Frustrated beyond belief, Sasuke took the stairs two at a time in an effort to reach the rooftop (where he was sure Naruto would be) before the first bell rang. He had hoped to see the blond yesterday for a final day of revision before the big test this morning, but thanks to his parents deciding to visit relatives in Sapporo, all his plans had to be scratched. Hopefully, Naruto had taken the time to do some last-minute studying of his own. Not that he doubted the blond would do well on the test, but then again…one never knew which Naruto would show up in school today.
He stopped at the sound of his name, irritation etched on his features as he looked over his shoulder to see who was bugging him now. When he saw who it was, he relaxed a little, although he still wanted to get this over and done with.
“What is it, Sai?”
“Can I talk to you in private?”
Sasuke raised a brow and then eyed the empty corridor as if wondering just how private Sai wanted them to be. This part of the school was considered a storage area where broken down furniture were kept. Students rarely came here…besides those who wanted to get to the rooftop using this route, that is.
“In here would be fine,” Sai invited as he pushed open a door leading into an abandoned classroom. The dust was thick in here, and there was something haunting about the skeletal looking desks and chairs upturned or shoved into a corner. The paint on the walls was peeling, the ceiling needed to be fixed, and cobwebs hung like gossamer threads all over the place. Someone had been nice enough to write ‘P.E SUCKS BALLS, SO DOES COACH FUKURADA’ on the blackboard, and Sasuke wondered just when the admin would do something about the state of this section of the school. But until then, he had to figure out just what the hell Sai wanted with him. His teammate’s sullen attitude was really beginning to grate on his nerves.
“All right, Sai,” he finally said as he sank his hands into the pocket of his pants. “What did you want to talk abou…mmm…?”
Sai’s lips against his unexpected, but not unfamiliar. The initial feeling of repulsion/need to push Sai away overwhelmed him at first. However, Sasuke decided to indulge the other boy just this once…and last time. He removed his hands from his pockets to cup Sai’s cheeks, pulling away slowly to stare into the flushed visage before him.
“You want it that bad?” Sasuke asked in a thick whisper.
Sai managed a small nod, gasping in pleasure as Sasuke’s lips took control, that talented tongue finding and tasting his as the kiss deepened. He clutched the lapels of Sasuke’s blazer, not trusting his weakened knees and pressed himself tighter against his captain’s sinewy length.
“Aah…” came his breathless gasp as he arched his neck to allow Sasuke access when his swollen lips were finally released. He moaned and thrust even harder against Sasuke, wanting more than just this…to finally consummate this one-sided relationship, no matter how needy it made him. However, he would have been a fool not to feel it…even as Sasuke returned to claim his lips again. Sai knew his captain was only doing this for him and not because he really wanted to. It felt more like a duty…a chore or task to complete and Sai hated him for it.
Hated and yet loved the heartless bastard all at the same time.
With monumental effort, he pulled away from the embrace and walked away, pacing restlessly to erase the erection straining in his pants.
“What’s wrong?” Sasuke asked with a light smirk. “I thought it was what you wanted.”
“Fuck you,” Sai retorted, eyeing Sasuke with venom in his eyes and getting even more frustrated as the other boy chuckled. “It’s not funny!”
“I’m sorry,” Sasuke replied, holding up his hands in mock surrender. “But seriously, Sai, what the hell did you call me here for? You could easily molest me in the hallways downstairs and besides…”
“I know, I know,” came the cold interruption. “You want to meet your precious Naruto. God, I can’t…I don’t understand what the fuck you see in him!”
Sasuke sighed and ran fingers through his hair. “If you called me here to argue about this shit, consider the conversation over, Sai.”
He began to move towards the door, when Sai’s flat statement had him freezing in place.
“Naruto met with some members of Akatsuki on Saturday night.”
“What did you say?” came the deceptively quiet question that did not betray the sudden tension he was feeling inside.
