weeaboobs: let's get married (Default)
weeaboobs ([personal profile] weeaboobs) wrote in [community profile] narutobang_fic2010-11-24 03:30 pm

day four: the ultimate showdown (of ultimate destiny)

Title: The Ultimate Showdown (Of Ultimate Destiny)
Pairings: Naruto/Sasuke, Gaara/Lee
Rating: PG 13
Word count: ~ 24,000
Warnings: Mild violence, underage making out, bad pranks
Summary: A tale of divine justice, prank wars, and espionage in fourth period. Naruto and his friends are sick of taking Sasuke's bullshit, and they're going to do something about it, no matter how many water-coolers they have to pee in along the way.
Notes: Thanks to x_dark_siren_x for lending me her A+ beta skills, keepthevanity for helping out way back in the beginning, and ezyls_girl for organizing this whole thing in the first place.

*Authors—please reply to your comments after reveals or anonymously.*

Naruto rested his chin in his hands and glared down at his Doritos. It was lunch period on the first day of junior year and, unsurprisingly, so far it sucked balls. He hardly had any classes with his friends, and every single one he’d been to so far was appallingly boring. Yawning at the very thought, Naruto ripped into the Doritos. By the time he came up for air Sakura was sitting across from him with a mildly disgusted look on her face.

Naruto stuck out his orange nacho cheese-covered tongue at her and she shuddered, cracking open her Diet Coke and kicking him under the table.

Naruto put his tongue back in his mouth and gave her a reproachful look while he massaged his injured shin. “So how was it?” he asked once he’d swallowed, secretly hoping that her day had been just as abysmal as his.

Sakura scowled, gesturing to the binder full of papers that she’d set down next to her with a thump when she arrived. “Look at that, then you tell me.”

“Your fault for taking all those APs,” Naruto said blithely, choosing to ignore the murderous look that Sakura shot his way.

Before she could kick him again Lee and Kiba walked up to the table, sliding in to flank Naruto on either side.

“Hey, assholes,” Kiba said cheerfully, reaching over to steal a Dorito before launching into a diatribe that detailed all the reasons why his new Homeroom teacher was a heinous bitch. Naruto rolled his eyes and yanked his chips out of the reach of Kiba’s freakishly long arms. It looked like he’d grown even more over the summer, if that was even possible.

Lee just sighed and reached into his backpack, pulling out one of those creepy protein bars that were pretty much the only thing Naruto had seen him eat since he started hanging around that weirdo gym teacher last year. It was also around that time that he started with the tracksuits. And his workouts went from kind of excessive to completely batshit. Come to think of it, it was probably good for both Lee’s mental state and his physical condition that he would get a new one this year.

Naruto munched on his last Dorito thoughtfully, half-listening to Kiba and half-wondering if you could die from eating too many Power Bars. Maybe Lee was a mutant. Or an especially fit zombie.

As Kiba made a particularly expressive hand gesture, Naruto realized that Sakura wasn’t listening either. Which wouldn’t have been much of a problem if she hadn’t been staring straight past him with her head tilted to the side and her eyes practically beaming cartoon hearts. There was only one person who could get that kind of reaction out of her.

Naruto twisted around and glared ferociously in the same direction. Trailing off, Kiba saw where they were looking and groaned. Sasuke. Sure, Neji Hyuuga and those three kids from Suna were there, too, but they might as well have been invisible for all the difference it made.

“God,” Naruto said, not taking his eyes off of Sasuke. “Why are you so obsessed with that douche?”

“Because he’s inhumanly hot, obviously. Why are you?” she shot back, not looking away either.

Naruto scowled. “Hot like sunbaked roadkill,” he replied, finally turning back around. “Did I ever tell you guys what he did last year?”

The three of them groaned simultaneously. “Yeah. More than once,” Sakura said, giving Sasuke one last lingering glance.

Naruto decided to employ his usual policy when it came to paying attention to his friends and settled in on the hard plastic cafeteria bench.

“It all started last year in Bio,” he began.

--- --- ---

Naruto had heard about Sasuke before that day. Everyone knew Sasuke. He’d always been popular, even when he was a freshman. Granted, this popularity was almost exclusively with girls. Specifically, girls who had decided that he was one of those smoldery emotional types in spite of being presented with literally no evidence at all to support this theory. Regardless, they made up enough of a portion of the student body that he was still a force to be reckoned with.

There was no getting around the fact that Naruto was a loser. It probably had something to do with all the orange, or maybe the occasional outbursts of juvenile delinquency he was prone to when things got boring. Either way, he’d never really troubled himself with things like who was popular and who wasn’t. Even when he and Sasuke ended up in the same Biology class, Naruto had barely given it any thought. Until the day of The Lab.

They were down to the last two weeks of school, and since they’d already taken their final their teacher gave them busywork one day in the form of an easy lab they hadn’t gotten to earlier in the year. He claimed it was so they could get some extra points added onto their grades before school ended, but Naruto suspected it was more about the fact that during labs he could sit at his desk and read questionable magazines with minimal student interruption.

When he announced they would be working in partners Naruto instinctively looked around for Sakura, until he remembered that she was home sick. He checked for Lee next, but it looked like he had already managed to rope some scared-looking smart kid who’d skipped a grade into partnering with him.

The rest of the class split into pairs with alarming speed, and Naruto began to feel vaguely panicked. The only other person without a partner that he could see was Sasuke. Which was weird, because Naruto could have sworn that he’d seen at least seven girls go up to Sasuke and ask to work with him, only to get shot down in rapid succession.

Naruto snuck a glance at Sasuke at the same time that he snuck a glance at Naruto, and they hesitated a second before sharing the mutual nod of two people who wanted to save themselves the embarrassment of being paired together by the teacher.

They headed for a lab table without incident. Sasuke picked up the packet of instructions while Naruto started setting up the materials, chatting away about nothing in particular as he did so.

Maybe Sasuke wasn’t as much of a creep as the guys said. He definitely wasn’t as hot as all the girls seemed to believe. Attractive, sure, whatever. It was still kind of weird to even be thinking that much, but figuring out that he didn’t only like girls had been last year’s emotional crisis. It was pretty much just a fact of life by now.

But hot? As if. Sakura needed her head checked. While Naruto was considering this, he accidentally knocked over a graduated cylinder, not hard enough to break it but enough so that it let out a harsh sound against the tabletop.

Sasuke jumped visibly. Naruto was about to make fun of him for being twitchy, until he turned around and glared.

“Shut up and pay attention, you idiot,” he said, and then carried on reading the instructions like he hadn’t just been a gigantic asshole for no reason.

For a few moments Naruto just stared, taken aback. Then he flushed in anger and glared right back. “Hey, fuck you!”

Sasuke just rolled his eyes and flipped a page, leaving Naruto to finish setting things up in resentful silence. Scratch that. Sasuke wasn’t even remotely attractive, in any way, at all.

He was careful not to knock anything else over, but unfortunately while he was busy concentrating on that he added the wrong chemical to the solution they were supposed to be preparing. Something melted which apparently really shouldn’t have, and a small explosion resulted.

Sasuke had just enough time to stare at Naruto in disbelief before the teacher shepherded them both to the eye-wash station in front of the whole class, which was pretty much one of the most embarrassing things that had happened to Naruto so far in his life, high school-wise.

Naruto figured that Sasuke must have been embarrassed too, and even though he’d already decided that the guy was an asshole, he was nothing if not forgiving.

“Hey, sorry about that,” he tried, after their eyeballs had been rinsed to the teacher’s satisfaction.

Sasuke shot Naruto the most venomous look he’d ever received to date. “Just stay away from me,” he’d said, and stalked over to the opposite side of the room even though they were barely even halfway done with their lab.

--- --- ---

“And that’s when we became sworn enemies,” Naruto finished, choosing to ignore the fact that Sakura was still smiling dreamily in Sasuke’s direction. Lee was suitably enthused, at least. He loved a good story of rivalry.

Only Kiba looked skeptical. “Dude,” he said. “No matter how many times you tell that story, it still pretty much sounds like it was all your fault.”

Naruto glared. “So,” Sakura interjected hastily in order to prevent an altercation. “Does Sasuke know that you’re enemies yet?”

“I didn’t actually get a chance to tell him since it happened at the end of school,” Naruto admitted. “Which is why this is totally going to be a year of justice.”

Lee nodded excitedly. The only thing he enjoyed more than a rivals story was justice.

Sakura just went, “yeah, sure,” eyes wandering to the table behind them. Naruto shifted rather unsubtly so that his body was blocking Sasuke from view and was about to start lecturing Sakura about fraternizing with the enemy when he noticed a passing freshman trip on his way past Sasuke’s table and accidentally knock into Neji Hyuuga.

“Sorry, dude,” the freshman said nervously after bending down to pick up his sandwich off the ground.

Neji glared with his unnervingly pale eyes and knocked the sandwich right out his hands again. “Watch where you’re going, fatass,” he said. To his left, Sasuke smirked. The freshman looked up at the two of them like he was going to say something, but then thought better of it and fled.

Naruto was getting to his feet before the kid was even gone. The year of justice was just beginning, and already here was a perfect opportunity to let Sasuke know what was up. Even if he hadn’t exactly been the one to insult the freshman, he was still there and he didn’t do anything about it, which was good enough for Naruto.

But before he could go over there and get in someone’s face about it, Sakura stood up, reached across the table, and utilized all of her creepy strength to yank him back down again. Naruto looked to Lee or Kiba for backup, but they just shrugged. If Sakura was really in a mood there probably wasn’t much the two of them could do in the way of physical restraint, anyway.

“You aren’t making a scene on the first day,” Sakura said forcefully. “Not while I’m here. Now shut up and eat your lunch.”

She sounded so determined that for a second Naruto actually considered listening to her, but then he remembered about justice.

“So you just want to sit here and let them get away with being assholes?” he asked angrily, struggling to escape her freakishly powerful grip.

“I don’t like it either,” she said, not seeming at all concerned with Naruto’s bids for freedom. “No one does. But it’s not like we can do anything. Seriously, just let it go.”

Naruto was just starting to realize that resistance was futile when Sakura’s grip on his arm slackened abruptly. He was just about to jump up and make a run for the table before she could grab him again when he saw the reason that she’d let him go in the first place. Namely, Ino Yamanaka.

Ino was Sakura’s childhood best friend and current arch-nemesis. She was also standing in front of their table looking arguably even hotter than she had last year, with her arms folded and an expression of amusement on her face. She was probably on her way to Sasuke’s table. Their friendship wasn’t much more than her trying to date him and him steadfastly refusing her, and it wasn’t like they were close or anything, but it was more than Sakura had and Naruto knew that alone was enough to get her pissed as hell.

“Hey,” Ino said with an unconvincing smile, eyes raking over Naruto’s orange pants, Sakura’s pink hair, and Lee’s green tracksuit with an air of distaste. Kiba looked like he wasn’t far off from snarling at her. “Busy summer? I know we’ve been over this before, Sakura, but dyeing your hair really does nothing for that forehead.”

Sakura was on her feet in an instant. Naruto considered trying to pull her back down to see how she liked it but frankly he didn’t think he’d be able to, and that was more emasculation than he was willing to put up with in a day.

The two girls glared at each other with a level of intensity that was more than a little terrifying before Ino rolled her eyes and walked over to sit at the table behind them, greeting Sasuke so enthusiastically that it had to be just for Sakura’s benefit. She definitely noticed.

“You know what,” Sakura said after a second, moodily flicking the tab on her Diet Coke. “Fuck it. Have your year of justice. And make sure Ino gets plenty of it.”

--- --- ---

Lee raced down the halls toward his last period English class, dodging the occasional straggler and feeling more than a little panicked. He hadn’t meant to be late, especially not on the first day of school, but he had gym the period before this one and he kind of lost track of time talking to his new teacher about a more challenging workout plan for himself. When he’d shown Gai, his gym teacher last year(who also doubled as a fashion icon and mentor) his daily exercise routine, he had examined it critically and reprimanded Lee for the underrepresentation of three-finger pushups.

All this one did was make a weird face and ask if he was seeing a doctor regularly, which was way unhelpful. Apparently he’d just have to take his physical fitness into his own hands again this year. It was a daunting thought, but Gai had trained him well.

Finally, Lee reached the door of the classroom. He checked it against the room number on his schedule just to be sure before opening it as quietly as possible and slinking toward the nearest empty seat, hoping against hope that by some miracle the teacher wouldn’t notice him.

Unfortunately, no miracles were forthcoming and the teacher was right there glaring at him from the front of the room, arms folded.

“Thanks for joining us,” she said in a way that suggested she wasn’t grateful at all. “Maybe you could explain the theme of the summer reading to the class?”

“Uh,” Lee said eloquently while he tried his hardest to remember what the summer reading even was--oh, yeah. The Invisible Man.

“Well,” he started. “I thought it was pretty much about trying to define ourselves for who we are instead of the groups that people put us in based on appearance.” Lee knew it wasn’t a particularly original answer, but he figured it would at least be enough for her to let him sit down. She looked at him speculatively and for a terrible second he thought she was going to try to make him back it up with evidence or something, but then she just motioned for him to sit down and started passing out vocabulary sheets.

Lee slumped down in his seat, resisting the urge to let out a sigh of relief.

Then he noticed that terrifying Gaara kid who moved here last year from Suna was staring at him from across the room, and all his relief flew out the window to be immediately replaced with sheer terror.

Lee gulped and focused on the front of the room, hoping that Gaara would lose interest or just turn out to be looking at the clock or something. As the seconds ticked by, Lee realized that he wouldn’t be getting off that easy and he should probably just resign himself to the fact that in the two minutes that he’d been in class, he had done something to piss Gaara off and was therefore getting his ass kicked.

