Title: Oh, Right
Percent Complete: 60%
!verse: Non-massacre, SSGeninTeam!verse, Continuation of 'Wait, what?"
Tsunade was nursing a murderous headache. One that Kakashi’s abrupt appearance did nothing to alleviate. Her watery glare was ineffective.
Kakashi merely loitered near the windows and quipped, “Technically, assigning those two a genin team can be construed as treasonous.” The accusation earned him a much more lucid, focused annoyance. The jounin went on to explain, “It’s an act of domestic terrorism, really. What did those children do to earn such a punishment?”
Tsunade blew a noisy exhale through her bangs. “Enough that their sensei volunteered for temp border duty at the Suna outpost.”
A winced grimace was visible in Kakashi’s expression. “The one built on scorpion mating grounds?”
“Yes. The man he’s replacing broke his own leg to get medical leave.” Scratching the muscle twitch developing under her eye, the Sannin scoffed in disappointment. Wusses.
Kakashi rubbed his outer thigh in not-so-fond reminiscence of his last assignment at that particular post. “Right.” Refocusing himself, the Copy Nin drove at the purpose for his visit, “Has anyone checked to make sure they’re all still alive?”
Tsunade sniffed and flicked a hand in dismissal. “If you think your Uchiha is in danger of being overwhelmed so easy, go yourself.” Shuffling papers non-productively, she couldn’t resist adding, “My protege can handle a few snot-nosed brats.”
“I meant the children.” Feeling the need to specify, Kakashi tacked on: “The genin ones. Neither of the other kids have much patience.”
Tsunade was loosing interest in the conversation. Shrugging in permission, she advised Kakashi as he made to leave, “You can ask Shizune for the team’s training ground assignment. She’ll have it on file. Tell them they get to split the duty at the outpost if they botch this.”
“No need. I’ll just follow the screams of frustration.” And minor earthquakes or freak lightning strikes. With a jaunty wave, Kakashi was gone.
True to his prediction, Kakashi needed no directions to find his students and their charges. An ominous cloud of smoke was hovering over Grounds Ten. As he drew nearer, he could clearly hear Sakura’s booming voice and the tell-tale chirp of Sasuke’s lightning.
Trotting along as lazily as he was, Kakashi felt himself stumble as he reached the hill overlooking the natural, wooded valley. Well, he mused, it used to be a woods. All that was left of the once verdant growth was smoldering, black stumps and sorrily burned trees.
A girl, Uchiha by her coloring and clothing, was standing soot-stained and generally abashed near Sasuke. The elder clansman was glowering fiercely at her, the air about his rumpled form crackling with energy. His younger, female counterpart was watching the raw lightning arc with something between fear and awe.
Sakura, meanwhile, was gripping a bottle of her mentor’s prized sake and bellowing at the genin team as a whole. True to her tutelage, she managed to shake the earth with each annoyed foot tap--yet the fragile pottery in her fist remained intact.
The children were beginning to look a bit shell-shocked. Born after or at the close of the Fourth Great Shinobi War, they likely learned the names and reputations of the Second Sannin from the cradle.
But, as the Copy Nin knew so well, repute only carried one so far with brats. Sighing, he decided to announce his presence. “Yo!”
All eyes immediately swung to him. Squirming a bit under the scrutiny, Kakashi raised a hand to scratch the back of his head. “How’s the training going?”
Cheeks pinkened by her shouting and alcohol, Sakura sniped, “Haven’t gotten around to any. When we got here the whole place was on fire.”
“Ah.” Nodding sagely, Kakashi elbowed a slightly calmer Sasuke. “Remember the time you tried to roast Naruto and nearly burned down the Forest of Death?”
Sakura rolled her eyes as the children giggled and Sasuke frowned blackly.
“And that was when you were training for jounin exams.” Smiling at the genin, he crouched to better address them. “Don’t let them fool you. Team Seven was infamous in their day.”