“Naruto ran into Deidara, Kisame and Konan on his date with Amaru. They seemed to get into a squabble…and then…”
Sasuke could feel his heart pounding as various scenarios raced through his mind: Naruto getting into a fight with them or worse Naruto getting injured in some way.
“And then what?” he finally snapped as Sai seemed to want to draw out the suspense.
“I’m not sure, but it seemed like he and Kisame had a little talk…there were no punches exchanged, however, Naruto started coughing up blood after some time.”
Sasuke’s eyes widened, a cold dread filling him as his head began to pound with a headache that made his vision waver.
“He still took Amaru home…at least that was the last thing I saw…urgh!”
Sasuke had grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and was now glaring at Sai with a look that bordered on hate. In the same quiet voice that spoke volumes, he said, “You were there. You were there and you saw this happen and you did nothing, Sai?”
Sai tried to scowl, even though he felt a shiver of fear wrack through him at how angry Sasuke was. “What the hell did you want me to do? He seemed to have everything under control…!”
“He’s your teammate!” Sasuke roared in fury. “Even if you don’t like him for whatever fucked up reason, he’s still your motherfucking teammate! Why didn’t you do something? Take him to a hospital…anything! Goddamn you!”
He thrust Sai away from him in disgust, feeling nothing as the other boy fell to the floor, coughing and trying to get some air back into his lungs. “He’s…he’s in school,” Sai wheezed. “This must mean he’s okay. See? He didn’t need my help. Save your anger for someone else because you know what? I’m quitting the team.”
“You heard me,” Sai replied, rising to his feet and kicking himself inwardly for the tears that were filling his eyes. “I can’t do this anymore, Sasuke. I’m done.”
“You’re quitting the team.”
Sasuke’s lips tightened and it took all of his self-control not to lash out at Sai. Finally, he shrugged and pushed open the door to let himself out.
“Do what you like, Sai,” he said in a voice devoid of emotion. “I don’t give a fuck anymore.”
Naruto had heard of going cold turkey, but this was ridiculous. He eyed the five packs of cigarettes all arranged in a row before him and wondered if they had gone stale. He checked each box again – never really caring before for expiration dates – but how else would it explain why all of them now tasted like crap? He could only see the ‘best before’ dates, but the packs were all well within the figures stated.
“The fuck…?” With a low grumble, he opened a pack, picked a stick and stuck it into his mouth. He lit up and waited for that familiar rush which usually helped him relax. Unfortunately, his mouth suddenly seemed to be filled with a bitter taste he could not describe and he all but hurled in disgust as he tossed away the cigarette. He tried this for two more packs and gave up as the same result was experienced.
“Maybe I need new ones,” he finally concluded, groaning and leaning against the wall. He was nervous about the test; even though he was sure he would do well. Sasuke’s lessons had helped and his self-study hadn’t been as bad as he thought. Sasuke had shown him easy ways of memorizing formulas and Naruto had found himself muttering them to himself as he brushed his teeth, took a shower and got dressed this morning. Of course there was the little problem he had noticed on his chest when he woke up. The dark black mark was about the size of a coin and he had rubbed it as hard as he could, perhaps assuming he might have messed around with a marker or something. Try as hard as he might though, the darn thing wouldn’t clear off. On closer inspection, it looked too perfect a circle for anyone to have drawn by hand. He pondered if it was a birthmark he had never really noticed, but then kicked himself for even thinking that. He’s seen his body naked everyday of his life and he knew he most certainly did not have a birthmark above his left nipple. You just couldn’t ignore something like that. Maybe he ought to do research to figure out if birthmarks randomly appeared….
He looked up at the sound of his name, and would have hailed out a cheerful greeting, if it wasn’t for the pensive look on the other boy’s face. Naruto felt his heartbeat quickening in worry, wondering if he was about to be told some disastrous news like say ‘all the studying we’ve been doing was for nothing. You’re going to fail the test, Naruto and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ Of course if those were the words he heard, Naruto was going to kill Sasuke, but until then –
“What’s up?” he asked, trying to muster a smile, however, the dark-haired boy remained silent, his eyes searching for something Naruto wasn’t sure of. He glanced down at himself, just to be sure nothing was out of place, and then looked up again with growing impatience. “What the fuck, man? Why are you looking at me like…hey!”