Obviously Lee was a glorious example of manhood who was perfectly capable of defending himself, and if it had been almost anyone else he wouldn’t doubt his ability to deal with them. But he had it on good authority from several different sources that last year Gaara ran over a freshman with his car, and, brave as he was, Lee knew that once vehicular manslaughter got involved it was time to cut your losses.

When the bell rang Gaara was one of the first ones out of the classroom, and for a second Lee allowed himself to hope that it had all been in his mind and nothing was going to happen. He grabbed his stuff and walked out the door, feeling slightly more cheerful at the prospect of going for his usual six-mile run when he got home.

Just as Lee was really starting to think he was going to be fine after all, he heard a voice call to him from the row of lockers next the door of their classroom.

“Hey,” said Gaara in a voice completely devoid of emotion. “You in the leg-warmers.”

Lee winced and then turned around resignedly, prepared to go down fighting. “Yeah?” he asked, attempting to adopt a neutral expression that ended up turning into more of a grimace.

Gaara didn’t go for his throat right away, which Lee decided to count as a victory. “I’m failing English already because I didn’t do the summer assignment,” Gaara said bluntly. “And you sound smart. So I need you to help me.” It didn’t sound like a request.

Lee just stood there for a second, trying to process what Gaara had just said. Once he had, the part of his mind that dealt in self-preservation began shouting the word “NO” rather loudly.

“Uh,” said the part of Lee that couldn’t really ever turn down someone who needed help. “Sure?”

“Good,” said Gaara as if he hadn’t even considered the idea that Lee would have a different answer. “You can follow me home.”

They walked to the parking lot in silence, and once Lee was inside his own car he seriously considered just driving for his life and avoiding Gaara for the next two years. But that would be shitty, and besides, he figured as long as he was actually in a car himself Gaara couldn’t run him over. And that, at least, was something.

Gaara didn’t live very far away from the school and soon they were both pulling up to the curb next to his house. It looked pretty normal, if substantially bigger than Lee’s.

As they walked through the front door and stepped inside the house, the first thing Lee saw was Gaara’s brother and sister hanging out in the living room. They were both seniors, and both practically as terrifying as Gaara himself. Kankuro looked like he was about to say something as the two of them walked in, but Gaara shepherded Lee up the stairs before he could.

They walked up the stairs and down a hallway, and then Gaara opened the door to what was presumably his bedroom and pulled Lee inside like there was nothing weird about this at all. Thankfully for Lee’s mental health, Gaara didn’t bother to close the door behind them.

Once he dared to look around, Lee discovered that Gaara’s room was surprisingly normal, if kind of Spartan for a teenager. The walls were a regular shade of white with a noticeable lack of blood splatters, and as far as Lee could tell there weren’t any dead virgins lying around.

In fact, the more he looked around the worse he felt about the way he’d been thinking about Gaara. Lee knew for a fact that some people thought he himself was a freak, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Gaara was kind of weird, sure. But a homicidal maniac? Not likely.

Lee decided on the spot that in order to make up for it he was going to be the best English tutor the world had ever known.

“Okay,” he said determinedly, shuffling through the papers in his binder in search of that night’s homework. “What don’t you get?”

Gaara proved to be much smarter than he’d given himself credit for, which kind of put a dent in Lee’s best-tutor-ever plans but didn’t deter him by any means. He explained the things he knew how to explain and made lots of emotive hand gestures about the things he didn’t. Gaara remained stony-faced and largely silent throughout the whole experience, but Lee was sure they were making progress. Probably.

Before he knew it, Lee had gotten so caught up in the fervor of learning that they were finished with the last worksheet and he had practically forgotten where he was and why it was weird for him to be there.

“How about we keep meeting on Mondays until you start passing?” Lee asked, looking around for his pen before he realized that he was sitting on it. Gaara thought about it for a second and then nodded.

Lee shoved the pen in his backpack before standing up and stretching. “See you in class,” he said, and found himself not actually horrified at the prospect. Gaara didn’t respond, but Lee hadn’t expected him to.

When he went back downstairs he passed Gaara’s sister in the hall and waved, ignoring her surprised expression.

--- --- ---

Sakura was fuming in her last period while the teacher gave a lecture about something that she frankly could not be fucked to think about right now.

Logically she knew that she shouldn’t let Ino get to her, because that was exactly what she wanted. But ever since they were kids, Ino had always known exactly what to do that would make Sakura forget all the shit adults always said about walking away and being the bigger person.

The difference was that back then it was all more or less in fun, and now Sakura was starting to think that the next time Ino tried to start something, she’d break her nose. It was definitely a departure from braiding each other’s hair and pretending to be superheroes when they were ten.

Things started changing when Ino started liking boys – they liked her back, and both parties rapidly lost interest in Sakura. She’d known then that things between them would never end well. So in eighth grade she’d cut off her hair and dyed the remainder of it pink to seal the deal, and ever since then the two of them had grown further and further apart until it got to the point where they were getting in fights every time they saw each other.

No matter who ended up with a broken nose, though, Sakura wasn’t sorry. If she’d stayed friends with Ino she would never have gotten to know Naruto, or Lee or Kiba. And sure, maybe none of them had any idea how to act around a girl and were also probably insane, but they was still the best friends she had. Not to mention the fact that unless something really fucked-up happened none of them were going to grow boobs and start ignoring her.

The mental image of Lee with boobs lightened her mood a little, and by the time the final bell rang Sakura felt a little bit better about the whole thing. She grabbed her bag and walked out of the classroom, pausing in the hallway when she saw Hinata and smiling a hello.

“Hey,” said Hinata, nervously sidestepping a girl trying to get to her locker.

Before Sakura could reply, Ino walked by with Tenten from fencing club and Temari the cheerleader. Sakura didn’t know either of them well, but they were with Ino and that was enough of a first impression for her. While she was busy glaring at them, some kid tripped when his friend jokingly stuck out his foot and knocked against Ino, who stumbled and hip-checked Hinata while she was trying to regain her balance, consequently knocked Hinata’s binder full of papers onto the ground and spilling the contents everywhere.

For a second it almost looked like Ino was going to come forward and help Hinata with her stuff. Then she glanced back at her waiting friends and seemed to collect herself, giving the two of them one last look before walking away without a word.

Sakura watched them go in disbelief, all of her anger from before rushing back in full force. She bent down and rescued some math homework from getting stepped on, returning it with a smile that felt forced and must’ve looked it too, if Hinata’s worried expression was anything to go by. “Sorry,” Sakura sighed, gathering up some more papers and straightening them out. “She’s just such a bitch.”

Hinata bit her lip. “She’s not so bad,” she said, stuffing an English packet in the front pocket of her binder. “I think I got everything.”

“If you say so.” Sakura walked Hinata out to her car and then got into her own, thinking hard the whole time. Yesterday at lunch she and Naruto had just been joking around, but the more she thought about it the more she realized that Naruto’s whole year of justice thing might not actually be such a terrible idea.

The next morning Sakura got to school early so that she could find Naruto before class started. He was sitting on the steps in front of the school, yawning hugely with his hair sticking up on one side and flat on the other.

“Wake up,” Sakura said, sitting down next to him and producing one of her mom’s breakfast rolls wrapped in a napkin from inside her bag. Naruto was a dead man walking in the mornings, so she’d planned ahead. Suddenly seeming a whole lot more awake, Naruto made a weak grab for the roll. Sakura passed it over and waited until he’d finished inhaling it to start talking.

“I decided I’m on board with Operation Year of Justice,” she said. “We have to do something about them.”

Now Naruto seemed wide-awake. He jumped to his feet and grinned, showing an unnatural amount of teeth. “Glad you’re finally seeing it my way.”

They ended up skipping first period to go to the library, sitting at a table in the far corner of the biography room since no one ever went in there voluntarily.

“There’s only one thing to do,” Naruto said. “War. Total unmitigated warfare.”

Sakura smiled contentedly at the thought of declaring war on Ino. And then maybe running her over with a tank.

“What do you mean war, though?” she asked. “It’s not like we can go around dropping bombs on them.”

Naruto opened his mouth to answer and then closed it again. “I don’t know, actually,” he confessed. “Something awesome would probably be good.”

Sakura rolled her eyes. She probably deserved it for expecting Naruto to actually be prepared for something. They sat there in silence for a few moments, scouring their brains for ideas. After a few seconds, Naruto’s face lit up.

“Pranks!” he said happily. “It’s so obvious. We’ll have a prank war.”

Sakura considered it. The tank idea was better, of course, but probably a little bit unrealistic. Pranks could work.

“Let’s go for it,” she said decisively.

--- --- ---

Naruto was in his second period history class, glancing restlessly up at the clock every few seconds. The first thing he and Sakura had decided was that they wouldn’t be able to pull off much of anything if they didn’t have help. Lee and Kiba would definitely be on board, and Sakura had said that her friend Hinata could probably be convinced as well. Beyond that, Naruto wasn’t sure.

Figuring he might as well make some headway with the plan since it didn’t look like he’d be getting any more learning done than usual, Naruto pulled out his phone and texted the basics of the plan to Kiba underneath his desk, asking if he was in.

Approximately seven seconds later Naruto’s phone vibrated with Kiba’s response, which was, in essence, “fuck yeah.” Naruto grinned to himself, satisfied. He’d known Kiba would love the idea. The whole reason they were friends in the first place had a lot to do with things of this nature. However, there was still the problem of who else to ask.

He, Lee and Sakura (Kiba had lunch detention) talked about it that afternoon after Lee received a quick briefing on the situation. Or rather, Naruto talked about it while Sakura checked out Sasuke and Lee wrote furiously in a notebook. When Naruto asked what he was doing, he just muttered something about lesson plans.

“And after that everyone else will be unicorns, but I have the space suits so it’s fine,” Naruto tried.

“Yeah, good,” Sakura said absently. “Can you move a little to the left?”

Naruto put his head down on the table. “God dammit, Sakura.”

She just laughed, reaching across the table for one of his Pringles. Which she totally did not deserve. “I’m fucking with you. Also I’ve been thinking. Why don’t we ask Shikamaru and Chouji?”

Naruto considered it. Everyone knew that Shikamaru was a genius, and they did both owe Naruto one for that time he helped bust Chouji out of fat camp. However, everyone also knew that except when it came to bailing his friends out of institutionalized weight-loss programs, Shikamaru was possibly the laziest person in the entire known universe.

Naruto decided it couldn’t hurt to try, either way. “I’ll go ask them now,” he said, standing up and making sure to shoot a glare at Sasuke as he walked by the bastard’s table. Sasuke ignored him, of course, but it only served to make Naruto even more determined to get him to notice.

Shikamaru and Chouji were in their usual spot underneath a tree a little ways away from the cafeteria tables. Shikamaru was leaning against the trunk with his eyes closed, and Chouji was sprawled out in the shade, munching contentedly on a bag of chips. It occurred to Naruto that it was more than likely they were both monumentally baked. He couldn’t decide if that meant they would be more or less receptive to his plan.

“I have a proposition,” he announced loudly, because they probably wouldn’t have noticed he was there otherwise.

Shikamaru cracked an eye to show that he was listening. “Whaddyou want?” he asked in a disgruntled way at the same time that Chouji glanced up from his chips and said “Oh, hey.”

Naruto repeated the same thing he’d told the others and then waited for their answer. The whole thing sounded a lot less cool in words than it had in text form, probably because he couldn’t pronounce most of the words he’d used to describe it to Kiba. He more than likely didn’t spell them right, either, but it wasn’t like Kiba would notice. Shikamaru, on the other hand, was a different story. There was no telling whether or not he’d do it, and if he didn’t then Chouji probably wouldn’t either.

The two of them were silent for so long that Naruto was beginning to wonder if they’d even heard him when Shikamaru finally spoke. “That sounds like a lot of work.”

“It’s for a good cause,” Naruto interjected hastily. “Plus you owe me,” he added, throwing a significant look at Chouji’s bag of chips.

Shikamaru rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll do it.”

“Me too, I guess,” Chouji added. “But where are we meeting?”

“Uh, actually I was hoping you guys could help with that,” Naruto improvised. Truthfully, he hadn’t even thought about it until that exact moment.

Shikamaru and Chouji exchanged a glance, and Naruto was fleetingly worried that the two of them were going to quit already.

Instead, Shikamaru yawned and cracked his knuckles. “No one uses the band room after school on Thursdays,” he suggested.

“That’s perfect!” Naruto said immediately. “I’ll see you guys then?”

“Sure,” said Chouji, already ignoring him again in favor of the chips.

Naruto returned to the lunch table, where Sakura was busy texting someone. She put away her phone when she saw Naruto coming and grinned. “Hinata says she’ll help! And Neji is her cousin, so she can totally go undercover and find out stuff about him.”

Naruto made a victory fist and shook it at nothing in particular. “Shikamaru and Chouji said yes too, and we came up with a meeting place. Band room after school on Thursdays.”

Lee looked up from his notebook and grinned, but Sakura frowned as if something had just occurred to her. “So now that we have people to help us, what’re we actually going to do?”

Naruto shrugged. “I don’t actually know. But I guess we’ll have to figure something out.”

Naruto spent the next two days alternating between getting excited about serving Sasuke a nice big slice of justice pie, and being worrying that they wouldn’t actually be able to get anything accomplished.

By the time he showed up to the band room after school that Thursday, Shikamaru and Chouji were already there, Chouji putting away his trumpet in the storage room and Shikamaru lounging in one of the blue plastic chairs arranged throughout the room. Sakura was there too, and the others filtered in after that with varying degrees of lateness. It turned out that Hinata knew Shikamaru and Chouji, Lee knew Kiba, and Sakura knew everybody, so things weren’t as awkward as Naruto thought they might be. In fact, it seemed like everyone was more interested in chatting about who was taking what classes and which teachers were total assholes than the actual situation at hand.

Naruto tried clearing his throat significantly, but no one even looked in his direction. “Hey,” he tried saying loudly. After a couple more tries, everyone was more or less paying attention.

