Scaredy-Cat took the news of their impending visit to the Varia HQ with minimal fuss—read: a mild panic attack—mostly thanks to his exhaustion and Alternate Kyōya's contribution by way of tonfas and lectures on how-to-omnivore. In contrast, Chibi-Espresso-Maniac took it far worse, as it served to stall his quest for answers, and would have insisted on coming along, if not for Evil-Twin's nasty radiation bullshit. Naruto'd be lying if he said he didn't find this whole kidnapping crisis amusing. Guess every cloud had a silver lining.

Finally, two hours after Squalo's damn phone call, Naruto walked out of the underground Vongola base, a still-mildly-panicked Scaredy-Cat and an irritable, nap-deprived Alternate Kyōya in tow, destination clear in his mind and holding back laughter as he stole one last glance at Chibi-Espresso-Maniac's expression. If that wasn't a resting murder face, Naruto didn't know what was.

(A mirror could have told him. All he had to do was look into one several hours later.)

Naturally, Naruto never made it to the Varia HQ on schedule. Also, it stopped being amusing halfway there. Chibi-Espresso-Maniac's resting murder face had nothing on Naruto's, and Scaredy-Cat would vouch for it when he was all out of hies.

Of course, with Naruto's luck, his crazy brats had to be in the process of planning the most epic jailbreak in the history of epic jailbreaks when Naruto inadvertently caught up with them on his way to the Varia HQ.

Naruto really should have known better than to dismiss his scarily infallible, asshole-ish super intuition. Breaking into Vendicare? Seriously, brats? Kuro-chan, you sly little shit, no more chocolate for you.

Naruto stood outside Vendicare's black massive gates, in the midst of snow, snow, and oh, more goddamn snow, in the ass end of nowhere, more commonly known as 'somewhere in the flipping Alps'. Before him, a gaggle of brats was arrayed in two separate groups, all unapologetic and shit, self-satisfied smirks and creepy murder-laughter everywhere. Behind him, Scaredy-Cat was hunched into himself next to Alternate Kyōya, nothing but shivers and chattering teeth, either freezing his balls off or creeped out by the laughing echoes, though it was probably an even mixture of both. Uchiha brat had defaulted to murderous scowling the second he had caught sight of Mukuro, and only the crushing pressure of Naruto's chakra had kept his berserker blood at bay.

"So, let me get this straight." Naruto's voice was a low, rumbling baritone, his face that of the beleaguered father who had no more patience for his kids' bullshit, but also couldn't help but be so fucking proud of the chaos they brought upon the world with every breath they took. Gods, he needed a stiff drink. That asshole Xanxus had better share some of the good stuff. Or else. "While you were…out on a recon, Kuro-chan's counterpart, who, by the way, wasn't switched by the Bovino's bullshit bazooka, communicated with you via his latest possessed meat-suit and sent you off to recruit Wonder-Frog boy, so you could bust him out of Vendicare. Along the way, you also just happened to stumble across Kusa-chan's and Ken-chan's counterparts, oh, and Miss Gold-digger Choco-Girl over there, who were in the middle of trying to break into Vendicare for the same reason. Just out of curiosity, did it occur to you, at any point during this epic 'Free Pineapple' journey, to inform the Varia of the circumstances behind Fran-chan's kidnapping incident?"

Mukuro and Mini-Anko affected a guilty, sorta pouty, kinda sheepish, oops-my-hand-slipped look that resembled Lambo's each time he'd been caught with his hand in the grape candy jar, not that they fooled anyone, but Naruto gave them a seven out of ten for sheer effort and for managing to creep Scaredy-Cat out and piss Alternate Kyōya off to infinity.

Alternate Ken and Alternate Chikusa leveled him with untrusting, hostile, who-the-fuck-put-you-in-charge, go-away-and-leave-us-to-our-jailbreaking-business glares. Choco-Girl defended her gold-digger ways and her obsessive love for Alternate Mukuro in between criticizing Naruto's fashion sense, because orange was apparently too prison-like for her tastes and not something one should wear when attempting an actual jailbreak.

Wonder-Frog just stared at him, deadpan, then after an indeterminate amount of silent staring expressed his interest in joining their yōkai clan, asking what were the trials one had to undertake in order to be declared 'kitsune-friend' and if, unlike Varia's initiation test, one could choose the nature of their inner yōkai identity, because he'd always felt more like a toad than a frog, also deadpan.

Right then and there, Naruto changed the boy's nickname from Wonder-Frog to Gama-chan and vowed to have words with Alternate Squalo and the tiara-brat's counterpart for their gross mislabeling in Fukasaku-jī's place. That shit just wasn't right, man. A toad was a toad was a toad. The end.

All Naruto could say was, "Yeah, that's what I thought." Rolling with the crazy, he sighed and made for the Mordor-like gates. "Well, alright. Let's go and try to negotiate with the Vindice for Muku-chan's conditional release, 'kay?"

His brats' pouting took on genuine colors at Naruto's adult approach, and Naruto made a mental note to keep an eye on them in Vendicare in case they decided to instigate a prison fight out of boredom. Or something. Gama-chan mistook this as one of the aforementioned trials and tried to prove his worth to Naruto's clan by reciting relevant excerpts from a twelve-volume treatise on criminal law, supposedly published by Baby-Chief himself during the nineteenth century, though Naruto had serious doubts about the original text having been written in Pig Latin. Alternate Chikusa, Alternate Ken, and Choco-Girl eyed Naruto as if he were the one with the crazy plan here, but nobody dared object—apart from Scaredy-Cat's token protest in the screeching form of ne-negotiate? Whatwhat do you mean negotiate? You can't negotiate with the Vindice!