Sasuke had reached out to pull him to his feet, those dark eyes now more intense as they stared into Naruto’s face, down his body as if checking for something before meeting the bemused blue eyes again.
“Are you okay, Naruto?” Sasuke asked quietly, even thought there was a slight edge in his tone.
“Am I ok…what the hell is that supposed to mean?” came the quizzical response. “How am I supposed to feel?”
“Are you hurting anywhere?!” Sasuke snapped impatiently.
Naruto frowned. “I’m fine. What’s your motherfucking problem?!”
“Of course I’m sure! Look I don’t need….”
Sasuke’s arms suddenly wrapped tightly around his neck, and the firm press of that body against his, had Naruto blushing up a storm. His arms itched to reciprocate the gesture, but for some reason, he felt incredibly shy about going that far, and he was still confused as to why Sasuke was even acting like this. Why the hell would he be so worried about him hurting…
Movies. Amaru. Konan. Deidara. Kisame….Kisame! His chest. The coughing…his blood…! Holy shit! Sasuke knows!
Had Amaru failed to keep her promise? Did she tell Sasuke about the whole thing even though he had begged her not to? The funny thing was…Naruto really was in no pain at all. The events of that night now seemed like nothing more than a distant memory and he felt perfectly healthy. He hadn’t coughed since…
Wait a minute…I woke up yesterday morning…then what happened?
He remembered walking into the kitchen to look for his uncle and then…not much else. All he knows is that he had woken up this morning, feeling damn fine and hungry as hell.
“Sasuke…” He shivered at the tender kiss placed on the hollow of his neck, fighting back a groan as he felt Sasuke’s hands slowly travel down his neck to his ass only to cup it firmly…almost possessively.
“You wouldn’t lie to me, would you, Naruto?” came the husky whisper as Sasuke pulled back a little to stare into the blushing features.
“I probably would,” Naruto replied, “but I still don’t get what you’re so concerned about. If Amaru told you anything…”
“It wasn’t Amaru,” Sasuke interrupted, a dark look flitting across his face. “It was Sai.”
Naruto blinked. Sai?! How could he…? “He was there?!”
“Apparently,” Sasuke murmured. “He said he saw you get into a squabble with Akatsuki…and Kisame did something to you.” He pressed a hand against Naruto’s chest, feeling the bump of the necklace against his palm, and the low rhythmic thud of Naruto’s heartbeat. He would have smiled in pleasure at the gasp Naruto let lose as he purposefully caressed the taut nipple through the shirt, but his mind was too filled with worry and concern. “Tell me the truth, Naruto. What really happened?”
Naruto struggled within himself, not wanting to reveal anything else, but then again, who knew what Sai must have told Sasuke. The damage was already done. He’d just have to convince his captain that he was still capable of fighting in the tournament.
“Yeah, Kisame did do something all right,” he finally replied with a light shrug. “That electric shock thing you did to me when we fought the first time, only his was a little more severe. I did cough up blood…but I’m fine now, really. I’m sure Ms. Fuyutsuki gave me something to ease the pain because I don’t even have a fever. See? I can still fight and believe me, I’ll be more than glad to give that fuckface Kisame a taste of his own medicine.”
Sasuke stared into the feral features and felt that familiar shiver of lust at the sight. Being this close to Naruto and wanting to feel possessed by the blond was a heady sensation that made his stomach flutter with nervous butterflies. He closed his eyes and rested his forehead upon Naruto’s shoulder, wanting to believe that everything was going to be all right – that Naruto really was healed and that…
“…can’t believe Sai was there though,” came the musing words which reminded Sasuke of the incident in the classroom. He’d have to break the news to them about Sai’s decision to leave the team. How to bring up the subject was going to be a problem though. If they began asking questions, how the fuck was he supposed to say it was because he wouldn’t be Sai’s boyfriend or fuck buddy?