“So,” he began, walking to stand in front of the conductor’s stand. “We all know why we’re here.”

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” Chouji interjected. “If Sakon finds out you messed with his stuff, he’ll flip.”

“We’re here because we’re sick of taking shit from people,” Naruto continued, ignoring him. “So we’re going to do something about it.”

Sakura nodded, pleased, and Shikamaru stopped looking bored for long enough to ask a question. “That sounds great and all, but what kind of pranks can we actually pull on them? It’s not like we can break into their houses and cover their toilet seats in Saran wrap or whatever.”

“We should start off with small stuff,” said Naruto, feeling a lot more like an evil general than he ever thought he had the capacity to. “To let them know we’re watching them. And we should probably try to hit them in pairs, so that they’ll be sure to talk about it.”

“We could steal their lunches,” Chouji suggested thoughtfully. “And then eat them.”

Sakura shook her head. “It has to make a statement, you know?”

“My dog can piss in the football team’s water cooler,” Kiba suggested. “That way it’s a statement and we’re also making that Kankuro dude drink pee, since he’s on the team. Plus if we mess with Temari too then they’ll definitely talk about it because they’re related. It’s perfect.”

“What about Gaara?” Shikamaru asked. “He’s their brother, right?”

“Two’s good,” Lee interjected quickly. Everyone looked over at him, and he flushed a rather uncharacteristic shade of red.

Naruto just shrugged. Two probably was good, to start with. Admittedly he had wanted to do something targeting Sasuke for their first act of war, but it was still a pretty solid idea.

“There’s a Trig test coming up,” Hinata volunteered. “And I know Temari gets peer tutoring. So maybe we could pay off her tutor to give her messed-up answers, or something.”

“Perfect,” said Naruto, beaming at Hinata, who gulped. “I hear she terrorizes that kid anyway.”

“Wait, peer tutoring?” asked Lee, looking shocked. “When did we get that?”

“It’s new this year,” Sakura said. “Why?”

“No reason,” Lee answered immediately, but he stayed quiet for the rest of the meeting.

--- --- ---

Lee spent a good amount of Friday and the weekend trying to work through what the others had said in his mind. If the school offered peer tutoring, then why had Gaara asked him for help instead of going to them? Was this entire thing some kind of elaborate assassination attempt? On the other hand, it could’ve been that he just didn’t know about it. Lee hadn’t until yesterday, after all.

But if his own sister was getting tutored in Trig then he had to, right? And thinking about Gaara’s sister brought up the whole other problem of him feeling guilty about pulling pranks on Gaara’s siblings right underneath his nose.

Finally Lee decided to just put the whole thing out of his mind and keep focusing on his best-tutor-ever plans. By the time English rolled around on Monday he was feeling confident enough to smile and wave at Gaara from his desk as he sat down. Gaara looked momentarily confused and then raised a wary hand in greeting, much to the shock of the people sitting around him. Lee relaxed. He was totally overreacting, and there was definitely a valid explanation as to why Gaara didn’t go to peer tutoring.

Gaara was waiting for him after class. “Are you coming over today?” he asked, voice as expressionless as usual.

“Sure,” Lee answered, grinning cheerfully until it occurred to him that maybe Gaara had finally found out about the peer tutoring and was trying to find a way to let him down easy. “I mean,” he amended carefully, trying to look disinterested. “If you want me to. And stuff.”

Gaara looked at him like he was an alien before shaking his head and motioning for Lee to follow him to the parking lot. Lee figured that meant his services were still needed and set off after Gaara with no complaints.

Pretty soon he was standing at the front door of Gaara’s house for the second time. They walked up the stairs to his room, which looked just as normal as it had last week. Gaara asked a question about the homework before Lee had a chance to over-think things and start getting all freaked out about being there again, and pretty soon Lee realized that he wasn’t really freaked out at all. He used the notes he’d made during lunch to improve his already-awesome tutoring technique even further, and every so often Gaara actually cracked a smile, even while they were tackling the considerable amount of homework assigned that day.

After they had answered the last annoying question on the last annoying handout about gerunds, Lee stretched his arms and yawned. “That was slave labor,” he complained.

Gaara let out a grunt that Lee assumed was one of agreement. “Thanks for helping me,” he said after a beat of silence. Lee glanced up at him, surprised, and then beamed.

“No problem! You’re smart, so it’s easy.” Even as he smiled at Gaara, Lee was starting to feel guilty yet again about the pranks he was going to help pull on Temari and Kankuro the next day. It hadn’t really occurred to him when Naruto first told him what they were going to do, but they were Gaara’s family, and the more Lee talked to Gaara, the nicer and less scary he seemed. The whole thing just seemed way too morally questionable for Lee’s taste.

“So,” he began, grin fading. “I should go.”

Gaara just nodded, and Lee clambered up from where he’d been sitting on the floor. He made it about halfway out of the room before his conscience made him turn around. He wondered if Gaara would be mad. Lee didn’t have any siblings but he was sure he’d want to defend their honor if he did, so he was expecting at least a little bit of protective rage.

“Uh. Actually, I have to tell you something.”

Gaara looked up at him quizzically, still sitting on the floor and sorting out his papers. “Yeah?”

Lee took a deep breath. Part of him couldn’t believe he was ratting out Naruto when his plan was still in its beginning stages, and the other part couldn’t believe that he’d gone for this long without telling Gaara about what was going to happen.

“We told Temari’s tutor to give her the wrong answers for the Trig test. And tomorrow at football practice there’s going to be dog piss in the water cooler,” Lee said all in a rush. “There’s kind of this prank thing going on.” Inwardly, Lee winced. The whole thing sounded a lot more impressive and less sociopathic when Sakura or Naruto explained it.

But instead of ordering Lee out of his house or something, Gaara just gave him an unreadable look and said, “So?”

Lee boggled. This was definitely not protective rage. “But they’re your brother and sister! Aren’t you at least gonna warn them or something?”

Gaara just shrugged. “They probably deserve it. Why do you care, anyway?”

Lee’s attempts to process Gaara’s apathy were largely unsuccessful. “Because we’re friends,” he said at last, bewildered.

Gaara actually looked surprised for a second at this. “Friends?” he asked warily.

“Well, yeah,” said Lee. As far as Lee was concerned, they’d been friends since the first time Gaara laughed at one of his jokes and Lee found out that he wasn’t nearly as homicidal as people made him out to be. Probably.

Gaara frowned as if he were considering this, and then one corner of his mouth twitched up. It looked more like a smirk than an overture towards friendship, but Lee would take what he could get. He grinned back for a few seconds until he realized that it was probably sort of weird for them to just be hanging around in Gaara’s room smiling at each other if all of the homework was done. “I really do have to go,” he said finally, waving at Gaara kind of stupidly before ducking out of his room.

As he made his way down the stairs and out to his car, Lee realized that his heart was beating kind of fast. Which was weird, because he barely even broke a sweat over something less strenuous than his fifth mile of nonstop sprinting. Not quite sure what to make of that, he decided to just pretend it wasn’t happening, got into his car and drove off.

When Lee got home there was a text waiting for him from Naruto, saying that he was assigned lookout duty while Kiba’s dog Akamaru peed in the water cooler on Thursday after school, and they had already bribed Temari’s tutor into teaching her stuff from a completely different chapter before the test. He sounded so excited about the whole thing, even in text-form, that on top of feeling bad for waiting so long to tell Gaara about the pranks, Lee felt guilty for undermining Naruto’s strategy.

He went to bed thinking about it and woke up the same way, pretty much operating on autopilot for most of the next few days. When he walked into English that Thursday he forgot to wave at Gaara, instead flopping down into his seat and checking the time as if some sort of magic might have occurred while he wasn’t looking and class was already over.

The next hour passed in a haze of boring, and Lee didn’t really snap out of it until he was walking out the door and heading down to the field to keep watch while Akamaru did his thing. Before he could even get halfway there, Gaara materialized out of nowhere and cornered him against some lockers. He was frowning. Lee gulped and wondered if he’d ended up reconsidering the whole family honor thing after all.

“What’s wrong?” Gaara asked instead, immediately making Lee feel terrible for thinking the worst of him. Again.

“Nothing!” Lee said hastily, attempting a winning smile. Gaara didn’t look like he was buying it. He stepped closer, peering suspiciously into Lee’s face, which chose that moment to turn as red as Gaara’s hair. His heart was beating in overtime again. Maybe he needed to cut back on the sit-ups. He quickly sidestepped Gaara before he had a chance to notice that Lee was apparently going insane. “I’m fine, and actually I have to leave right now, so I’ll see you--”

“I know it’s not Monday,” Gaara said, completely ignoring Lee’s floundering, “But I was wondering if you wanted to hang out. Or whatever.”

The phrase ‘hang out’ sounded so foreign coming out of Gaara’s mouth that, if he didn’t feel so dizzy all of a sudden, Lee would probably burst out laughing. As it were, it was all he could do to stare at Gaara in shock. He wanted to hang out? With Lee? No way. Gaara must have had him confused with some guy with better fashion sense and less eyebrows. Not that Lee’s eyebrows weren’t magnificent and his dress sense top-notch, of course, but over the years he’d come to learn that some people just couldn’t appreciate greatness when it was standing right in front of them. Most people, actually.

The next thing he thought was that blowing off lookout duty to go hang out with Gaara sounded like the best idea he’d heard all day, but he knew that if he did Naruto would literally murder him.

“That’d be awesome,” Lee said with every ounce of sincerity he could muster, trying to ignore his pounding heart. “But I seriously have to go right now. Is tomorrow okay?”

Gaara nodded. Lee broke into a pleased grin and gave him another thumbs-up, jogging backward down the halls until the flow of student traffic obscured Gaara from view, at which point he turned around and pelted towards the football field, feeling light-headed and buoyant even though he was so late by now that Naruto was probably going to murder him anyway.

Once he got there, practice had already started and he could see Naruto and Kiba hiding in their vantage point behind the bleachers, gesturing at him frantically. He hurried over to them, doing his best not to be seen by the football team. Thankfully, they were all too busy with their squat-thrusts to notice him.

Once he reached them, Kiba’s gigantic dog Akamaru bounded forward to give his face a few cursory licks.

“Lee, what the hell?” Naruto hissed. “You’re supposed to be the lookout. The coach almost caught us!”

“Sorry,” Lee whispered back. “Got held up.” Neither of them looked particularly appeased.

The only thing left to do now was wait until the team stopped to get water, which only happened after they’d been chasing each other around and doing other football things for an hour or so. Finally a line formed at the water cooler, and Kiba and Naruto looked positively giddy with anticipation. Lee tried not to seem too uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, nothing happened to the first guy except for him making a weird face and tossing the cup behind him while it was still half-full. It went the same way for everyone else on the team who got water, including Kankuro.

Kiba huffed disappointedly. “That was lame, I thought they’d figure it out. We should just go out there and tell ‘em they’re drinking dog piss.” Naruto nodded appraisingly, and vivid images of the football team working together to disembowel the three of them flashed through Lee’s mind.

“No,” he told them in his firmest voice. “We can start a rumor about it or something later, but for now just wait.”

Kiba and Naruto reluctantly agreed, and the three of them settled down with Akamaru to wait for the practice to end so that they could sneak away.

Eventually Kankuro came out of the locker room to stand in front of the bleachers they were hiding behind. A minute later Temari walked over from the direction of the parking lot, presumably to pick him up.

“Oh,” she sighed, looking disappointedly out at the emptying field. “Did I miss it?”

Kankuro rolled his eyes, wiping sweat off his forehead. “Hey, there any water in the car? The stuff they gave us today tasted weird.”

Temari frowned. “I think so,” she said. “Come on.”

As the two of them walked away, Lee thought he heard her say, “I totally bombed that test in Trig.”

“Yeah, it was hard,” Kankuro replied.

“Whatever,” she said, and then they were out of earshot.

Naruto and Kiba were disappointed, complaining loudly as they parted ways. Kiba had to take Akamaru home, but Naruto and Lee were heading back to the band room to reconvene with the others. Lee knew he should probably be disappointed that both their pranks had totally bombed, but It kind of felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. It was over, nothing especially terrible had happened – and tomorrow, he and Gaara were actually going to hang out. Things could definitely have gone a lot worse.

--- --- ---

Sakura checked out the window for Naruto and Lee for the fifth time that afternoon. They really should have been back by now. She took out her phone and fired off a text, but before she could hit send she saw their rather dejected-looking forms heading towards the band room.

“Total bust,” Naruto groaned once they got inside. Lee nodded in assent.

"How so?" Hinata asked from the corner, looking worried.

“The team barely noticed anything wrong with the water, and Temari didn't care that she failed."

“Figures,” sighed Sakura, fighting the urge to throw up her hands in exasperation. Hinata sighed resignedly, and Shikamaru rolled his eyes. Indignant at their lack of motivation, Naruto glared around the room.

"Hey!" he said. "We can't give up just like that! We’re just starting.”

“Pizza Hut wasn’t built in a day,” Chouji supplied helpfully.

“Right,” Naruto said, as if that made perfect sense. “We can't let one little setback get in the way of our plans for ultimate domination, can we?”

"I say we keep trying to get them two at a time," Shikamaru offered thoughtfully. "Maybe Neji and that redheaded guy can be next. They talk sometimes, right?”

At this, Lee, who had previously been sprawled across the length of three plastic chairs, sat bolt upright and immediately protested, “No way!”

When even Chouji looked up from his chips long enough to shoot him a confused glance, Lee reddened. "I mean," he said hastily. "Shouldn't we try someone different? Like, I dunno, Sasuke and Ino?" he asked, shooting a hopeful side-eye in Naruto and Sakura’s direction.

Sakura frowned. Something was clearly up. But Lee seemed to be trying to hide it, in his own inept way, and Naruto was too distracted by the idea of pranking Sasuke to notice. "I’m down,” he said gleefully. “But what should we do?”