“They’re famous!” The smallest of the two girls finally blurted. “Haruno-sensei is the strongest kunoichi since the Godaime!” Her wide eyes were stilled glued to Sakura as she gushed.
The pinkette took a deep swing in response, still glaring beadily at her former teacher. Finally she groused, “The Copy Nin, kids.” Swinging a sarcastic ‘look here’ gesture toward the slouching elder, she added, “He’s pretty infamous himself for his training methods. Ours,” she flapped a hand toward Sasuke, “is the only team he ever passed.”
Sasuke grunted at their looks of disbelief. “Unfortunately it’s too late to send you all back to the academy.”
Sakura scolded him blandly when the girls began to get misty-eyed. “They aren’t that bad.” At Sasuke’s scoff, she defended, “They aren’t!”
Aiko piped, “Thank you, Haruno-sensei.” Sakura nodded in acknowledgement of her words. The musical lilt of the non-Uchiha kunoichi’s voice was intriguing.
She was finally beginning to get a feel for the team’s dynamics and was planning accordingly.
“Oh thank you, Haruno-sensei! Pfft.” The Uchiha girl mocked in annoyance. Her voice warbled in a mean-spirited imitation of the smaller girl’s unusual tone.
Sasuke set a heavy hand atop the girl’s head in response. She crossed her arms mulishly but said no more.
Their male teammate growled at their dysfunction. Shoving his hands roughly into his pockets, he asked bluntly, “So are we gonna work or not?”
Sasuke’s grimace turned to careful blankness as he barked, “Fifty laps, start now.” When the girls groaned, he amended, “Sixty then. Ten more for each complaint. Begin.”
When the three reluctantly jogged off to start their conditioning, Sasuke joined Sakura and Kakashi in the relative shade of the least scorched tree.
“Could be worse.” Was Kakashi’s not-so-helpful opinion.
Sakura shrugged, still thinking through what she had observed. Sasuke wrested the sake from her and drank deeply from the half-empty jar. “The Uchiha-”
“Kotone.” The pinkette interrupted absently as she tapped her chin.
“-is passable with the clan fire techniques.” He continued as though Sakura had never spoken. “But she’s clearly jealous of the little one.”
Kakashi smiled as his only female student cut in once more. Anyone else and Sasuke would have snarled at them. As it was Sakura doing the interrupting, she got away with nothing but a cross look.
Seemingly oblivious to the special treatment, Sakura refocused at last. “Aiko is the shorter girl. She has an unusual voice.” Turning to Kakashi, she asked, “Do you think it’s possible to teach a verbal genjutsu style? Or would it require a bloodline?”
Kakashi just hiked a shoulder. “You’re the genjutsu master. I’m sure you could create something for her. Kurenai might help with some of the technical work.”
“Always helpful. And I was thinking of getting you something nice,” Sakura teased.
Before Kakashi could fake emotional hurt, Sasuke butted back into the conversation. “The boy has decent work ethic.” His dark eyes tracked said boy as he jogged far ahead of the two kunoichi at the far side of the basin.
“Masaki, I suspect, feels as if he has something to prove. He isn’t native to the Village.” Sakura tilted her head as she watched Kotone shoulder past Aiko in pursuit of their male teammate. At the sight, she groaned. “Ugh, not an in-team crush.”
“Woe.” Kakashi quipped sarcastically. “Can’t imagine what training them around that will be like for you.” Shooting the grouchy kunoichi a look, he dead-panned, “I’ve no experience at all with that myself.”
Sasuke stepped in when Sakura’s face clouded over in annoyance. “Did you come only to antagonize her?”
Kakashi flicked a ‘see what I mean?’ sort of look to the sky at Sasuke’s intervention then regrouped. “She did wait until her poor sensei and teammates were busy to run around town with some strange boy.” At Sakura’s surprised start, he ribbed, “Think I wouldn’t find out?”