That selfish, spoiled prick!
“St…stop…you’re squeezing too hard,” Naruto gasped, even as he felt himself getting more aroused at Sasuke’s sudden aggressive turn. The hand that once caressed his chest, had moved back to his ass and was kneading it slowly…harder, forcing his hips to grind against Sasuke’s in an obvious dry humping motion that made him more aware of his captain’s raw sexual appeal. If he had thought that sneak preview on the floor of his bedroom had been a taste of what Sasuke was capable of…
“Fuck!” He threw back his head as Sasuke’s lips grew bolder, sucking hard on the flesh of his neck as he thrust harder and faster against Naruto.
“Stop it, Sasuke,” Naruto pleaded, the hazy mist of lust threatening to consume him. He didn’t want to come in his pants and if Sasuke didn’t stop soon, there was no way he could walk into the classroom with a stained uniform. He captured his lower lip between his teeth and with a light grunt, placed his hands on Sasuke’s shoulders to push him back. “Quit it, you nympho!”
“I thought that was reserved for girls,” Sasuke panted, desire clearly filling his eyes as he licked his lips, smirking as Naruto’s hooded gaze drifted towards the motion.
“I don’t give a fuck if it’s reserved for girls or boys or whatever,” Naruto replied through lips that felt parched and thirsty….thirsty for the ones that begged to be kissed before him.
“Why don’t you do what you want to do to me, Naruto?” Sasuke cajoled in that voice that Naruto was really beginning to wish Sasuke wouldn’t use so much. How one’s voice could be a turn on was beyond him.
“The bell has rung,” came the weak excuse.
“I won’t let you go until you do it.”
They stared into each other’s eyes for a long minute, heartbeats pounding harder and faster as there seemed to be an unspoken agreement that if Naruto took the plunge, this was going to be a whole new twist to their already wacky relationship.
Just…just go for it! You did it before, so what’s stopping you now?
Naruto swallowed and took a deep breath, trembling hands reaching up to cradle Sasuke’s handsome face between them. With a low moan, he lowered his lashes and pressed his lips against the waiting ones, almost melting with pleasure as Sasuke’s mouth seemed to blossom for him in hungry response. Tongues met and danced gently….shyly against each other…gone was the fevered kiss they had shared in his bedroom. This was slow and tender, deep and so amazingly better than either boy could possibly imagine. Naruto’s stomach felt funny and that ache…that sweet ache in his chest seemed to seemed to squeeze his heart so tightly, he felt light-headed.
They finally pulled apart for air, although not too far as their foreheads met in an effort to catch their breath and allow the enormity of the simple act to sink into their lust-filled minds.
“Wow…” Naruto finally breathed. He didn’t know what else to say. What could he say? He had kissed and been kissed before, but this was the first time it had actually meant…so much more. He couldn’t put his finger on it.
“I should let you go,” Sasuke murmured.
Neither boy made an effort to move all the same.
Sasuke stared into those endless pools of blue and felt his resolve begin to crack. All he had to say were those three words and he was sure that Naruto would either kick his ass or tell him to go fuck himself. But what the hell…what harm could it do to finally get it off his chest? Naruto had asked and he had been too flustered to give a decent reply, but this time…
“What if…” He cleared his throat. “What if I…and I’m not really saying I am, but…what if I told you that I was…eh…that maybe I was in lo…and again, this is in theory…in lo…love with you…you know like you asked me the other day. What would you do?”
Naruto blinked at the sudden question, wincing inwardly as the second warning bell went off for the beginning of classes. He’d have to make this quick, and to be honest, he still wasn’t really sure of what Sasuke was after.
“Hmm…I guess I wouldn’t believe you,” came the blunt answer. “You don’t even know what love means!” He laughed softly and with a quick hard kiss on Sasuke’s parted lips, he pulled away. “I’ve gotta run though. I can’t miss the test I’ve been studying like a mofo the past week. Wish me luck!”