“Put a dead fish in one of their lockers,” Chouji suggested.

Sakura shuddered at the thought, but the suggestion seemed to be right up Naruto’s alley if the grin rapidly spreading across his face was anything to go by.

Sakura wouldn’t have minded doing something like that to Ino, really, but no amount of intense dislike for someone was enough to justify handling dead sea life. No, it would have to be something else. Something classic, that didn’t smell.

All of a sudden, Sakura was hit by inspiration.

"We're going to TP Ino's house," she announced.

“Not bad,” said Shikamaru. “Our dads are friends with hers,” he said, gesturing to Chouji. “So we know where she lives.”

“Yeah, so do I,” Sakura said darkly. “But we should all just take one car so there’s less chance of getting caught. I can borrow my mom’s minivan.”

“When?” Hinata asked.

"Next weekend. You guys in?”

“Hell yeah. Kiba, too,” said Naruto as he pulled out his phone and started to text away furiously.

The meeting broke up a few minutes after that, with Sakura promising to borrow her mom’s minivan the Friday after next and pick everyone up so that they could do the deed. As she drove home, Sakura glanced over at the side-street that led to Ino’s neighborhood. It would be the first time she’d been there in a while, to say the least.

The days leading up to it proved to be weirdly satisfying. Whenever Ino shot a cutting glance or snide remark her way, Sakura found it just that little bit easier to ignore her. Because after all this time Sakura was finally going to have the upper hand, and it felt awesome.

On the Friday they decided on, Sakura told her mom she was going to the movies and wouldn't be back until late and then comandeered the minivan. She picked up Naruto first because he lived closest. Predictably, he'd overdone it, dressed all in black with twin smudges of war paint on his face and armful after armful of toilet paper in tow. Sakura stuffed it all into the trunk next to the rolls that she bought, and they drove on.

Naruto’s excitement was infectious, and in a few minutes both of them were giggling like idiots. Hinata looked positively terrified when they came to pick her up, but Chouji showed his devotion to the project by not bringing any snacks along. Shikamaru had apparently fallen asleep waiting for them, and he came out of his house looking rumpled and annoyed. Lee’s green tracksuit, orange leg-warmers and blinding smile all seemed somehow even more conspicuous in the dark. Sakura couldn’t bring herself to really say anything about it, but she had a sneaking suspicion that this wasn’t going to be a particularly stealthy operation.

Kiba was the last one to get picked up, piling in the back and ending up half on Hinata’s lap and half on Naruto’s.

“Nice outfit, dude,” he snickered the minute he was settled inside the car.

Naruto scowled. “Shut up,” he said, punching Kiba on the arm. “It’s stealthy.”

“No, yeah,” Kiba said, trying and failing to keep a straight face as he reached over and took a swing at the side of Naruto’s head in retaliation. “You’re Batman.”

This resulted in a scuffle that practically knocked Hinata into the trunk with all the toilet paper, and then Sakura had to yell at everyone from the front seat until everyone sheepishly agreed to behave themselves.

Soon they were approaching the street that Ino lived on. Earlier animosity forgotten, Kiba and Naruto whispered together excitedly, Lee interjecting from time to time and Hinata looking around like she expected someone to come bursting from the foliage and catch them at any moment.

They pulled up to the curb at the end of the cul-de-sac, unloaded the toilet paper from the trunk, and walked the rest of the way to Ino’s house. Chouji had done some recon yesterday and found out that Ino was supposed to be staying at Temari’s that night, and it was late enough that her parents probably wouldn't be awake. There weren’t any lights on in the house, or in any of the neighboring ones either. They couldn't have asked for more perfect conditions.

Sakura led leading the way onto Ino's perfectly manicured lawn. For a moment they all just stood there in the dark. Ino’s dad was notoriously terrifying, and no one wanted to think about what he’d do if they got caught.

It was Sakura who first threw caution to the winds and grabbed the first roll, sending it flying at one of the stupidly well-maintained trees surrounding Ino’s house. The roll soared through the air for what felt like forever, highlighted starkly by the night sky before it entangled itself in the branches of the tree. It was beyond perfect, and Sakura knew they were supposed to be quiet but she couldn't stop herself from making a triumphant noise as she grabbed for more. Around her the others were following her example, covering Ino's trees and lawn and the house itself.

It felt like they were there for hours, laughing and shushing each other and chucking toilet paper anywhere it would stay. Sakura was just noting with no small measure of satisfaction that the dew on the grass was turning the paper into a gray and pasty mess that would definitely be hard to clean up in the morning when a neighbor's light flicked on across the street. For a moment everyone froze, staring fixedly across the street at the light until Chouji’s voice broke the spell.

"Abort!" he whisper-shouted, making a break for the van after he’d tossed a farewell handful of toilet paper in the general direction of Ino's front door. It didn't take long for the rest of them to follow suit, crouching down in a scuttling half-run to the minivan, short of breath and choking on their own laughter.

Once they were all in the van and the doors were safely closed, Sakura peeled away as quietly as possible, not waiting around to see whether or not the neighbor would come out to investigate. By the time they were a few blocks away from Ino’s neighborhood they figured they were home free, laughing and comparing notes on the quantities of toilet paper they’d managed to dump off on Ino’s lawn. Kiba had sprawled himself across Hinata's lap now but she didn't seem to mind, laughing with her head thrown back at something Shikamaru was muttering under his breath. Sakura was having a hard time concentrating on driving, and she only really got her breath back after she’d dropped Naruto off at his house and was almost home. She checked the trunk before she went inside, making sure that there wasn’t any extra toilet paper that could have been used as incriminating evidence.

--- --- ---

Sasuke Uchiha was not having a good morning. His car had almost run out of gas on the way to school, he left his math notebook at home, and now, as he stood in front of his locker and noticed the stench currently emanating from it, he was pretty sure that things were about to take a turn for the ridiculously terrible.

Sasuke entered his combination and opened the locker door wariy, fighting the urge to punch a hole in something as his suspicions were confirmed. A dead, reeking fish was sitting on top of his History textbook, plain as day. He’d been told before that he was an angry person, but never had the concept of homicide seemed so attractive.

Sasuke tried to consider the facts. The biggest suspect was obviously that Naruto idiot. Sasuke didn’t delude himself into thinking that everyone loved him, but he was pretty sure Uzumaki was the only one who actually cared enough to stick a dead fish in his locker.

And of course the only thing that someone like Naruto would want want out of this whole situation would be for Sasuke to lose his temper and retaliate with more stupid pranks. And no matter how much he wanted to, he couldn’t give Naruto the satisfaction.

Sasuke pinched the barest edge of the fish’s tail between his thumb and index finger, tossing it carelessly out of his locker and into the path of an oncoming freshman.

With that, he grabbed his evil-smelling History textbook and headed to class, trying as hard as he could not to think about that Naruto kid as he went, because he didn’t entirely trust himself not to punch the nearest person in the face if he did.

By the time lunch rolled around Sasuke had managed to cool down somewhat, mostly by spending a cathartic several periods thinking up creative and unpleasant deaths for Naruto Uzumaki and everyone associated with him.

When he got to his table, the only other person there was Ino. She looked angry even from far away, and Sasuke entertained the notion of just fleeing while he had the chance, but it was too late. She’d already seen him.

"I am so pissed right now," she scowled as he sat down, picking viciously at the salad in front of her. Then she looked at Sasuke expectantly. Sasuke just gave her his blankest look.

Rolling her eyes at him, she continued. "Someone TP'd my house on Friday. And there’s no way it wasn’t Sakura and all her stupid friends." Ino pushed her salad away vehemently and started muttering about how she'd had to clean the whole thing up herself, Sasuke more or less completely forgotten.

At any other time Sasuke would have been more than happy with this arrangement, but his mind was whirring to process what Ino had just said and how it figured into the dead fish incident from this morning. Before he could say anything about it, Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro slid in next to Ino.

“That fucking Trig test dropped my grade even lower than it was already," Temari grumbled as she sat down, shooting a considering look at Ino’s salad. "And that kid who's supposed to be tutoring me's been acting weird.”

Kankuro snickered. "I thought you didn't care about Trig."

Temari rolled her eyes. "Whatever. You gonna eat that?" The last part of the sentence was directed at Ino, who just shook her head mutely, still fuming.

Kankuro gave his own lunch an uneasy look. "Take mine too. I heard some junior brats put dog piss in the water cooler at football practice the other day. Not exactly hungry anymore."

"I heard that too," said Temari. This time it was her turn to laugh at her brother, and his turn to aim a punch at her shoulder. Through all of this Gaara remained perfectly silent, staring straight ahead. Maybe it was Sasuke's imagination, but he almost looked amused.

Sasuke frowned. The more he listened to the three of them, the more he thought that maybe all the shit happening to them was more than coincidence.

"Someone put a dead fish in my locker," he announced suddenly, cutting off Ino as she started to tell Temari more about the TPing incident. The four of them turned to send Sasuke identical confused looks.

“This stuff isn't an accident," he clarified. "They're doing it on purpose. I think it might be Naruto Uzumaki and all his loser friends."

Kankuro frowned for a moment, and then an expression of comprehension crossed his face, quickly followed by one of anger. "So let’s get ‘em," he said. Temari, though slightly less affronted, agreed with him immediately.

"Totally," said Ino, who still looked pretty furious. Sasuke nodded, and the four of them turned to Gaara. He still hadn't said a word yet, but the kid was a creep. Sasuke was pretty confident that he'd be down for anything that involved the pain of others.

Which was why it was strange when he gave them a considering look, said, “no,” and walked away.

Ino stared after him, shocked, but Temari and Kankuro didn't look very surprised. "He has the hots for one of Naruto’s friends," Temari explained, not sounding particularly concerned with the idea. Kankuro just shrugged. "We can get other people."

Ino nodded consideringly. "I know Tenten will, and maybe she can get Neji too."

"What about Shino?" Sasuke asked. Everyone mentioned was considered popular in some capacity or another by the general population of the school, which meant that they were likely targets for possible future prankings from Uzumaki.

"Shino might," said Kankuro. The four of them spent the rest of their lunch period discussing possible plans of action, and when the bell rang Sasuke went away to Trig feeling accomplished. So much so, in fact, that he decided he might as well get a head start. Naruto happened to sit in front of him in that class, and he was perpetually sleeping or chattering at the person next to him or doodling instead of taking notes. It was all kinds of infuriating to begin with, and even more so now that all of Sasuke’s books smelled like dead fish.

So, he deployed a plan. It started out small enough, nothing but Sasuke kicking the back of Naruto's chair every so often. Then, after a while the kicks started to increase in velocity and the time in between them decreased. Naruto ignored it for as long as he could, but Sasuke could see him struggling with himself. Finally, when he couldn't take it anymore, he turned around and fixed Sasuke with an impressive glare. Saskuke just smirked and kicked even harder. Naruto whipped back around, fuming. Sasuke couldn't see him, but he could tell that he was close to the breaking point.

Sasuke started clicking his pen annoyingly in time with his kicks, which by now were coming fast and hard. Just like he thought, Naruto cracked like an egg.

He turned around again in the middle of the teacher explaining something about asymptotes and yelled "Cut it the fuck out!" right in Sasuke's still-smirking face. There was a beat of stunned silence and then the teacher was striding over to Naruto and Sasuke's seats, frowning impressively and talking about inappropriate language. Naruto rolled his eyes but hung his head obediently, and eventually the teacher wrote him out a detention slip with the promise that next time it would be a referral. Naruto only nodded mutely, sneaking a look at Sasuke from underneath his stupid blonde hair. For a split second, the idiot actually had the nerve to look hurt, like he didn't deserve everything that Sasuke could throw at him. But then, so quickly that Sasuke thought he must have imagined it, the hurt look was replaced by a glare that communicated something along the lines of, "you'll have to do a lot better than that, bastard."

And just like that, the war was on.

--- --- ---

As he was heading out to his car after his detention, still fuming about what that bastard Sasuke had made him do, Naruto's phone vibrated in his pocket. It was a text from Sakura. Reading as he walked, Naruto found out that Ino had been on the warpath today, and that she’d gone all Terminator on Sakura’s ass in between classes.

If all of the ‘im srsly going 2 kill that bitch u dont even know’ was anything to go by, Sakura was pretty fucking pissed. Naruto hated to add to the rage, but he texted her back telling her about what had happened last period. He was pretty sure that the two incidents coupled together meant Sasuke and Ino were onto them. Naruto couldn't summon up any emotion but savage excitement at this prospect, however. It was probably better this way.

The next day, all hell broke loose.

Shino dumped his ant farm in Kiba’s locker before first period started, someone stole Lee’s extra legwarmers and sent a picture to his phone of them ripped into several pieces, and it all culminated in Neji calling Chouji a fatass in the cafeteria at lunch, which singlehandedly landed the two of them plus Tenten and Shikamaru with referrals for fighting.

Sasuke tried the desk-kicking thing again in Trig, but with a Herculean effort Naruto refused to let himself lose his temper again. After school Naruto followed Sasuke out to the parking lot, cornering him as he cut behind the school to get to his car faster.

"I'm onto you, fuckface," Naruto snarled, pushing Sasuke against the wall while he was still too surprised to react. Sasuke just glared, and Naruto glared right back until he wasn't sure whether or not he'd be able to stop himself from straight fucking this guy up instead of just sticking to the plan.

But before he could move, Sasuke beat him to it. Almost instantaneously, Sasuke reversed their positions until it was Naruto's back pressed against the uncomfortable brick wall of the school building, too fenced-in to take a swing.

For a few seconds Naruto was surprised that Sasuke Pretty-Boy Uchiha was actually stooping so low as to make physical contact with someone like himself, but he got over it soon enough.

Naruto started to struggle madly against Sasuke pinning grip, flailing inexpertly but all the same hard enough that Sasuke was eventually forced to let him go.