Sakura reeled and sputtered for a moment before settling on an indignant huff. “Sorry, dad. I didn’t know I had to ask for permission to go out.”
Kakashi ignored her biting tone and intentionally took her words literally. Patting her shoulder paternally, he replied, “Yes, see it doesn’t happen again. I have eyes everywhere and he wasn’t good enough for you.”
Before their verbal spar could escalate much more, screams rang from across the grounds.
“Ugh! STOP IT you two! Suiton!”
The roar of an Uchiha fire technique was short lived as a crashing wave of water rose to meet it. Steam poured across the grassy arena.
Silence ensued for a tense moment, making Sasuke’s outburst that much more frightening when it came.
“Kotone!” His voice cracked like a whip through the training field. Without any further speech, he pointed tersely at the ground in front of him.
Wide-eyed, the once spunky girl nearly tripped over her own feet in her hurry to obey her elder clansman. When she reached the spot, however, she kept her eyes locked on the grass at Sasuke’s feet.
Kotone, for once, lacked her characteristic confidence.
Her dark, bobbed hair was clumped with water from her teammate’s technique and her pale skin was white in distress. It was likely that her pedigree gave her free reign in most situations. Confrontation with someone of such high standing within her clan seemed to have genuinely cowed her.
“Is this behavior how you honor our esteemed clan?” Sasuke’s words were clipped and formal.
The rebuke seemed to wilt the kunoichi further. “No, I-”
“You will not use the clan techniques unless I permit you to.” At Kotone’s disbelieving expression, Sasuke continued, “They are a mark of maturity. Your use of them is childish.” Crossing his arms forebodingly, Sasuke sentenced her. “An additional thirty minutes of silent and solitary meditation after your laps are finished.”
Kotone nodded jerkily and stalked back to her teammates.
When she was out of earshot, Sasuke sighed and glanced toward Sakura. “I no longer want children.”
Caught off guard by the randomness of his statement, Sakrua could only laugh.
Kakashi rose an eyebrow. “Interesting you felt the need to tell Sakura of all people.” Mumbling something about in-team crushes, the Copy Nin turned to leave. As he loped away, he shouted back encouragingly, “Keep at it! If not, you’re stuck at the Suna Outpost for six months!”
For a few moments, the pair drank silently. Each seemed to weigh the burden of their potential punishment. Eventually, Sakura stuck her lower lip out and mused, “I am immune to all of the natural and nin-made toxins from the Sand.”
“You’re not quitting.” Passing the sake back to his deflated teammate, Sasuke watched their genin charges make their way steadily around the grounds. Several more silent minutes passed until he reluctantly admitted, “They could be good.”
Sakura hiccuped and groaned. “Sure, but how much work is it going to take to even make them a cohesive team?”
“Cohesive? Wordy drunk,” he accused. Plucking the alcohol from her loose grip, Sasuke swigged and estimated, “Three months.”
“I have it on good authority that I’m an affectionate drunk. . .but I’m hardly buzzed.” Scrunching her nose thoughtfully, Sakura reevaluated his math. “I’d guess closer to five.”
“I plan to be a harder taskmaster, obviously.” Holding the bottle away from his shorter counterpart, he pried, “Who said you were an affectionate drunk?”
“None of your concern. Give me my sake.” Waving her hands ineffectively, Sakura half-heartedly attempted a snatch at the jar.
“S’mine now.” Sakura tried to ignore the tingle that raced across her nerves as he muttered with the bottle against his lips. Her gaze traced the well-controlled flick of Sasuke’s wrist as he tipped and swallowed, a frown beginning at the corners of his mouth.
Sasuke casually pulled his teammate down as she attempted to stand. Fisting one hand in the back of her shirt and weighing the liquid left in the bottle, he delivered an ultimatum. “If you want anymore of this, you’re going to tell me who said you were an affectionate drunk.”
Sakura just gave an emphatic, “Whatever.” Not her wittiest retort, she knew, but she had been drinking.
