Choji’s birthday wasn’t technically for another week, but even so, he already had a present. Ino had brought it to school and given it to him, and it’d spent half an hour in Choji’s locker before his mother got there to pick it up.
However, cute as the chinchilla was, Choji had… no idea how to care for it. And so, he’d approached his best friend for help. Unfortunately, Shikamaru was nearly as clueless as the Akamichi.
Luckily, Shikamaru also had internet access at home. So, after several hours’ worth of research, the boys had not only decided what food they needed to buy, but where to get it.
The day after that, with the pet-store provided food Ino’d given Choji almost gone, Shikamaru was stepping through the door of the pet shop nearest his house. He distantly noted the clatter of the bell over the door, even as he started scanning the nearest shelves for food. The animals were ignored as he bypassed them, until he finally stood before a row of the different varieties.
None of these are the brand we looked up, he noted immediately, brow twitching in annoyance. It was so like Ino to be this much of a nuisance, even when she was being kind. “Troublesome,” he complained under his breath, and reached out for one of the food packets to examine it.
“Since when did you have a furball?” asked the sudden large shadow to his left. The large blue hand that went along with the large blue shadow reached out and tilted the bag in his grasp. “Really?”
Shikamaru frowned and turned slightly to look at the older male. “It’s Choji’s,” he answered. “Ino got him a chinchilla for his birthday.”
Dark brows winged up. “With what money?” Kisame stepped back, eyes scanning over the different brands. “How old is it?”
“Um.” Shikamaru paused as he tried to remember if Ino had said how old it was. “It’s really young?” was what he managed. He really should have thought to ask her. Or Choji. Or someone who would know.
Kisame smacked a hand over his face. “Why are you buying the food then? No wait, I know.” Fingers parted as the shark gave Shika an amused look. “Ino got the fuzzball and you’re supplying the food. Two part gift.”
Shikamaru soon found the feed bag in his hands substituted with another—”Don’t feed it treats on a regular basis; not good for it”—and was trying not to sneeze at the bundle of cloth-wrapped hay that was tucked into his shopping basket.
“Tell Choji to drop by when he can,” Kisame rumbled. “We’ve got a few books on care and training. I hope he’s got a good-sized cage…?”
Wrinkling his nose, Shikamaru nodded. “Yeah,” he said, trying not to breathe lest he sneeze all over everything. “Ino got one.”
“At least there’s that.” The shark frowned. “He knows they take dust baths right? They only drink water, not swim in it.”
“He will now,” the genius muttered, finally getting his nose sufficiently under control. He peered at the other boy. “Well, what else is there for me to tell him?”
Shaking his head, Kisame muttered, “Bet the blonde bought the thing cuz she thought it was cute.” He headed towards the book section, waving at Shikamaru to follow. “You’re getting him a book first. And you can tell him that he’s got fifteen years of happiness coming at him. The buggers are pretty fun for rodents.”
“This is so troublesome,” Shikamaru complained, but followed Kisame anyway. It’s going to leave a hole in my wallet so wide I’ll have to buy a new one.
Almost as if he read his mind, Kisame glanced back, lips stretched back in a wide smirk. “At least you don’t own it. Chinchilla’s aren’t easy pets to keep. Did Ino say how much it cost her?”
“No, but she said we would both owe her for a while,” Shikamaru replied blandly. “I’m debating on hiding somewhere, actually.”
Kisame snorted. “Warning you right now. If it’s as long as I think it is, I’m charging you rent.”
Shikamaru arched a brow. “Well, I suppose I can at least count on you to be fairer than Chuushin.”
Bursting into laughter, Kisame turned and slung an arm around Shika’s shoulders. “That’s true.” They continued on towards the bookshelves by the cashier. It didn’t pass Shikamaru’s notice that Kisame shortened his stride.
The genius slanted a glance toward the other boy, shifting his grip on the basket. “So anyway. Thanks for your help with this. Ino half-baked this idea from the get-go.”
“It’s my job,” Kisame replied, and Shika felt the accompanying shrug. “Just tell Choji to visit. The internet is good for a lot of things, but not everything.”
Fair enough, the younger supposed. “Alright,” he said, as they drew to a stop.
“So…” Kisame withdrew his arm, picking up a black and beige book with a chinchilla on the front. “You busy this weekend?” he asked as he stepped behind the till. The bar code scanner beeped as the book slid through.
“Just for a while on Friday afternoon,” Shikamaru answered. “The rest of my plans—mainly napping—are loose and can be shifted.”
The corner of Kisame’s mouth twitched up. “I envy you your plans. Any interest in astrology?” The food stuff went under the red line in a quick series of digital acknowledgements.