Naruto took a swing at Sasuke almost immediately after he was freed, growling. Infuriatingly, Sasuke dodged it with apparent ease. Then he performed some ridiculous move that shouldn't have been physically possible in which he managed to get behind Naruto and push him unceremoniously down onto the asphalt, aiming a kick at his stomach that Naruto managed to roll away from before making a show of dusting off his hands and walking away.

Pride severely wounded, Naruto rolled to his feet and glared after Sasuke. "This isn't over," he yelled as loudly as he could after Sasuke's retreating back.

Sasuke didn't even glance back, but Naruto could hear his disbelieving snort all the same. "Whatever, loser."

--- --- ---

Lee kicked his feet as he sat at Gaara's kitchen table, looking down sort of dubiously at the plate of something that Gaara had set down in front of him. It didn't look particularly edible, but Gaara had made it himself, so Lee made sure to dig into it enthusiastically whenever he noticed Gaara looking at him. Eventually he managed to choke down the whole thing, swallowing down the last bite and trying to keep a pained expression from manifesting itself on his face as he flashed a thumbs-up at Gaara. They'd been hanging out pretty regularly ever since Gaara had asked him to that first time, and during the course of this Lee had discovered that Gaara was secretly awesome, even if he wasn't the best cook in the world. Also that thing about him running over a freshman was totally not true, which did wonders for Lee's confidence around him.

"I can tell you hated it," Gaara informed him bluntly from his place at the kitchen countertop. Lee opened his mouth to protest, but closed it back up again when Gaara fixed him with a look.

"I appreciate the effort," Lee finally settled on, bringing his plate to the sink and scraping it off. "But maybe we should just stick with takeout."

Gaara snickered a little at that before starting up the stairs, a sight that Lee still couldn't really get used to. He laughed too and then followed Gaara up to his room, shutting the door behind them. He may have been fine with Gaara now, but Kankuro was still slightly terrifying, and Temari was from a different world entirely. Lee was grateful that the two of them didn't really seem to care what Gaara got up to in his free time.

Lee yawned and stretched out his shoulders as he took his usual place on Gaara's floor, legs crossed carelessly in front of him. From his place on the bed, Gaara looked down at him and frowned. "Where are your legwarmers?"

"Oh, someone stole 'em. It was kind of creepy actually, they sent a picture of them to me all torn up--very Godfather. Anyway, what do you think of--"

"Who did that?" Gaara interrupted him. His frown had deepened, and he looked kind of mad.

Lee shrugged. "Didn't recognize the number. Why?"

Gaara gave him a look as though he was being slow, which Lee didn't think was particularly fair. "So I can run them over," he said flatly. A couple weeks ago this might have horrified Lee, but by now he could tell from the twitching at the corner of Gaara's mouth and the particular way he said it that Gaara was joking.

"Vehicular manslaughter is never the answer," Lee said seriously, and Gaara laughed again and swatted at his head. Lee was pretty sure he got that from his sister. It was one of the few ways there was to tell they were related at all, similar mannerisms.

"Really," Gaara said after a second. "Find out who did it and then tell me. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

Lee looked up at him again, surprised at how he actually sounded serious this time. "It's alright," he said. "I'll get some new ones."

"You shouldn't have to," Gaara explained, once again as though he was talking to someone exceptionally slow. Lee couldn’t took offense at that.

"They're only legwarmers, it's cool," he insisted, now actually beginning to fear for the livelihood of the legwarmer thief and tactfully neglecting to mention that he was the Green Beast of Konoha High and could therefore beat the shit out of anyone he felt like besides possible Gaara himself.

Gaara cast Lee a look that was almost injured. "But you're my friend."

Lee sat and silently attempted to process this for a few moments. It was the first time that Gaara had actually said that to him. It was understood by now, but hearing it out loud was a different story. To his horror, Lee started to experience the same red-faced, heart-pounding emotion he had the first time Gaara asked him to hang out. He thought he'd managed to control it with the increased amount of time they'd started spending together, but now, apparently, it was back with a vengeance. The best thing for it, he decided, would be to change the subject.

"So I'm kind of stressing about my second draft of this essay, we really should start working on that," he said loudly. Maybe it wasn't the smoothest transition, but as long as they were away from the territory that made Lee feel like his face was going to explode, Lee was happy.

Gaara was having none of it. He climbed down from his bed to sit down on the floor next to Lee, scooting close enough to peer into his face. "Is something wrong?" he asked.

"I, um. No?" Lee tried, forcing himself to look straight into Gaara's pale green eyes in order to convince him that this was actually true. It didn't seem to be working very well, unfortunately. Gaara didn't move away from Lee at all, and he wouldn't stop staring, and the elevated heart rate and red face were coming back in full force. For a second Lee just sat there, fighting the both the urge to fidget and also the urge to run for the hills. Then Gaara leaned just a half an inch closer, maybe even by accident, and without even realizing what he was going to do before he did it Lee sort of lunged forward at Gaara's face and pressed their lips together.

For a while they just sat there, frozen in shock and not touching anywhere except their lips. As far as kisses went, Lee was pretty sure it was kind of far down there on the awesomeness scale. Not to mention they only stayed that way for about two seconds before Lee jumped back as though Gaara had caught on fire, hastily wiping his mouth even though the kiss had been about as dry as it was possible for a kiss to be and backing away towards the door, babbling out mindless apologies as he went.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, oh, God, I'm really sorry," Lee chanted over and over and he groped for the doorknob. "I'll just leave now and we'll forget that that just happened, and yeah. Leaving." He turned around to open the door, and right before he left, Lee allowed himself one tiny glance over his shoulder at Gaara, just one. He would never admit it out loud, but deep down inside himself there lived a tiny spark of hope that maybe, just maybe, Gaara might ask him to stay. But that spark was extinguished once he saw that Gaara was still sitting in the same position Lee had left him in, staring off into space with a fantastic red blush spreading across his face. He didn’t look as though he was going to move anytime soon.

Lee closed the door as gently as possible and then fled the scene. He berated himself for the whole car ride home, and he berated himself while he assured his mother that he wasn't hungry and he berated himself while he got ready for bed and then lay down.

Lee was just about to drift off to sleep when he realized. It all clicked in his brain at once and made him feel like even more of an asshole than he had already. The reason he'd basically mauled Gaara out of nowhere was because of the huge monstrous crush he'd been developing for all the weeks they’d been hanging out.

"Great," Lee thought to himself as he dropped off. "Just fucking great."

--- --- ---

Sakura was stretching in her gym class, breathing hard and still trying to recover from the disproportionately huge number of laps that the gym teacher had forced them all to run. Everyone else in the class was suffering from similar exhaustion. Wiiping sweat from her forehead, Sakura leaned forward in the guise of stretching her hamstrings when actually she was trying to get closer to where Ino and Tenten were talking as they stretched, just as winded as everyone else.

"Yeah," Sakura heard Tenten saying. "My parents are out of town Halloween weekend, so I'm thinking of having a party."

Ino grinned at the news, unnaturally white teeth flashing in the sunlight. The sight of them made Sakura irrationally angry, just like pretty much everything else about Ino that she could think of. "You totally should, it'd be awesome," Ino said, oblivious to the rays of hatred that Sakura was beaming her way.

Putting her anger aside for a moment, though, Sakura had to admit this was a perfect opportunity for something big. However, all of her annoyance came rushing back when Ino glanced over at her with a smirk on her face like she knew Sakura had been listening all along. She led Tenten away out of Sakura's earshot, rolling her eyes and gesturing behind her. Tenten just shrugged and went with her, stretching out her arm and continuing to talk excitedly about the party.

Internally, Sakura smirked too. Ino might think she was making Sakura feel bad for not being cool enough to get invited to some skanky Halloween party, but in reality Sakura already knew everything she needed.

Breath more or less back by now, Sakura walked past Ino and Tenten to the locker room, ignoring them pointedly. The whole thing was rather invigorating, and Sakura managed to hold onto the feeling until she was showered off and getting ready to change when Ino walked by and fake-stumbled, pushing Sakura's bag off the bench she'd set it down on and spilling all of her stuff on the wet concrete floor.

"Sorry," Ino said, grinning, and Sakura could feel her own rage bubbling up and over until she just couldn't take it any more. She forced herself to smile like she didn't care and lean forward as if to start gathering her stuff, but just when Ino thought she wasn't going to retaliate and started to walk away, Sakura leaned forward, grabbed hold of her long, blond, stupidly perfect-looking ponytail, and yanked, just like she had when they were ten and Ino got a better Popsicle flavor than she did. Only this time, there was a whole lot more malicious intent behind it. Ino's head jerked back and she let out a yelp of outrage, struggling free of Sakura's grasp and turning around to face her with murder in her eyes.

"You bitch," she started, advancing on Sakura, and for a second Sakura really thought that they were going to throw down right then and there, in front of everyone else in the locker room. Some of the nearby girls were already gathering in a loose circle around them, expecting a fight. But before anything could happen there was a flash of brown hair and pink t-shirt and Tenten had inserted herself between the two of them, holding Ino back with an enormous amount of effort.

"Come on, Ino, what the hell," she grumbled, bodily dragging Ino away and ignoring her attempts to struggle out of her grasp, glancing back at Sakura and shaking her head as she did so.

Sakura glared at the two of them as they retreated and groped around on the floor until she found her phone, firing off a text to Naruto and the rest of them about what she'd found out about the Halloween party and starting to gather up the rest of her things.

--- --- ---

Another bad morning for Sasuke. This time he accidentally woke up an hour earlier than he should have, and he hadn't figured out that there wasn't any milk left until after he poured his cereal. Which was why, as he pulled into the school parking lot and saw Naruto's familiar loud orange jacket lurking around near his car, he was so incredibly not in the mood.

Maybe if he ignored it, Sasuke thought, it would go away. He tried this line of thinking first, gathering up his backpack which was just starting to lose the smell of fish and making his way past stupid Naruto and his stupid jacket to get to class on time. Or he tried to, at least, but the little shit stuck out a foot in front of Sasuke, blocking his way. And, horror of horrors, in all of his distraction Saskue actually tripped over it.

He couldn't help but let out a grunt of pain as his knees collided painfully with the asphalt and the contents of his backpack went flying everywhere, flushing in anger as he glared up at Naruto with an intensity that would have made weaker men run for the hills. Naruto, who Sasuke felt had always lacked a healthy sense of self-preservation, just laughed wickedly.

That was, until he was rudely pushed aside by several of Sasuke's fans who had been watching the whole debacle and waiting for a change to intervene.

"God, Uzumaki, you idiot," one of them huffed at him before kindly picking up one of Sasuke's notebooks and putting it back in his bag for him helpfully. He ignored her completely in favor of getting to his feet and grabbing ahold of Naruto's wrist before he could get away, snarling and dragging him bodily to the same place behind the school that they'd been the last time they'd fought. Naruto struggled tooth and nail against his grip the whole time, but it was to no avail.

Sasuke had been successful that time, and if the anger thrumming through his veins had anything to do with it he would be successful this time too. Sasuke wasted no time in pushing Naruto back against the wall in a position that seemed practically familiar by now. Naruto just let out a yelp of anger and slammed his fist into Sasuke's jaw, using the moment of shock to twist out of reach and get face-to-face with Sasuke.

Sasuke had to admit, he was a slightly taken aback. He'd beaten Naruto pretty good last time, and yet he didn't look afraid at all. In fact, the closest thing to an emotion that Sasuke could make out on his face was excitement. And that just wouldn't do. He waited until his head had cleared at least a little bit more before darting forward to connect a glancing blow to Naruto's cheek, laughing inwardly as Naruto rubbed the spot and cast a savage look in Sasuke's direction.

The laugh was stolen right out of him, however, when Naruto lunged forward towards Sasuke and managed to use his momentum to drag him halfway down onto the ground again, aiming a blow at his head that he managed to dodge at the expense of getting himself reacquainted with the asphalt after far too short of a time apart. Sasuke executed a haphazard roll and managed to get back up to a crouching position, glaring at Naruto silently. There was a rip in his jeans from falling earlier that was clearly going to get worse before it got better, and being on the ground had gotten his shirt all dusty.

Determined to pay Naruto back what he’d dealt, Sasuke lunged and managed to take Naruto down with him until they were rolling around on the gravel. Without enough space between them to throw a good punch Sasuke did the next best thing, grabbing a handful of Naruto's messy blonde hair and yanking. Instead of being hurt or annoyed, however, Naruto just inhaled sharply and then breathed out a snicker, bracing himself away from Sasuke's hands just to prove it didn't bother him.

"Pulling my hair, seriously? You’re more of a chick than you look like. And you really, really look like one."

Sasuke hadn't noticed before, but they had more or less stopped rolling. Naruto was still underneath him and Sasuke could tell he wasn’t used to it, from the jitter in his knees and the restless flexing of his hands, which were both balled tightly in the fabric of Sasuke's shirt in an attempt to hold him still, probably for a punch. He was breathing hard and Sasuke could see the beginnings of a pretty impressive black eye, but there was a look in his eyes that quite clearly stated, "Come and get it, bitch." Sasuke intended to.

Letting out another muffled snarl of pure annoyance at Naruto's general continued existence, Sasuke abruptly shoved a knee in between his legs. Using the time that Naruto was too busy squawking in outrage to defend himself, Sasuke leaned the rest of the way down and gripped the sides of his face, crushing their lips together.

Hard enough to bruise, hard enough that both of them would feel it for the rest of the day. He managed to hold on to Naruto, who was struggling like barely-contained dynamite, for a few more seconds before pushing away from his roughly. Sasuke clambered to his feet and then kneed Naruto in the stomach for good measure, walking back towards the parking lot to reclaim his backpack and ignoring the deeply outraged litany of curses that poured from Naruto's mouth at Sasuke's retreating back as he walked away, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth even as he recalled the lingering feeling of Naruto pushed against him, hard and close.