“Good lu…” But Sasuke found himself talking to thin air as Naruto had already dashed into the building without a second look back.
/You don’t even know what love means!/
“Idiot,” he muttered, noticing the packs of cigarettes Naruto had left behind. He reached for one and caressed it gently, his lips and body still tingling from what they had just shared. “I do know what the fuck love is, moron,” came the aching whisper. “And it hurts like hell.”
He passed the test with flying colors, so much so that Iruka called him into the staff office to congratulate him personally. Naruto had stared at the 98/100 written on the paper and had to rub his eyes to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. But there it was! An A! - his first A in any subject since he stepped into the halls of high school and it was all thanks to Sasuke’s tough teaching.
He couldn’t wait to show the results to Sasuke and all but bound into the dojo that afternoon, grinning from ear to ear.
“I passed!” he yelled in excitement as he noticed Juugo, Karin and Suigetsu already warming up.
“Ho ho! Congrats!” Suigetsu hailed. “Looks like the captain helped you out a lot.”
“You bet,” Naruto agreed, unable to stop himself from smiling as he joined Juugo to stretch with him. “I really studied hard, man. My brain still hurts.”
“That’s because it’s protesting from being unused in so long,” Karin chimed in with a smirk. “It needed the workout.”
Naruto, in too good a mood to be bothered by the slight jab, chuckled and focused on his partner. “How’s it going, Juu? How was your Chem test?”
Juugo blushed lightly. “I did better than expected, thank you for asking.”
“Well, at least I’m glad that you’re all doing much better with your studies,” came the voice of Kakashi as he stepped into the dojo with Sasuke in tow. “Good bodies and minds are essential to the arts. Don’t forget that.”
“I passed, Sasuke!” Naruto bellowed, eyes flashing with a joy that his teammates had never seen before. Who knew passing a simple test would make him this happy? “I can’t thank you enough for your help…actually I think I can.” He smirked and winked, causing the others to gape at their blushing team captain, who was doing his best to act as if Naruto hadn’t just come on to him so blatantly.
“Hey…what’s this all about?” Karin asked in bemusement. “What does he mean by…?”
“Don’t you get it yet?” Suigetsu interrupted with a smirk of his own. “Sasuke and Naruto are boinking each other…”
“We are not!” came the instant denial from Sasuke. Only to be followed by a barely audible ‘….yet’.
“Oh, my innocent ears,” Kakashi said with a look of mock shock.
“Sen…sensei!” Sasuke hissed, and would have dove for Suigetsu who was laughing himself into a hernia, if it wasn’t for Naruto’s next question.
“Where’s Sai? He’s not usually this late.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Karin agreed, even though she was still trying to wrap her mind around the images of Sasuke and Naruto being a couple. “Did he say he was coming today, Sasuke?”
They all turned to the boy who was now staring at nothing in particular with a frown of irritation on his features. “Sai is no longer a part of the team,” he finally said in clipped tones that signified he’d rather not talk about this.
As expected the simultaneous cries of ‘WHAT?!’ from his teammates only did more to make him pissed off – more at Sai than at them.
“Why would he quit with only a week left to the damn thing?!” Suigetsu growled. “What’s his problem?”
“How should I know?” came the mumble as Sasuke turned away to begin stretching on his own. “It’s his business..”
“Sasuke,” Kakashi called out quietly – in a voice that clearly stated he wanted to know answers and wanted to know them now.
Sasuke’s jaw worked silently and he resisted the urge to tell them all to go to hell. He could feel the weight of their gazes on him and it seemed as if they were blaming him for whatever reason.
“He’s a part of the team,” Naruto muttered. “Even though he’s a jerk sometimes, but….without him, we’d be incomplete.”
“We can do without him,” Sasuke snapped irritably. What was this ‘incomplete’ shit? Naruto was supposed to be pissed off or hell! Even pleased Sai was no longer around to cause trouble. Why was he trying to act all saintly now?