“Astrology?” Shikamaru echoed, brows lifting. “Well, I suppose so. Stars are almost as good as clouds.”
Snort. “Saturday afternoon good for you? The Dome has a special on the Hubble and I’ve been wanting to check that out for a while.”
Shikamaru tugged out his wallet. “Don’t you work Saturday?” he asked, curiously.
Shifting, Kisame coughed. “Not this time. Manager basically slapped the flyer on me and said I was working Thursday this week.” The grin returned.
“Ah.” Shikamaru returned the smile after a beat. “Well, sounds like it’ll be interesting. Count me in.”
“Excellent!” The genius couldn’t tell if Kisame was that enthusiastic because of the date, the telescope, or the sale… He settled for the telescope. “Thirty-seven sixty. You wanna bag?”
“Yeah, a bag would be appreciated,” Shikamaru answered dryly, handing over the cash. “Thanks.” He grinned a little.
Leaning back, Itachi nursed his beer and watched as a slightly flushed Kyuubi argue the advantages of a program-perfect machine over the questionable skill of hand-carving. With Sasori.
Needless to say, that wasn’t going well. The younger redhead was the more sober of the two. Not by much, but enough for the sake of the argument.
Hidan would be leaving soon, it was already past midnight. Kakuzu and Deidara were probably going to bunk over, seeing as Genma had made a point of buying a few good futons for that purpose. Itachi was tempted to bunk down himself, just for the experience. The last time the Akatsuki had bedded down in one place, in the morning Hidan was discovered to be bleeding, Kisame was covered in glitter and mint lace, and Deidara was missing eyebrows—though considering what the pyro did in his waking sober hours, that was no surprise.
Speaking of Deidara… “- can’t understand the true meaning of art, yeah! You blood-headed freak!” the blond roared at Sasori, having not-so-neatly inserted himself into the argument occurring.
“Art?! ART? You can’t speak of art, you fool,” Sasori snarled furiously, hand twitching uncomfortably close to a nearby protractor. “Those ridiculous explosions of yours are just that—ridiculous.”
“They’re art, I say! ART!”
And thus the argument went. At least Kyuubi had the presence of mind to snatch the protractor away from Sasori before the other redhead could use it on his blond rival.
“Why don’t you fuckers shut the fuck up and stop fucking talkin’ about useless shit?” Hidan called from his seat beside Kakuzu, and threw a beer can at Sasori.
“Fuck you, Hidan,” Deidara snapped back as Sasori gave a full-body twitch.
There was a groan from Itachi’s left. “What’s really sad,” Kisame began, “is that stupid argument comes up so often, that neither of you are original anymore. Think up something new for fuck’s sake.”
Deidara flipped him the bird. “Fuck you, Sushi-breath,” he shot back.
Sasori lunged for the protractor.
Kyuubi yelped and kicked him in the stomach before scrambling across the room near Itachi and Kisame. Hidan had leapt to his feet, meanwhile, and grinned widely as he went to egg Sasori into a blinding rage. Because it amused him.
“They’re really violent,” Kyuubi muttered, in a Captain Obvious moment.
Flipping two fingers at the ever-watchful Kakuzu, Itachi placed his bets. “Of course they are.”
Over by the table, Kisame was rescuing a ring pack of cans. He tossed one to Kakuzu and another to Kyuubi and freed a third for himself as he sat down, the cans clinking to rest at his feet. “Aah, ring-side seats!”
As he danced out of reach of the albino and the psychopathic redhead, Deidara’s expression contorted into one of disgust. “Man, fucking crazy, un,” he complained, and tried to steal Hidan’s vacated seat.
However, one look at Kakuzu and he was taking a chair by the wall instead. “Ten on Sasori!” he chirped to the money-monger, who sniffed and nodded.
The one redhead who was sitting down, frowned and blearily tried to make sense of the younger crowd he found himself in. “But… who is he fighting?” Wasn’t Sasori’s opponent Deidara ?
Black eyes watching the artist in question, Itachi shrugged. “Could be anyone at this point.” Which was marginally true. Sasori in a berserker rage would attack anyone who didn’t readily agree with his artistic views. And considering no one in the group would agree, they were all fair game.
“Could be,” Kisame seconded, “but it’ll probably be Hidan, since he’s right in Sasori’s face.”
“Taking a bet?” Kakuzu asked the shark as Hidan ducked a wild swipe and rammed Sasori in the stomach with his head.
Silver eyes squinted for a moment. “Sasori bleeds first, but Hidan will get stabbed. Twenty.”
Kakuzu smiled widely. “Kyuubi?” he asked, obviously already mentally counting his winnings.
“No cash with me,” he answered quickly, sobering through necessity. Very carefully, Kyuubi placed his unopened can down on the cement. “This happens… regularly?”