--- --- ---

For once in his life, Naruto was genuinely at a loss.

By the time he'd managed to pick himself up and dust himself off, Sasuke was long gone and the late bell for first period had already rung. There really was nothing else for it but to dust the asphalt off of his jeans, shoulder his previously dropped backpack and head into school, ignoring the lingering glares he received from Sasuke's fan-club on the way. He had the feeling that if they knew about what had just happened, he would be getting a lot more than glares from them. As it were, all he could do was head to his first period and sit down, staring off into space and trying to process what had just happened.

Sasuke had kissed him. But how was that even possible? Could it have been some kind of mistake? Naruto really didn't know how you could accidentally kiss someone. So it'd been on purpose, then. But seriously, what the fuck? Naruto knew that he should probably feel outraged and disgusted. And sure, he totally did. Making out with your arch-nemesis was completely unacceptable and wrong on so many levels, obviously.

But the confusion was stronger than any rage he could sum up at the situation. Why the hell would Sasuke even do that? There had been absolutely no indication that he was into that kind of thing that Naruto had picked up on before. Like, at all. Except for maybe the way he categorically turned down any girl that tried to talk to him. But Naruto had thought that that was just because he thought he was too cool for everyone. It wasn't like he talked to that many guys, either.

Well, whatever. No matter Sasuke's reasons for doing it, retaliation was necessary. Naruto didn't know what kind of retaliation, exactly, but he was definitely going to figure it out. Later.

Attempting to put it out of his mind for the time being, Naruto rested his chin on his hands, making sure not to touch the rapidly-forming bruises on his face. Kiba had this class with him and had been waving to get his attention all period. Naruto tried to ignore him and pay attention to the teacher. This resolve lasted for all of six seconds, at which point he gave in and passed notes to Kiba for the rest of the class, which actually ended up getting his mind off of things a little. He didn't tell him about the whole kissing incident, though. That one was definitely something he'd be keeping to himself, at least until he could prove that he'd gotten Sasuke back in kind. By the time the day was over Naruto had returned to his high spirits enough to sneak a wad of gum into Neji's hair, which earned him the rare and hilarious sight of Neji panicking as well as an after-school detention.

As he walked down out of the school after his second detention in as many days, a horribly familiar arm shot out of nowhere and slammed him up against a wall of lockers with a loud clanging noise that, miraculously, no one came out to investigate. Sasuke was crowding him up against the lockers, an infuriating smirk on his face.

Naruto was all set to defend his manhood, managing to get it one haphazard swing at Sasuke's face before he cooly caught Naruto's hand and slammed it painfully back against a locker before leaning in and kissing him for the second time that day. This time there was less crushing pressure and gravel digging into his head, and it was wet.

Naruto did his best to stay frozen and unresponsive, but it was a hard thing to do when Sasuke Uchiha was mauling his face. Finally he gave in and pressed fiercely back into it, but only so he could show that cocky bastard who was boss. Honest.

He pushed forward, making a muffled noise of outrage when Sasuke took this as an invitation to stick his tongue down Naruto’s throat. They clumsily battled for dominance for a few more moments before breaking apart, breathing hard and glaring at each other. Before Naruto could say anything, Sasuke had turned on his heel and was walking away. Naruto watched him go, panting for breath. He considered going after him and beating the crap out of him, but Sasuke had bruised him pretty badly that morning and he wasn’t feeling a hundred percent, and if he went after him there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t get suckered into a repeat performance.

Instead he waited until he was sure that Sasuke had gone before heading slowly out to his car, head spinning with a million different emotions. There was no sign of it letting up the next day.

The following afternoon in History, Naruto got there before Sasuke did and stared him down all the way to his seat. Unfortunately it didn't seem to faze him at all, but in doing so Naruto noticed a decent-sized bruise over his right eye that he must have given him when he punched him in the face yesterday. Naruto spent the rest of history class idly waiting for Sasuke to turn to the side for one reason or another and then studying it, feeling rather pleased with himself. There was something weirdly reassuring about knowing that he was the one who put it on the bastard.

It was this line of thinking that let to Naruto devising a plan of his own. He waited patiently for a few days, until Sasuke excused himself to use the bathroom during History. After he was sure Sasuke had left Naruto feigned a stomachache and insisted that he had to go to the nurse’s office. Once the door closed behind him Naruto abruptly changed direction and headed the same way that Sasuke had gone, to the nearest bathroom. He crept up and through the door as quietly as he knew how and waited half-hidden for Sasuke to emerge from the stall he'd been in(after laughing internally at the fact that he was too much of a prude to use a urinal even when he thought the bathroom was empty). When he did Naruto ambushed him from his hiding place with an enthusiastic yelp, slamming Sasuke hard against the bathroom stalls and grabbing his wrists straight away so that he couldn't struggle.

It was only when Sasuke's panicked flailing had subsided slightly and they were both breathing hard in each others' faces that Naruto realized that he hadn't actually thought of what he would do with Sasuke once he'd caught him. The only thing he knew was that he absolutely wasn't letting Sasuke attack his mouth like that again, and the only viable way to prevent that from happening when they were in such close proximity was to do it first.

So he lunged the rest of the way towards Sasuke's lips and pressed them together, hard. His mouth still felt kind of bruised from before, and an involuntary kind of shudder spread through his entire body as Sasuke reacted almost immediately, pushing his tongue against Naruto's teeth and therefore leaving his own mouth vulnerable for invasion. The whole thing was so messy that Naruto was actually afraid he was going to start drooling or something. Neither of them had any breath when they finally broke apart. Naruto struggled to control his breath as he stared daggers at Sasuke, still holding his wrists in place.

"This doesn't change anything," he insisted, giving Sasuke a good kick in the shins before quickly turning to leave before Sasuke could grab hold of him again. He flattened himself into an alcove with a water fountain in the opposite direction of their history class and waited until Sasuke has walked away, panting hard and flushed bright red and trying desperately to talk down the mutinous bulge that's beginning to form in the front of his jeans.

"I do not have a boner for Sasuke Uchiha, I do not have a boner for Sasuke Uchiha," he chanted to himself desperately, hoping that if he said it enough it would be true. Once he had gotten himself under control, he took a long drink of water and headed back to class, wincing at the tenderness of his mouth as he wiped the water away and immediately having to think of dead animals and his grandparents naked in order to prevent himself from a repeat performance.

It was even more difficult that night in bed, when there was nothing around him but dark.

"I am not getting hard over Sasuke Uchiha," Naruto told himself sternly, reciting the words over and over to himself as if they were a mantra. And, until he fell asleep, it actually worked.

The next morning he had a text from Sakura telling him about Tenten's party and how Ino was going to be there and probably the rest of them too. Naruto stared at the phone for a few seconds after reading the message. Obviously this was the perfect chance for him to prove to Sasuke that what they were doing really didn’t change anything, and justice would be served to him at all costs.

Which was why it was hard to explain that day at school when Kiba and Hinata approached him during lunch, the former asking him excitedly what they were going to do about the party and the latter expressing the same sentiment in much quieter tones and turning bright red whenever Naruto looked at her, he couldn't think of anything to say to them but, "yeah, sure, whatever," as he stared intently over at Sasuke's lunch table, which Sasuke appeared not to notice.

--- --- ---

Lee was currently stuffed into a cafeteria table with Sakura, Kiba, Hinata, Shikamaru, and Chouji, attempting to guard his lunch from the latter. Naruto wasn’t there, but Lee barely noticed. His mind was completely occupied with what had happened yesterday with Gaara. He just felt so stupid, an emotion he was definitely not accustomed to.

But there wasn’t anything he could do about it now, except avoid Gaara like the plague either for two more years or until one of them moved away out of sheer embarrassment. Around him, everyone else seemed to be having a good time--Kiba and Sakura were arguing about something while Hinata looked nervously between the two of them, Shikamaru was asleep, and Chouji was giving Lee’s lunch highly suspicious looks.

Suddenly, Kiba pounded his fist on the lunch table, jerking Shikamaru awake and almost knocking over Sakura's Diet Coke. She shot him a glare but he ignored it, addressing the rest of the table as they all looked over at him with marginally disgruntled expressions.

"Listen," said Kiba. "I'm sure you've all noticed that Naruto's been kind of distracted lately."

Sakura nodded and bit her lip. He hadn't shown up for lunch the past few days, and when Sakura had gone to look for him yesterday she hadn't been able to find him anywhere.

"He hasn't even said anything about the Halloween prank yet. Which is why I think we should just start planning it ourselves, at least until he gets his shit together."

"Wouldn't that be, like, mutiny or something?" Chouji interjected doubtfully.

Kiba shrugged. "It’s not like we're kicking him out or anything."

Chouji nodded, appeased, and the rest of lunch period was spent discussing possible ways to ruin the Halloween party without getting caught. Lee was relieved when the bell rang. He had P.E. with Naruto, and after giving it some thought he’d decided it just wouldn’t be honorable to go on doing all this prank stuff when he’d fraternized with an enemy. Even if that enemy totally hated him now, which was probable.

They had to run the mile that day, much to the chagrin of everyone in the class except for Lee. He was the fastest in class, with Naruto coming in a close second. On their third lap around the field, Lee slowed down a little bit until they were running side by side.

"Naruto," he said. "I have to tell you something."

"Huh?" Naruto turned his head to look at Lee, almost tripping in the progress.

"You know Gaara?" Lee asked.

Naruto just nodded, breathing hard.

"Yeah, well I kissed him. And he now he hates me. And I can’t be in your prank war anymore."

This time Naruto really did trip, sprawling across the dirt track and staring at Lee in shock as he picked himself back up. "Wait," he said, dusting off his knees and peering up at Lee. "What?"

"Don't make me repeat it," said Lee, and Naruto must have heard enough of the misery in his voice to not press the matter. They lapsed into a silence only broken by Naruto's heavy breathing as he ran, looking weirdly thoughtful. Lee stared. Naruto was the first person he'd told about his feelings for Gaara. He hadn't known what to expect, exactly, but this definitely wasn't it. He'd thought that there might be some yelling involved, or possibly a fight.

"Naruto?" he ventured after a few more moments of this. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah," Naruto said distractedly. "Good for you."

"Good for--" Lee started to ask incredulously, but before he could finish the question they had passed the mark that meant the mile was finished, and Naruto collapsed down in the shade of a nearby tree, panting. Lee wiped off the few minuscule beads of sweat that had formed on his brow and started stretching, perplexed at Naruto's reaction to his soul-baring but not really able to do anything about it.

Once gym was over Lee showered and listened to everyone else in the locker room talk without really hearing them, too preoccupied with the dread that was gnawing at the pit of his stomach at the thought of English next period with Gaara.

He decided he’d get through it by staring straight ahead the entire time and making a run for it the minute class was over, and that was exactly what he did. Once the bell rang he was one of the first ones out of the room, hurrying down the hall and not allowing himself to think of anything else besides the miles he was going to run and the number of pull-ups he would do when he got home.

But before he could get all the way to the exit, someone grabbed his arm hard enough to stop him in his tracks and also make him jump about a foot in the air for good measure. Lee twisted around in the person’s grip, and there was Gaara, looking as impassive as ever.

Seconds stretched on end, and to Lee's consternation that was the only thing that happened--Gaara looked at him. He was frowning, brow knitted as he gazed at Lee intensely. He almost looked like he had been about to say something but then thought better of it and let go of Lee's arm instead.

Lee decided the best thing to do in this situation was just to edge away slowly. But just as he was starting to move, Gaara grabbed his arm again, this time pulling him in until he had Lee by the shoulders.

He gave him one last calculating look and then pulled him the rest of the way into him by the collar of his tracksuit until they were kissing, Gaara's mouth firm and yet pliant underneath his own, the exact opposite of how it'd been when Lee kissed him.

It was nice. Just as nice as he'd always imagined it would be, even when it wasn't Gaara that he was imagining it with. Although, in his fantasies there had never been an audience. Which reminded him, holy shit, they were doing this in front of everyone.

It was this knowledge alone that made him pull away from Gaara, wide-eyed as he glanced around. They were getting some really weird looks from the stragglers who were still making their way out of the school, sure, but no one was stomping forward to beat them up for being fags either, which Lee counted as a win. He returned his attention to Gaara, who was watching him with an expression that looked almost anxious.

"Did I do it right?" he asked uncertainly.

"Uh," said Lee. "Yes?"

Gaara smiled in a way that was almost smug and gave a decisive nod, tugging on Lee's arm and steering them in the direction of the parking lot. "Let's go," he said simply, and Lee followed after him.

The farther they walked, the more excited Lee got that he and Gaara were going to be able to exert the full passion of the springtime of their youths together after all. By the time Lee got to his car, he was grinning like a huge maniac. And that was just fine.

--- --- ---

Naruto tapped his pencil against his desk and stared intently at the clock, trying to ignore the fact that Mr. Hatake was blatantly reading porn right there at his desk.

It was his third detention in a rather short amount of time, and his mom was starting to get suspicious. This one had been for yelling a demeaning remark at Tenten in the earshot of the vice principal. Naruto didn’t think that it was fair for him to get a detention over, necessarily. First of all, it had been Kiba who’d told him to say it in the first place. Second of all, Tenten had let him know in no uncertain terms that there was a switchblade in her bag and she wasn’t afraid to use it, which several people Naruto knew could tell you for a fact.

The detention just seemed superfluous, really. But at least it gave Naruto time to think about what Lee had said that day in PE.

He knew he hadn’t exactly been the most helpful person when Lee had confessed to him, which he really did feel pretty bad about, but he had been too busy trying not to freak out over the idea that he wasn’t the only one at the school who was swapping spit with another dude. Lee had sounded rather matter of fact about the whole thing, which made Naruto think that maybe he should stop being such a little bitch about what was going on with him and Sasuke. Not that it was a thing, or anything like that. Because it wasn’t.