“Fine.” A deep draw later, Sasuke swung the bottle back and forth temptingly.
Sasuke growled at Sakura’s sing-song tone and muttered, “Bottoms up.”
The pinkette watched in surprise as her usually alcohol-conservative teammate downed the rest of the sake. Pulling her eyes away from the working of his throat as he gulped, Sakura’s tone was a little bitter as she groused, “Didn’t know you were such a drinker. Been out a lot while I was working late?”
Sasuke flicked her a sharp smile and a mockery of her earlier words. “None of your concern.”
Title: Poppy Whorl
Percent Complete: 50%
!verse: AU Celebrity!verse, Continuation of "Glitter Freeze"
It was almost blinding. The irregular spin of multicolor lights and strobes flickered across Sasuke’s face as he watched the figure onstage. Already the crowd was chanting her name, their voices a wave of physical sound. And she loved it.
He could see the perfect white of her smile, snowy against the explosion of color that was her set. She was a born performer, Sasuke knew. Her fans raved and critics praised her voice, the creativity she seemed to breathe kept steady for more platinum albums than he could remember.
The gaudy sparkle of her studded mic caught his attention and he felt his heart lurch in anticipation as she sighed her first note. A roar of approval from the stadium washed out her voice for a second, then she was in full swing. On fire.
Her hand went high above her head as she dove into the hook of her newest party anthem. The hover cams whizzing around the arena were projecting a tight close-up of her smiling. When she caught a glance of the shot, she winked cheekily.
Ruffling her hair, she softened her knees and began to dance. Sasuke watched, oblivious to the crush of the crowd behind the barrier at his back. Sakura let her eyes slip closed, never missing a note. The enormous screens overhead caught the diamond-dust glimmer of her heavily made-up eyes and the glimmer of her lipstain.
Her voice rolled out, amplified until it thrummed in Sasuke’s veins. The words of this particular song were a little brainless, something she had probably jotted on a napkin over a lunch. But he knew she loved to dance, and the beat was perfect for that. Her slim body rocked steadily, rhythmic as she belted the chorus.
Sakura’s signature pink mane bounced along behind as she lapped the expansive stage. Her dress’ flirty hem flounced too, lurid colors flashing against her lightly tanned legs. Sasuke wondered if she had been vacationing in the sun before the tour kicked off. Who had gone along? She loved toting friends all over the map.
Suddenly the lights drew down, throwing the stage into monochrome as the strobes took over. Sakura looked like a stopmotion film as she hopped up and down, psyching up the crowd in the flashing light.
Sasuke jerked, pulled from his thoughts by his partner’s voice. Suigetsu’s barking tone blared into his ear from a concealed wire. “Oi, boss! Big man’s coming up now! You got a visual?”
Grunting an affirmative, Sasuke turned to keep a line of sight on the real reason for his presence at the concert. A new song started, a rock band rising from a hidden platform at the back of the stage. The guitar whined and a loud, unmistakable voice blared, “Hey, Sakura? You ready?”
Her laugh trilled and she turned to hail the smoke-clouded figure high at the back of the auditorium. Shading her eyes with gaudily jeweled sunglasses, handed off from a back up dancer, Sakura replied, “Oh, I’m ready!”
Crossing her arms in a cutesy imitation of acting tough, the pop queen turned to the crowd, “I know you don’t know this one! Do you wanna hear a world exclusive?!” Sakura turned her mic to the fans, cupping one hand around her ear.
They went wild, mixed screams for both of the celebrities carrying up onto the stage until the noise was a physical throbbing.
“Alright, let’s go!”
The main stage went dark, aside from roaming beams of white and black light that combed the audience. In the temporary pause, Sasuke knew Sakura was making a speedy wardrobe change. He also was being paid to keep an eye on Naruto as he skipped down the main aisle, lit by an enormous spot light. But it was difficult.