Itachi ‘hnned’ as Kisame nodded. “Not as often as we’d like. It’s been months since a good brawl…” he trailed off, before grinning widely. “Maaan, when Pinky was out-of-town and Uchiha here was indisposed, both Dei and Hidan were in the hospital. Oh, we got shit for that! Remember, Itachi?”
Judging from the flat glare the shark got in response, yes, Itachi did remember.
Kisame coughed and settled back to watch the idiots still swinging at each other. He was still grinning.
Only a moment later, Hidan got in a solid hit, breaking Sasori’s nose and drawing, as Kisame had predicted, first blood. With a shriek, the redhead tackled the albino, the latter of which rolled them immediately, and Deidara relocated himself.
“Kick ‘is ass, danna!” the blond crowed ecstatically, and winced when Sasori headbutted Hidan.
There was a brief pause as both boys shook their heads at the attack, likely both knocked senseless, and then they were at it again.
Deidara smirked at Kyuubi. “Just wait till you see Kakuzu get into it. Whenever he does, it’s a lot more bloody!”
Drunken flush fading away, the older man glanced from the bouncing blond to the staggering college boys. One of whom had his lower face covered in blood. “Good thing we have bleach around here,” he murmured.
“And beds. And bandages. And lots of splinting material,” Kisame added.
“Sunnova-” Hidan yelped out when Sasori got him in the balls. “You nasty cheating little shit!”
Sasori punched the larger male in the side of his head when Hidan chomped down on his arm. Deidara huffed. “Aw, c’mon, grow a pair!” he yelled angrily. “Biting’s for girls, un!”
Releasing his grasp on the other boy, Hidan scrambled back, scowling. “Wanna join us, bitch? Shut the fuck up!” And he lunged in at Sasori again.
On the side, Kyuubi was cringing. “How is Jashin still… functioning?”
Kisame only lifted his hands and shrugged.
“He might have marginally blocked it,” Itachi mused.
“Probably,” Kakuzu grunted, eying them. “Step it up, Hidan, I’m betting on you, and if you make me lose, I’ll get you back.”
Hidan flipped Sasori over his shoulders, sending the redhead slamming to the ground. “It’s not as easy as you’d think! This little fucker’s a crazy bastard!”
“Just win,” Kakuzu retorted, and scoffed.
“Hidan’s life is so hard,” Kisame observed before gulping down half his beer. “Then again,” he murmured, lowering the can, “if Hidan loses, that means Deidara wins the bet.”
Hidan let out a cackle abruptly, a split second after Sasori stomped him in the stomach. The albino rolled away and stumbled to his feet, too slowly. Sasori jumped onto his back, a pencil in hand.
“Where did he get that?!” Deidara yelped, diving behind Kakuzu’s couch (because surely Sasori wouldn’t be stupid enough to attack Kakuzu).
Howling when the psycho stabbed the pencil into his shoulder, Hidan grabbed the guy and flung him off, and Sasori slammed into the wall not five feet from them. He grunted, breath knocked from his lungs, and Hidan punched in his direction.
Instead of hitting the redhead, Hidan’s fist made a shallow dent in the wall right beside his head. He giggled. “Ouch.”
Eying his fist, the redhead hummed. He looked toward Hidan’s shoulder, where a familiar bloody pencil was sticking out. “That looks like it hurts,” he observed mildly, as if he hadn’t just put it there.
“Oi! You two done then?” Kisame called out. “I’ve got the last three beers!”
Draining the last of his own can, Itachi briefly considered another before shaking his head and reaching for a bottle of water instead. Hangovers with Deidara in the same city block wasn’t worth the pain.
“Beer sounds… fuckin’ awesome,” Hidan said, pushing away from the wall as Sasori exhaled and slid down to sit with his back to it. “Want some, freak?”
“Hmph. Please and thank you,” Sasori snapped back, not getting up.
Hidan grunted, reached up, and pulled the pencil out. Luckily, it hadn’t been in that deeply, and so when he tossed it aside, his blood didn’t start gushing out of his body or anything. Which was good.
Rolling his shoulder carefully, the albino stumbled over to Kisame and snatched two of the beers, turning to toss one to his opponent. Sasori almost dropped it in his fumble to latch on. Hidan flopped into his previous seat next to Kakuzu. “Ain’t over, you fucking whacko,” he said, and gulped his drink.
Sasori rolled his eyes, sniffed, and opened his own can.
Kyuubi watched in awed interest as both Itachi and Kisame flicked significant glances at Kakuzu. Itachi raised a brow. Kisame tilted his head. The blue-boy, Kyuubi noted, was fairly vibrating.
“Neither won,” Kakuzu scoffed.