But before he could reach any definite conclusions, the hour had passed and Mr. Hatake dismissed him from detention with a sardonic sort of wave before turning a page in his porno. Naruto shrugged and walked out of the classroom towards the parking lot, sighing to himself.

As he was moving to unlock the door, he felt that weird pricking at the back of his neck that meant someone was behind him. He barely had to glance back before he could see that it was Sasuke, striding out of nowhere through the deserted parking lot and straight towards Naruto. Once he got there, he made short work of pinning Naruto up against the door of his own car, which was more than a little emasculating. Not to mention the handle of the door was digging uncomfortably into his back.

This time there wasn’t even a pretext of fighting before Sasuke kissed him, hard and demanding. He presses himself into Naruto as he did it, and Naruto noticed with no small amount of consternation that Sasuke was taller than he was. Not by much, but still. He fisted a hand in Sasuke’s t-shirt, only letting go when they broke apart.

Naruto was breathing hard, but he still gave Sasuke a shit-eating grin like he’d planned all along for Sasuke to come over and kiss him.

“See you around, bastard,” he said before climbing into his car and driving away, leaving Sasuke to stare after him.

The next day at lunch, Naruto waited for Sasuke to use the bathroom and then trapped him against the sink and kissed him with the water still running. A few days after that, Sasuke pushed Naruto into the same alcove he’d been in when he was trying to talk down his boner and sank his teeth into Naruto’s lower lip almost too hard, before dragging his tongue along it placatingly, making Naruto’s head spin and causing him to produce an embarrassing noise and clutch involuntarily at Sasuke’s t-shirt. Sasuke let out this stupid dorky snicker practically into Naruto’s mouth, so Naruto stomped on his foot.

“Shut up,” he muttered, letting go of Sasuke’s t-shirt. Sasuke just gave him a smug look and made sure to pay extra attention to his bottom lip the next time.

One night Naruto was lying in bed, unwinding after a demonstration of some irrefutable proof that he did in fact get boners for Sasuke Uchiha when it dawned on him that it might be very slightly possible that maybe this meant he didn’t actually hate the bastard anymore.

He flipped around so that his face was buried in the pillow and groaned, afterglow forgotten. “Shit,” he mumbled around a mouthful of pillowcase. “Fuck. Shit.”

--- --- ---

Miles away in his own bed, Sasuke was reaching the same conclusion and having more or less the same reaction about it. This was just too fucking impossible. And frankly, it freaked the hell out of him for reasons that were too numerous to name. There was absolutely no way that he and that blonde idiot could ever be anything. And he didn’t want them to be anything. Yeah.

Making an annoyed sound in the back of his throat, Sasuke rolled over and tried to go to sleep, which didn't work out very well.

The next day at school didn't exactly do a whole lot to reassure him. It could have just been his imagination, but Sasuke could have sworn that some of the people he passed by in the halls were pointing him out to each other, snickering behind their hands, whatever. Granted, it could have been because of the whole pranking thing that'd been going on, which had become public knowledge pretty quickly. Most students knew by now to quickly exit the area if anyone from the two opposing sides were in close proximity to each other, but no one had ever laughed at him about it.

And besides, the prankings had kind of died down lately. The losers hadn't been orchestrating as many attacks on them lately, and Sasuke and his friends operated pretty much on a retaliatory basis. Not to mention the fact that Sasuke was the one who usually told them what to do, and he'd been pretty fucking distracted lately. He couldn't help but wonder if maybe that was the same reason the losers hadn't been pranking them as much, and then he kicked himself for thinking that the Uzumaki idiot was reading as much into this shit as he apparently was.

That day in History Naruto insisted on sending him these stupidly suggestive glances the whole time, whenever he got up to go to the bathroom or sharpen his pencil or whatever. Sasuke tried to look away, but for some reason it was practically impossible. With a practically Herculean effort, Sasuke just sat there taking notes and thinking about how good it would feel later to just get Naruto up against a wall and--shut up shut up shut up.

Carefully schooling his expression into one that was calm and tranquil and didn't at all betray the fact that he was busy thinking about being gay with an orange lunatic, Sasuke waited patiently for the bell to ring and then proceeded to run for it, practically the first person out of the room even though he sat towards the back. Much too fast for Naruto to catch him.

That had been the plan, at least. Just as he was walking to the parking lot, thinking he was totally home free, there were those familiar fingers wrapped in an iron grasp around his wrist, pulling him behind a nearby Dumpster before he could even think about pulling away.

Sasuke could hear people talking and laughing on their way out of school, separated from where Naruto was leering at him and pressing in way too close by a mere garbage-filled receptacle. Frankly, it was terrifying. Any sane person would've punched Naruto in the stomach and ran for it.

Which is why Sasuke resolved to have himself committed at the nearest opportunity when he let Naruto lean the rest of the way forward and kiss him. And it really was a kiss this time, not a largely non-consensual meshing of faces like the first few times. Of course, Naruto ruined that idea about ten seconds in when he bit Sasuke on the bottom lip. Hard. Sasuke made a low, annoyed noise in the back of his throat and his traitorous arms were about to wrap themselves around Naruto's waist when he felt the bastard smiling into his mouth. Worse, the thought of it made him want to smile himself.

That was when something in his brain clicked into place. What the fuck are you doing? it asked. And Sasuke didn't know. Sasuke raised his arms, but instead of using them to pull Naruto closer he used them to push him away. It was harder than it should have been.

"Cut it out," he said woodenly, trying to fixate somewhere besides Naruto's eyes and totally failing. Instead he got the whole show, confusion followed by a flash of hurt that was quickly chased away by anger.

"The hell are you talking about? This whole thing is your fault," Naruto said, an angry flush spreading across his face. A tiny part of Sasuke's brain yelled at him to just pretend he was joking and pull the fucker in for another kiss, but he couldn't.

"Why the hell would I do that, loser," Sasuke mumbled. He felt like the scum of the earth.

By this point he'd expected a good punch in the face, at least, but Naruto was just standing there with his fists clenched. "C'mon," he said, an expression of forced cheeriness on his face. "Quit being a bitch and come here."

Sasuke just stood there. Once he’d started, it was surprisingly easy. It was like it wasn't even him doing it. The cheer gradually faded from Naruto's face as he fixed Sasuke with a calculating look, walked up to him, and then punched him in the mouth with as much force as he could muster, which was a considerable amount. Sasuke tried his best to just stand there and take it, but it was so hard that his head actually snapped back a little.

Sasuke brought up a hand to feel the blood starting to trickle out the side of his mouth, hardly believing it. They'd fought before, sure, but they'd never made each other bleed.

"Fuck you," Naruto said, looking furious as he shook out his hand. Sasuke was just starting to wonder if he was actually going to get the shit beaten out of him when Naruto turned and walked away, not looking back once.

Sasuke tried to tell himself that he'd done the right thing, but it wasn't really working.

--- --- ---

Naruto was on autopilot as he walked to his car and climbed in, sitting in the driver's seat and gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles even though his hand kind of really fucking hurt from punching Sasuke in the face that hard.

Not that the motherfucking didn't completely fucking deserve it. In fact, the more he thought about all the different ways that Sasuke did deserve it, the angrier he got until it was all he could do to peel out of the parking lot, drive home, and brush his teeth for ten minutes to get the taste of him out of his mouth forever. Then he climbed back into the car, ignoring the bewildered look that this earned him from his mother, who by this point was probably worried for his sanity, and drove to Kiba's house at roughly three hundred miles an hour before stalking up his driveway and pounding on the door.

Luckily, Kiba answered it instead of his mom or his sister, who even in his angered state Naruto was sort of afraid of.

"What's going on?" Kiba asked, apparently noticing the lingering expression of fury on Naruto’s face and the agitated way that he was shifting from foot to foot. He stepped aside to let Naruto into the house, and Naruto strode into the place and collapsed unceremoniously onto Kiba's couch, grudgingly petting Akamaru, who had come running at the commotion.

"So," said Naruto, deliberately ignoring Kiba's question. He was cool and all, but definitely not the kind of friend you went to with your gay problems about Sasuke Uchiha. Not that there even were any problems, because Naruto didn't give two shits about that douche. "Tell me about this Halloween prank."

Before he'd been too preoccupied with making out with Sasuke to entertain the idea of more pranks, but now? Now they seemed like a pretty damned good idea.

Kiba looked torn between trying to get Naruto to admit what was bothering him and unveiling the plan. Eventually common sense won out. Kiba would have made a terrible guidance counselor, but what he said next was exactly what Naruto needed to hear.

"Tenten's having a party," he said, grinning and petting Akamaru like an evil genius would pet their hairless cat. "And we're going to crash it and basically unleash hell. Stink bombs, squirt guns, you name it. Hinata had this idea about filling water balloons with paint..."

Kiba continued on in this manner, gleefully outlining the ambush to Naruto while he sat there and considered it. Not a bad idea, really. Sasuke was probably going to get dragged to that party by someone or another, and it would definitely feel good to exact his revenge in the form of balloons filled with lead-based paint. He briefly felt guilty about how bad they were going to fuck up Tenten's house if they were able to pull this off, because she hadn't really done much to them personally besides date Neji. But that in and of itself was a pretty serious offense, and she could probable get it cleaned anyway.

Naruto noticed that Kiba had stopped, presumably waiting to see what he thought about the whole thing. Naruto grinned. "I'm in," he said. "But one question. Where are we gonna get all this stuff?"

A solemn expression spread over Kiba's face and he got quiet for a second before saying, "There's only two people who can help us."

The next day at lunch with Shikamaru for backup, Naruto and Kiba went to their hangout, a secluded spot behind the cafeteria. And there they were, just like Kiba said. Haku and Zabuza. Naruto didn't think he'd ever actually seen them in person before. You wouldn't expect someone like Haku to be so notorious, small and skinny and sitting cross-legged with his freshman Geometry textbook in his lap and his long black hair up in a messy ponytail, but once you got to gigantic, terrifying Zabuza with his spiky hair and ever-present cigarette, it was easy to believe all the rumors about the people they'd beaten the shit out of. As well as their reputation for being able to get pretty much anything a person needed as long as you were brave enough to ask.

Zabuza glared at the three of them as they walked in. Haku didn't look up from his textbook, but Naruto could tell he was watching them all the same.

"Whaddyou want?" Zabuza asked abruptly. Naruto, never one for beating around the bush, stepped forward.

"We need you to get us these," he said bravely, stepping forward with the list they'd haphazardly compiled before coming over. "We'll pay you whatever you need."

Zabuza scanned the list and snorted. "Squirt guns and fireworks?"

Naruto could feel Kiba adopting a defensive stance behind him. This plan was his brainchild, after all. But still, Kiba lashing out at Zabuza definitely wasn't going to get them anywhere good. He stepped in front of him hastily. "Long story," he said simply. "So will you help us?"

Zabuza shrugged. "Whatever. It'll run you fifty bucks, though."

Shikamaru stepped forward with the money, grumbling under his breath the whole way, but not loud enough for Zabuza to hear. Zabuza pocketed the bills and jerked his head in Haku's direction.

"Give me your address and he'll bring the stuff in two days."

"Thanks," Shikamaru, Naruto, and Kiba chorused after Naruto wrote down his address and the three of them hastily turned around to leave. At the last second, Haku looked up at them and waved.

Two days later he showed up at Naruto's door with the box of supplies, handing it over without a word. Naruto thanked him, and Haku tilted his head and smiled in a way that would have looked nice if Naruto hadn't heard rumors that one time he broke all ten of someone’s fingers with that exact same look on his face.

The next few weeks were spent planning and re-declaring the war, pulling little stunts just to keep Sasuke and his friends on their toes. Naruto avoided directly targeting Sasuke anymore, which he knew the others thought was weird, but he just couldn't face the thought of it anymore. Lately Sakura had been giving him those Oprah looks which meant that soon she was going to pull him aside and they were going to have a non-consensual heart-to-heart. Naruto hated those. So he forced himself to put on a cheery smile and pretend like everything was fine, not letting himself be provoked even though he felt like Sasuke had been acting particularly insufferable lately.

The week of the party arrived, and then finally the night. Sakura picked everyone up in her mom's minivan again and they parked a couple blocks away from Tenten's house after Hinata did some sleuthing to find out the address. Lee hadn't showed up, claiming to be sick. Kiba had been pissed, but Naruto knew the truth and he wasn't about to rat him out. The rest of them put on their best undercover gear and walked the rest of the way to Tenten's house with minimal giggling and conversation, except when Chouji tried to somersault through the light of a streetlamp and almost broke his ankles. After that they tried to maintain a more serious attitude, sneaking into the shrubs in Tenten's neighbor's backyard.

Naruto crouched there with his supply of water balloons, squirt gun, and poppers, heart pounding. If someone caught onto them and called the cops they could potentially be in deep shit. He tried to convince himself that that was what was bothering him, but he couldn't bring himself to give a shit. No, the real reason was something else entirely. But he'd be damned if he was going to sit there and think about Sasuke Uchiha when he had things to do and popular kids to terrorize.

There they waited as people filed into Tenten's backyard and the music started blaring, thumping through the fence along with conversation. Naruto tried not to strain for Sasuke's voice, but he really couldn't help himself.

As Shikamaru had correctly predicted, the party was largely in the backyard, probably because Tenten didn't want to mess up her house too much. The six of them crouched there until their knees were stiff, Chouji complaining under his breath every few seconds to a whispered chorus of "shut up"s from everyone else. Naruto hadn't counted on the stakeout portion of the prank to take such a long-ass time. He was just finishing up his sixth game of tic-tac-toe in the dirt with Kiba when Shikamaru hit him on the arm and mouthed, "It's time."

"Finally," Naruto whisper-shouted, momentarily forgetting all about Sasuke being an ass and Lee quitting and the fact that Haku and Zabuza now knew his home address. This was what they had all been waiting for.

