “He hardly lets anyone in here, although some museum folks stop by to check it out every once in a while.”
“He really loves his theater, doesn’t he?” Sasuke asked.
“You bet he does. You should listen to him perform for Ms. Fuyutsuki and I,” Naruto agreed with a chuckle. “God, it’s awful the way he says those lines, but all the same…maybe it’s what he really wanted to do instead of writing sex books.”
Sasuke laughed softly, noticing something else. “What’s with all the frog things? Is he a herpetologist?”
“Herpe…what? Nope. It’s his family’s symbol. Pretty cool, huh?”
“It really is…” Sasuke replied, still in awe as they walked beneath what seemed like the largest statue of a toad ever seen, hovering from the ceiling, above them. It looked so real, Sasuke gave a reluctant shiver as if the immobile creature was silently judging him.
“Uncle!” Naruto cried out as he pushed open another heavy door which led into a den fit for a man of Jiraiya’s stature. Done in deep browns and black, the room was stocked piled with books and scrolls that flowed to the floor, forcing Sasuke to step over them carefully so as not to trip on anything. Naruto was already used to the mess and had already learned how to walk through the chaos that was his uncle’s office. Jiraiya, on his haunches and dressed in a red velvet smoking jacket with a cigar stuck in his mouth, had been fiddling with the large plasma T.V screen in the entertainment center with bemusement on his features (one could only assume he had broken something by mistake). He looked up and beamed at his wayward nephew.
“Hallo, you little rascal! What trouble have you gotten yourself into today?”
perverted old man,” came the greeting that had Sasuke blinking in surprise. He
fully expected Jiraiya to yell at Naruto, but all the older man gave was a
“I’ve told you to stop calling me that…oh? Who’s that? Your new friend?” Jiraiya rose to his feet and shoved Naruto aside to walk up to Sasuke. Cripes. The man looked much larger up close.
“Sasuke!” Jiraiya greeted with voice that seemed to boom with pleasure. “Welcome! It’s nice to see a new face besides those other three troublemakers. Do you drink vodka?”
“It’s a school day!” Naruto huffed. “You can’t offer him alcohol already!”
“What’s wrong with inviting the visitor to have a drink? And besides, since when has it being a school day stopped you from sneaking into my stash and having a sip now and then? Don’t think I don’t know you do that, Naruto.”
Blushing in embarrassment, Naruto reached for Sasuke’s hand and began to tug him out of the room. “Let’s go. If you keep standing here, you’ll become infected with his crazy cells.”
“And where are you two going?” Jiraiya asked with interest. “Don’t you want to know about my trip?”
“Later, old man. I’ve got to study!”
Jiraiya winked. “You two behave yourselves up there. We all know how ‘studying’ tends to go…although I’ll have to say I’m a bit surprised that you’re swinging for the other team now, Naru…”
“SHUT UP!” came the cry of disbelief before Naruto shut the door in his face, ignoring Sasuke’s barely controlled laughter. “And you shut up too! Goddamn it!”
He began to stomp up the flight of stairs, and then stopped as he noticed Sasuke wasn’t following. “What? Come on up.”
“Your bedroom?” He had imagined Naruto would want to keep him as far away from anything remotely intimate as possible. He had been eyeing the dining or living room as a possible study location all this time.
Naruto blinked in confusion. “Well…yeah…where else are we going to do it?”
Sasuke’s cheeks flooded with color and it took a second later for Naruto to realize what he had said and how it would be interpreted. “Jesus! You promised you’d keep your hands to yourself, Sasuke.”
“Indeed I did and I promise no hanky-panky.” He held up his hands and gave a small smile, trying hard to control his pounding heart. “Lead the way, Naruto.”
“I don’t fucking believe it,” came the low mutter from the blond, which had the dark-haired boy chuckling to himself. “I’m surrounded by perverts.”