Deidara scowled. “Fuck you, un! Danna won! Clearly!”
“I ain’t dead and I ain’t on a stretcher, pyro-fucker,” Hidan growled back. “So he didn’t fucking win.”
“You’re just picking favorites—eek!” Deidara scrambled away from their couch when Kakuzu started to get up. “Okay, oh—fuck, okay! Neither won, un!”
Narrowing his eyes at the fool, Kakuzu sat down again. “There a beer left?”
Kyuubi instantly handed over his own as Kisame leaned forward.
“First blood and stabbed, bookie,” the shark said grinning. “I never said one had to win.”
Kakuzu glared at him, but got out his wallet. He handed a twenty over, and then elbowed Hidan hard in the ribcage. His best friend let out a whoosh of breath and doubled over, nearly spilling his beer as he wheezed for breath. “Cunt.”
“Cocksucker,” Hidan managed breathlessly.
Casting worried glances at the seeping wounds, Kyuubi frowned and cautiously stood. He made calming gestures at the several pair of eyes that snapped up to him. “I’m just getting the first aid kit, that’s all.”
As the older redhead left the room, Kisame chuckled. “Who wants to bet that Genma knew this was going to happen and that’s why he keeps such a well stocked med kit?”
“Who the fuck’d take that bet?” Hidan retorted in agreement, but grinned. “Man, I fucking love med kits, though. Wounds don’t take as long to heal with them.”
The sole blond in the room hesitantly came out of hiding and sat back down in his chair. “You say that like you don’t use ‘em often, un,” he said dubiously, and at the albino’s shrug, grimaced. “Erk. Really?!”
“Don’t be a pussy, Deidara,” Hidan snapped back.
Holding up the last can, Kisame tilted his head. Well, if no one else was taking it… He cracked it open and took a gulp. Aah, life was good.
Deidara sudden got a strange look on his face as he focused on Kisame. “Oh, I forgot to ask… What were you and pineapple head doing at the Dome yesterday?”
There was a few seconds as attention shifted to the shark who was slowly blinking at the blond over the rim of the can. Kisame lowered his beer. “Looking at stars. You?”
“Well, I was lookin’ at the stars, until I realized you were hanging out with Nara,” Deidara retorted, nose wrinkling. “Are you still pesterin’ that kid?”
Lips curling up into a grin, Kisame shrugged. “The guy likes to look at clouds, I like to look at stars. He was the easiest one to hang out with. Didn’t see you though. Where were you hiding?”
“Was helping Mavi, if you gotta know, un,” Deidara huffed, naming one of the Dome’s techies.
Blue-boy’s eyes lit up. “Really? Hitachin Mavi? The lady who was giving the presentation?” Deidara was suddenly confronted with a very interested Kisame. “Any chance she would be willing to chat?”
Blinking, the blond shrugged. “I don’t know, un,” he muttered. “She’s always been pretty nice to me, but apparently is a terror to others. But I could ask…? If you… want?” He gave Kisame an odd look.
Kisame beamed at him. “Any time,” he said with enthusiasm. “She’s got good stuff.” The shark eased back into his chair, murmuring, “I wonder if she’s got extra slides…”
Itachi glanced once at his friend and then quirked a brow at the other boys who were still staring. Yes? What about it? it seemed to say. “Kisame’s new obsession,” he deadpanned.
“Not new,” Kisame snapped back.
The Uchiha turned to face him. “To them it is.”
Kisame snorted and picked up his beer again.
There was a beat of silence, mostly because Deidara was staring at Kisame like he was crazy. Finally, it was broken by Kyuubi’s return, and following treatment of Hidan (who cursed up a storm even when Kyuubi wasn’t touching him).
The young man stepped into his guardian’s classroom during lunch period. He was holding a bento, when Zabuza looked up, with a faint smile on his face as he approached. The teacher set aside his pen and furrowed his brow. “Haku?”
Raising a brow, the eighteen-year-old slid into a chair across from Zabuza’s and set the box between them. “Good afternoon, Zabuza-san.” Two pairs of chopsticks graced the desktop next to polished wood.
Zabuza sighed and set to stacking the papers he’d been grading, setting them aside. “Yeah. I guess. What’s the meal today?”
“Beef teriyaki stir fry and prawn tempura,” Haku said, lifting the lid. “And miso soup.” A thermos was added to the spread. “You forgot to take lunch with you this morning.”
“I was preoccupied,” Zabuza responded, and gave Haku a faint smile. “Thanks for sharing.”
Passing over the chopsticks, Haku’s smile deepened at the corners. “It’s my pleasure.”
A/N: I’ve given up on titles and I’m going to start posting up chapters like a mutherfucker.
So sorry for the long wait!