--- --- ---

Lee was sitting in his room, worrying. This was pretty much the exact opposite of his usual behavior, but he couldn't help it. He'd managed to get out of crashing Tenten's party with Naruto and the rest of them by faking sick, but he couldn't help but be kind of worried. He knew that Naruto knew the actual reason he wasn't going, but as far as Lee knew he hadn't been ratted out, and right now that was the best that he could hope for.

Lee sat and worried for a little while longer before he broke down and texted Gaara, just to ask him if he was going to Tenten's party. He wasn't, which Lee couldn't say he was particularly surprised about. Then Gaara invited him over because he was considerate like that, and Lee fought the urge to swoon or something, because that would be unmanly.

He drove to Gaara's house and knocked on the door, as quietly as he could because it was pretty late and even though Gaara's parents weren't around that much--in fact, Lee had spent a good portion of one day debating himself on whether or not they existed--he didn't want to wake anybody up. Gaara opened the door for him a couple seconds later and they trooped up the stairs to Gaara's room.

"Are Temari and Kankuro going to the party?" Lee asked immediately once they were both situated.

"They're there already," Gaara said, giving Lee a blank look.

Lee groaned. "Fuck," he said. "Naruto and the rest of them are crashing the party and I think they’re going to try to pull something."

Gaara just looked at him blankly. "So?" he said, appearing uncomprehending. "Neither of us are there, what does it matter?"

Lee shot Gaara an incredulous glance. "Don't you want to go pick them up?"

Gaara shrugged. "They probably wouldn't go anyway. And like I said before, it's harmless, so what's the big deal?"

Lee was just barely able to restrain himself from throwing his hands into the air in exasperation at Gaara. "Don't you see? It's not harmless. When they all act this way towards each other, they're hurting themselves psychologically. Not reaching the full potential of their youth."

Lee could feel the manly tears starting to well, and he couldn't help but sort of wish that Gai was around to punch him in the face and then cry with him. Gaara was about as likely to do either of those things as sprout wings and fly away.

However, as Gaara reminded him seconds later, Gaara was good for other things besides crying and punches. "Okay," he said simply, reaching out to hold Lee's hand in a way that Lee could tell took a lot out of him. "Then let's go over there so you can tell them that."

Lee could barely restrain himself again, but this time it was from pulling Gaara in by the hand and totally making out with his face. Ever since the disastrous first kiss and slightly better second one, they'd been taking it slow, and Lee thought that surprise making out could possibly traumatize Gaara for life. However, that didn't mean that he couldn't give Gaara a look like he wanted to make out with him, a loophole that he utilized much to Gaara's apparent discomfort.

"Let's go," said Lee, grinning all over his face. He tugged Gaara back down the stairs and into his car, and together they headed for Tenten's house.

--- --- ---

"Assume your positions!" Naruto whisper-shouted. "On the count of three, open fire."

Next to him, Kiba grinned and shouldered his pink plastic squirt gun like it was a rifle, a bag of poppers and sawdust clenched between his teeth. On Naruto’s other side, Sakura patted his arm reassuringly and then grinned in a terrifyingly bloodthirsty manner. Shikamaru was digging a lighter out of his pocket so that he, Hinata and Chouji could light their smoke bombs, and Chouji was sizing up the fence like he still wasn't sure whether or not he'd be able to climb over it. Motley as they were, Naruto was all of a sudden grateful that these were the people who were on his side.

"One," he said, trying not to think about all that mushy shit. Now was the time to get down to business. "Two. Three!"

The last word was a triumphant yelp as the six of them scrambled over the fence and opened fire just the way they'd gone over. Hinata, Shikamaru, and Chouji threw the smoke bombs, which were ostensibly supposed to be used for cover but were rendered kind of useless by the fact that the wind just blew away most of the smoke. They still smelled like burning fireworks, though, which was enough to freak people out, at which point Sakura, Naruto, and Kiba began gleefully pelting everyone with poppers from their vantage point on the fence. They were harmless, really, except that they kind of stung when they hit you and let out a loud noise as they exploded, which only served to terrify the party people even more.

As Naruto looked out over them and tried to pretend like he wasn't just searching for Sasuke, he kind of regretted the fact that all of the other people that Tenten had invited to her party were totally getting served, but at this point there really wasn't anything he could do about it.

By now, the opposing team had started to catch on. "It's them on the fence!" Naruto heard someone yell. Their voice trailed off into a high-pitched shriek as Kiba aimed a popper at them with vicious glee.

"Get 'em!" someone else yelled.

"Use the guns!" Naruto directed Sakura and Kiba, which was good for a few more screams until Sakura aimed one at Neji's retreating back and everyone realized that they were only full of muddy water. They were able to hold them off that way for a few minutes as even in the midst of all the hysteria, people were still worried about ruining their Halloween costumes.

Naruto signaled for Hinata, Shikamaru and Chouji to use their final weapons. The three of them carefully retrieved their water balloons and took aim, hopefully in the direction of one of the kids from their school and not at a harmless bystander. Hinata threw hers first, face set with grim determination. Chouji was next, and then Shikamaru.

Naruto couldn't help but wish that Lee could've been there for the sigh of Neji with bright yellow paint splattered all over his hair. His only regret was that no one had managed to get Sasuke.

"I am going to disembowel all of you," Naruto thought he heard Tenten yelling. Just as she was getting ready to hurl the punch bowl right in Kiba's face, the back door of Tenten's house banged open dramatically. Tenten turned, still holding the punch bowl, to stare in surprise as Lee and Gaara strode through the crowd of partygoers, who had actually started to fight amongst themselves but pretty much stopped and paid attention when Gaara glared at them all.

"Look at what you're doing!" Lee said dramatically. Naruto sighed. Kiba rolled his eyes. Lee was showing all the signs of making a Youth Speech. The only difference this time was that Gaara was standing next to him and glaring around the backyard, meaning that no one would dare to interrupt. "What does this accomplish? It's a waste of time and of your youthful energies, you’re hurting innocent people, and you’re hurting yourselves. Don’t you see? You have to stop now, before it’s too late."

For a moment everyone was absolutely silent, and Naruto was kind of worried for Lee's sake that they were all going to burst out laughing, Gaara or no Gaara. But instead, something different happened entirely.

Sasuke walked up to the two of them out of nowhere. It was the first time Naruto had seen him all night and it didn't look like the fight had affected him at all, of course. It was surprising that he'd shown up at all, but what he said next was even more so.

"Yeah," he agreed, and for some stupid reason even though he was far away Naruto could've sworn that Sasuke was looking straight at him the entire time. "This is fucking stupid. You guys are all dumbasses for fighting over stupid shit like this and everyone should just go home."

Even considering the past weeks of chaos, Sasuke was still a force to be reckoned with, popularity-wise. It took a few minutes to catch on, but pretty soon everyone was shambling away, moaning about their ruined costumes or glaring daggers over at the fence where Naruto and the rest of them were still stationed. Frankly, Naruto was surprised no one tried to beat the shit out of him.

He forgot to be grateful, however, when Sasuke nodded vaguely at Gaara, who nodded vaguely back, and then made his way over to the fence.

"Hey," he said, hands shoved in his pockets. He wasn't wearing a costume, naturally. It was dark so Naruto couldn't tell, but he kind of thought that maybe Sasuke looked sort of apologetic. But that didn't mean he wasn't a gigantic hairy asshole.

"Hey?" Naruto asked incredulously. "Don't you hey me. Just fuck off already."

There was a pause, and then Sasuke just said, "No."

Naruto glared down at Sasuke. Sasuke glared up at Naruto. Naruto was vaguely aware of Sakura touching his arm and whispering that they'd be waiting in the car. For some reason, she sounded like she was about to laugh.

Sasuke waited until they were all gone before speaking again. "Get off that fence and come talk to me."

“No,” Naruto replied with crushing finality. He was just about to fold his arms smugly and tell Sasuke to fuck off again when Sasuke grabbed his ankle and tugged him down, causing him to land in a rather unceremonious heap at Sasuke's feet. Then the bastard had the nerve to offer to help him up.

"Oh my God," said Naruto, because this was actually getting ridiculous. "You're the biggest douche I've ever met." He started to walk away, making sure to rub his bruised elbow indignantly.

“God, wait a second," said Sasuke in a slight variation on his usual monotone, actually starting to follow him. "I'm sorry, or whatever."

This actually made Naruto stop in his tracks, though he kept his back to Sasuke so he wouldn't be able to see his facial expressions.

"Or whatever?" he couldn't help but ask.

"I'm sorry. Okay? You're right, I was an ass. And now I'm sorry about it."

Naruto let him wait for a few more seconds, biting his lip to hide the stupidly inappropriate grin that was threatening to spread across his face. Finally he turned around, taking a few measured steps toward Sasuke until they were just standing there in the dark looking at each other.

"I still don't like you or anything," said Naruto, and maybe it was a trick of the mind but Naruto thought that Sasuke looked a little relieved when he leaned in and they kissed, even though Naruto's awesome ninja war paint had smeared all over his face in the excitement and he probably smelled like mud and smoke bombs.

They only separated when they heard a loud pop followed by a muttered curse. Tenten walked up to the two of them with her hands on her hips. "That’s sweet and everything, but it would be a good idea for you two to leave," she said in a voice that could have been considered polite if it weren't for the undercurrents of potential insanity. "Now," she added, and then Sasuke grabbed Naruto's hand and they ran for it.

As the two of them pelted for the relative safety of the street, Naruto thought about how holding hands with Sasuke wasn't really that bad even when they were running for their lives, and then he felt like an idiot for ever thinking something like that.

Sasuke drove off in his car, but not before Naruto stuck his head through the open window and kissed him again.

Then he headed back to Sakura's minivan, where the five of them were discussing their triumph in exhilarated tones and also talking about how weird it was that Gaara and Lee, of all people, seemed to be together. Naruto climbed in back to a rousing round of applause, and then they all sped off to go get kicked out of a Denny's or two before heading home.

--- --- ---

The bell that signaled the end of fifth period rang and Sakura pushed her way out of the classroom, still half looking out for someone to steal her back or drop something unpleasant in her hair or something. The pranks might have stopped, but that didn't mean the paranoia wasn't still there.

As she was heading out to the cafeteria, Sakura felt someone touch her arm. She turned, and there was Ino, looking perfect as usual.

"Look," she started before Sakura could say anything to her. "I know you hate me and everything but I just wanted to say I'm sorry for all the shit that's happened."

Sakura stared, hardly able to comprehend what was happening. Ino Yamanaka, apologizing. To her. This was Twilight Zone level.

"It's not your fault," she managed to say, even though what she really wanted to do was dance around triumphantly adn then advertise what had just happened to the entire school.

"No," said Ino. "I mean all the shit. When we were kids and everything. I've been thinking about it."

It was still Sakura's instinct to make some stupid comment about Ino thinking being a first, and that was how she knew that they weren't about to go back to being best friends in the blink of an eye.

But still, when she said, "It's fine," she couldn't help but mean it. She'd always been a pushover when it came to Ino.

They looked at each other for a few seconds, and Sakura could tell Ino was coming to the same conclusion that Sakura had drawn. Still, she just smiled her smile that reminded Sakura a little bit of Naruto's and waved, starting to walk away.

"I'll see you around then."

Sakura nodded, and when she smiled back it was a genuine one. Ino ran forwards to catch up with someone or other, and Sakura couldn't tell where she was by the time she entered the cafeteria. She was distracted, however, when she saw Tenten pointing a knife at Lee.

"Oh God oh God I am so not ready to get stabbed today," Sakura thought deliriously, trying to think of something she could use to defend herself against Tenten's knife when she jumped in front of Lee to protect him. However, before she could do it she noticed that Gaara and Neji were there also, observing from a safe distance, and Lee didn't appear to be pleading for his life.

"And it's sharp enough to stab right through to the bone," Tenten was saying while Lee looked on enthusiastically.

So, no one was in immediate danger. Probably. That was a relief. Sakura kept walking, smiling to herself when she saw the way that Naruto and Sasuke were sitting together at a lunch table, but at opposite ends of it so no one would get the wrong idea. Sakura had managed to corner Naruto and force the whole story out of him the day after the whole party debacle, and so now she knew about their whole illicit romance thing. It was kind of cute, really, once she was able to get past the initial horror of the idea that Sasuke Uchiha, one of the most lusted-after males of their entire school, was gay for Naruto.

"Sakura!" she heard behind her, and there were Kiba, Hinata, Chouji, and Shikamaru sitting together at a table and waving her over. Grinning, she waved back.

--- --- ---

Naruto stretched out on the grass, yawning. Next to him, Sasuke was sitting with his knees pulled into his chest, glaring at nothing. That used to sort of freak Naruto out, but now he knew that that was pretty much just Sasuke's normal facial expression.

"I'm so pissed," Naruto complained loudly, because it was something to do. Then he cut his eyes at Sasuke to inform him in no uncertain terms that he was going to ask why.

Sasuke sighed. "Enlighten me," he said, and Naruto rolled his eyes.

"Someone tried to beat me up again today."

"It's your own fault for telling everyone about this whole thing," Sasuke said, making a vague hand gesture at the way they were sitting together. Naruto made a discontented noise, pulling his jacket around him. Fall was setting in for real now, and the weather was chilling down.

"I didn't know they were going to beat us up," said Naruto, sounding personally insulted.

“Why do you even care?” asked Sasuke. “It’s not like we can’t take ‘em.”

“It’s the principle of the thing. No one beats up Neji and Tenten."

"That's because Neji and Tenten are straight," Sasuke said patiently. Naruto just waved a dismissive hand. "Neji looks like a girl."

"So does Haku, and no one beats up Haku and Zabuza either," Sasuke pointed out. "Maybe everyone just hates us."

Naruto yawned again and settled in closer to Sasuke's side, swatting at him when he pretended to be annoyed about it. "Probably that one," he said.


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