“Naruto has a point,” Juugo said quietly. “I do not like some of the things he does sometimes, but he is still a good fighter and will be indispensable…”
“Trust me, he is dispensable,” Sasuke interrupted rudely.
“Sasuke!” Kakashi called out sharply.
However, the stubborn boy wasn’t budging. He met the cool eyes of his teacher and replied calmly. “I’m not begging him to come back, sensei. It was his decision to leave on purely selfish reasons and I’m not going to ask him to return. He can go fuck himself for all I care.”
“I think you should leave for today, Sasuke,” Kakashi said with a sigh. “When you’ve cooled down a bit, you can return to the dojo.”
Cursing beneath his breath, he rose to his feet and stormed out of the room, leaving his teammates stunned at the turn of events. Kakashi sighed again and tried to diffuse the tense situation. “All right…why don’t we begin with…”
“I’m going to find Sai,” Naruto suddenly announced, as he rose to his feet. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
Before anyone could stop him, he was out of the room and running towards the main school building. If he knew Sai’s schedule, he was sure the other boy would be in the art room, and sure enough, his instincts were correct.
The large room was almost empty, save for Sai and another student who was currently washing a set of brushes. Sai was sitting by the window, sketchbook in hand while focused on whatever he was doing. So engrossed was he in his work that he barely registered the shadow that fell over him or the low whistle of approval that soon followed.
“Wow, that is awesome, Sai. She’s beautiful.” It was a sketch of a mother breastfeeding her baby, so rich in detail that it was amazing Sai was able to reproduce such an image from memory instead of having actual models in the room.
The boy snapped the book shut and looked up and into Naruto’s face with annoyance. “What do you want?” came the icy greeting.
Naruto, sucking in his initial feeling of anger at the way Sai was acting, replied as cheerfully as he could. “You missed practice, and we were worried about you.”
Sai rolled his eyes. “Spare me, Naruto. You could care less if I was there or not. Besides, Sasuke must have told you all by now that I quit the team.”
“Oh yeah, he did mention something about that, but I was unaware we had a chicken on the team, so I came to find out for myself.”
“Seriously now,” Naruto cut in, still acting as cheerful as ever, “Why would you want to quit so suddenly? I thought you were all about kicking Akatsuki’s ass? What made you change your mind? Hmm? I hope it’s not because of what happened Saturday night. Sasuke told me you were there. But see…you don’t have to be afraid of them, I’m perfectly…”
“Why the fuck would you think I’m afraid of them?!” Sai snapped.
“Why else would you quit?” Still cheerful, although it was now taking an effort to maintain the smile. Naruto wanted to slap some sense into the boy, but controlled himself. No wonder Sasuke hadn’t wanted to beg Sai to return. The boy was a nutcase.
Sai took a deep breath and turned back to the window. “I don’t have to dignify you with an answer.”
The smile vanished and Naruto growled, reaching out to grab Sai by the scruff of his shirt to glare into the pale and uninterested visage. “Now listen here, you asshole. We’ve worked hard the past few weeks to get to this point, and you’re not going to bail out on your teammates at the last minute! What kind of a person does that?!”
“You don’t need me,” came the quiet reply. “With you in the mix, you don’t need me. Neither does Sasuke. He doesn’t need me anymore.” To his horror, and Naruto’s surprise, his eyes began to water and with a disgusted grunt at his moment of weakness, Sai slapped away Naruto’s hand, forcing his shimmering gaze on his sketchbook. He clutched it tightly to his chest as if hoping to draw comfort from it.
Damn it! Why did he have to show his weakness in front of this blond moron?
“You don’t understand,” Sai whispered, unable to control himself. “I love him, Naruto. Always have. I joined the team because he was there. I risked my neck each time to gather information for him, hoping he’d see me as more than just another student, but no matter what I did, he just wouldn’t acknowledge me in that way. He’s a cruel, cold-hearted bastard and I still love him for it. Can you possibly understand that?”