Old habits died hard, he reasoned. He was used to watching over the popstar, rather than his new ward. That was all. The instant knots in his shoulders every time a fan tossed flowers and gifts onstage were just a routine response that hadn’t run itself out quite yet.
Either way, Sasuke was gritting his teeth the entire breadth of time it took Naruto to reach center stage and cue the lights back up. When she was back in his line of sight, Sasuke released a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.
Sakura raised her mic and crooned the chorus. Her other hand propped out in front of her, holding steady as she rocked her hips. She had shed her feminine dress, slipping into high-waisted short shorts and a sequined bikini top. The long fall of her hair was caught back from her face by a knotted, brightly patterned scarf and her eyes were still hidden behind her gaudy shades.
She looked like summer personified.
Naruto was crouched at the edge of the stage’s catwalk, reaching out to touch the hands of his fans. His blond hair was in artful disarray and his features crumpled in a permanent grin. The mixture of their voices was amazing. Sakura’s deeper tone and Naruto’s raw emotion made for something unusual. The single was going to conquer the charts.
As Naruto’s gravelled voice reached the chorus, Sasuke noticed a familiar silhouette waiting in the wings. Sakura glanced the same direction, qued by a voice in her ear piece perhaps. A new, wide smile spread across her face as a third voice erupted into song. Sasuke felt a sense of dread settle on his shoulders. Eyes searching for the surest sign that his suspicion was true, Sasuke cursed when he noticed a puff of smoke in the darkness behind the figure. Shikamaru was here, chainsmoking as usual. That could only mean. . .
Strutting confidently, signature high-note still holding steady, Ino Yamanaka arrived onstage. One hand purposely placed to make her already tiny waist seem even slimmer and perched confidently on impossibly high heels, the heiress was every bit the powerhouse Sasuke remembered.
When her pale eyes swept the front row, he sighed. She wasn’t looking truly into the crowd. Ino was scouring the space between the lip of the stage and where the audience began. She expected him to be there. The roars of the crowd began to at last creep in on Sasuke, pounding in his temples and sewing what would become an epic headache.
Her blue eyes scanned one more time, catching sight of his dark-clothed and unassuming presence at last. The cat-eyed slant of them, already extenuated by black liner, turned almost predatory as they narrowed angrily toward him.
Her portion of Sakura and Naruto’s duet was a simple assist vocal, but the tune had changed again. This one was a crowd favorite from the previous summer. One Sakura and Ino had written together about a woman scorned. Ino’s expression was almost gleeful as she belted a snarling, angry strand of epithets to the catchy beat pulsing from the amplifiers.
Sakura slunk over to her best friend, moving along to the upbeat synth sound of their song. Ino turned to face her at last, leaving Sasuke to watch Naruto grab a second mic from a stage hand. Pocketing the regular one, the blond took a deep breath and jumped into a goofy rap. The new equipment altered his voice to something comical and in-keeping with the song’s silly, retro sound.
His tight jeans and obnoxious orange belt only added to the moment, Sasuke snorted to himself. Watching his new assignment as he was, Sasuke missed the silent exchange between friends that must have occurred. But when he looked again to Sakura, her apple green gaze barreled right back at him.
The weight of her attention was almost a physical touch. Before Sasuke could think much more on it, though, she had turned away to play to her fans once more. The rest of the show passed in a blur and Sasuke could feel his apprehension build. He would have to meet Naruto backstage and escort him to whatever afterparty or hotel or liaison he had decided on for the night.
Sakura might also be there. Waiting or maybe they would just see each other coincidentally. Or passingly. Fuck, Sasuke didn’t know. He just had a thousand and one possibilities rolling around, loose in his head.
Eventually his stalling became obvious. Suigetsu’s salty personality cut him no slack. “Hey, boss? You gonna be helping the cleanup crew or some shit? Cause if you could put down your broom or whatever-the-fuck, I’m swamped back here.”
Pressing at the concealed wire curled around the shell of his ear, Sasuke barked back, “Coming.”