For a long minute, neither boy said anything, and Sai was beginning to regret being so open with Naruto. Of course he didn’t expect the boy to understand. What had he been thinking?
“You’re right…maybe I don’t really understand what it means to love someone that deeply,” Naruto finally admitted quietly. “But maybe…maybe I’m beginning to understand what it means to have someone you really care about. Someone you can talk to about anything and share anything with him…to know that he won’t laugh at you or think you’re dumb…to see you for what you really are and not what others perceive. Sasuke saw that in all of you…he saw that in me, and for that I’m really grateful, as I’m sure you and Suigetsu, Karin and Juugo are. He gave you all a chance when others thought you were weird or odd or batshit crazy. So, maybe he’s not showing you the love you want or whatever, but…isn’t it enough that he trusts you so much to give you such an important role in the team? Don’t you think he’s hurting too that you quit like that? After all that time with him, Sai…it’s like a slap in the face for him too. He might not show it, but I think he really wants you back on the team, but doesn’t know how to go about asking you. Whatever he’s done to you…couldn’t you find it in your heart to forgive him this one time, huh?”
“Team Taka is incomplete without you Sai. We’re going to need your skills if we hope to take down those bastards,” Naruto finished with a more genuine smile.
“Anyway…just think about it,” he added after Sai refused to reply or even look at him. He wondered if all he had just blabbed was a waste of time and made a mental vow to trim down his speeches from now on. “We’ll be in the dojo if you change your mind. See ya.”
He left the sullen boy and walked back to the Martial Arts building, wincing as his bare feet scraped against stones and pebbles on the ground. In his haste, he had forgotten to wear his shoes and had to limp his way into the dojo, where Juugo and Suigetsu were currently sparring. He sat beside Karin and wrapped his arms around his raised knees.
“Any luck?” Karin whispered, worry etched on her features.
“I talked to him,” Naruto replied, “But I don’t know if he’ll show up. I did the best I could.” He shrugged and took a deep breath, watching the others spar for a few more minutes. Finally, he rose to his feet with a light grunt and held out a hand to his teammate. “Ready to kick my ass, woman?”
Karin gave a weak smile and reached for him. “Yeah…let’s….ah!”
Naruto turned around at her gasp of shock, eyes widening even as his heart seemed to soar with relief at the sight of the boy standing silently within the doorjamb still dressed in his uniform.
The other fighters stopped, and even Kakashi stepped out of his office to see what was going on. Sai looked embarrassed at all the attention, and blushed as he took a step in, bowing as low as he could. Without lifting his head, he said quietly,
“I’m sorry for my rash decision but…I’d like to rejoin the team if I may, sensei.”
The silence in the dojo was so deafening, the echoes from the other rooms filtered into it like ghosts chanting. Finally, Kakashi asked quietly, “What decision is that, Sai?”
Sai looked up with slight bemusement. “My…my decision to quit the team…”
Kakashi scratched his head lightly and glanced at the other fighters. “Did any of you hear about this? Quitting the team?”
“No, sensei,” Naruto said with a look of confusion as well. “Did you Karin?”
“Nope,” the girl replied with a shrug. “Juugo? Suigetsu? Did any of you know about Sai quitting? Who’s been spreading that rumor?”
“I don’t know, but whoever it is, I’m gonna kick his ass!” Suigetsu growled and pounded a fist into his palm. “Hurry up and change, bro. You and I have to spar today.”
Sai felt the ridiculous well of tears again as he watched his teammates go back to whatever they were doing, acting as if it was just another ordinary day. He noticed Sasuke wasn’t there and wondered if Naruto really had been right in saying the other boy would be affected by his decision to leave. He sucked in a deep breath and began to walk to the locker room to change, but not before meeting the amused blue eyes that gave him a knowing wink, sending his cheeks flooding with color as he forced himself to look away.
I think I’m beginning to see just why you’re enamored with him, Sasuke. Uzumaki Naruto…he really is something else.