Alternate Kyōya, who had graduated from the Bruce Willis' Negotiation Institute, was more than willing to teach him proper negotiation etiquette, if the way he span his tonfas was anything to go by. So was Mukuro, who promptly buried both brats under a metric fuck-ton of snow, smiling that innocent smile of his and throwing some mocking quip about needing to cool their heads off, which…yeah, awesome demonstration of rule number one: Keep it cool and open a can of whoop-ass.

Thus began the most violent, homicidal snowball fight slash negotiation lesson Naruto'd ever witnessed. As he fished a half-frozen Scaredy-Cat out of his makeshift bolthole, Naruto sighed and prayed for patience. Xanxus' booze collection had better be worth it.

(Although, Naruto privately admitted, Gama-chan's running commentary of the action almost made this whole kidnapping crisis worth it. Brat was hilarious, like, an unholy fusion of Sai and Samui, with a tiny bit of Uzumaki charm thrown into the mix to make him likeable instead of a mouthy little jackass, what with his deadpan delivery and bold-faced satire and conjectures about the mating habits of bird yōkai and pineapple slime monsters, definitely prime kidnap material. If the Varia hadn't gotten to him first, Naruto might've been tempted to pull a Fon and adopt the little brat when they got home just for the entertainment value alone. Oh, and because toads were cool, believe it.)

"Yo, Jager, my man. Glad to see you're still alive…ish and kicking. Is Bermuda in?"

Still tall, dark, and creepy, but showing no recognition beyond a fleeting glance over at Scaredy-Cat, Alternate Jager stared. Grinning, Naruto stared back and waited. Without any sort of acknowledgement, Alternate Jager turned around and escorted them to Alternate Baby-Chief's rather Spartan office. His brats took one look at the bare walls, the utilitarian desk, the shelves overflowing with reports and criminal records, and Naruto just knew there was no way this office wouldn't get redecorated by the time their visit was over. Byakuran wasn't here to do it himself, so it fell to them to brighten up the zombie-baby's dreary domain. Whether Alternate Baby-Chief appreciated their initiative or not was a whole other matter, but eh, details.

While Alternate Baby-Chief was busy scrutinizing Scaredy-Cat, Naruto flashed them a subtle thumbs up, receiving matching devious smirks in return and an image of Alternate Baby-Chief's new-and-improved office. There was lots of orange. And photos from their annual trips around the globe. 'Nuff said.

"Sawada Tsunayoshi." Scaredy-Cat almost jumped a foot into the air, a near soundless hie tumbling out of his throat, but stood his ground and met the zombie-baby's (bandaged) stare head-on, which earned him that signature head slant and an ounce of regal, feline curiosity. Some things remained the same in every universe, it seemed. "We have had sporadic contact, and yet I can tell you seem different than last we met."

Nervous, fidgeting, hands tugging at the edge of his belt, Scaredy-Cat ducked his head and chanced an imploring glance at Naruto, conveying what do I do and omigod please help and holy crap, is he scary. Gaining confidence from Naruto's you-can-do-this-brat nod, he raised his head and offered a small, confused smile. "A-ah, thank…you…?"

Short and simple. Nice going, kid. We'll make a leader out of you in no time. Scaredy-Cat's shoulders sagged when Alternate Baby-Chief's stare left his twitchy face to focus on Naruto, boneless relief exploding from his body with a far more audible sigh, but whatever. Baby steps.

"You…" A pause, another cat-like slant of his head, longer, deeper. "I have never made the acquaintance of."

Unfazed, Naruto beamed at the zombie-baby. "Perceptive as always, Bermuda. Long story short, I'm not this dimension's Sawada Tsunayoshi, just, y'know, visiting…and stuff." Still beaming, but trying not to come off as too eager, he shrugged his shoulders and casually put forward, "To avoid misunderstandings, you can call me Naruto."

If Naruto had been unfazed by the zombie-baby's cold appraisal, it was nothing compared to Alternate Baby-Chief's deathless propriety and fondness for using someone's full name even when given permission to discard formalities. "What do you seek in Vendicare, Sawada Tsunayoshi not of this world?"

Well, damn. It was worth a try, anyway. "Straight to the point, huh? I always liked that about you, Bermuda—" The air around Alternate Baby-Chief became colder, chains rattling and black fire-chakra writhing under his cloak and ominous shit like that, and Naruto hurried to add, "—san." Thank the sage, it appeased the zombie-baby. Somewhat. Not taking it personally, Naruto powered on through. "I hear you've got Rokudo Mukuro stashed somewhere around here. Tsuna-chan kinda needs him to defeat Ran-chan's evil twin, so."

At Naruto's sideways, pointed stare—because Alternate Mukuro was his responsibility, dammit, no ifs, ands, or buts about it—Scaredy-Cat came alive, squeaking and stammering and completely forgetting Alternate Kyōya's negotiation lessons. "P-please, um… B-Bermuda-san."

This kid… So much work to do, so little time. Shaking his head, Naruto took over, because if he let Scaredy-Cat handle it, he'd somehow muck it all up and find himself in the cell adjacent to Alternate Mukuro's for the rest of his life. "You have heard about the whole Vongola vs. Millefiore thing, right? End of the world and all that?"

There was an icy layer of mirth coating Alternate Baby-Chief's aura as he watched Scaredy-Cat squirm under his scrutiny, but all traces of it vanished the moment Naruto posed that question. "We are aware of the recent feud, ja." Voice like pure hoarfrost, unforgiving.

Oh. Shit. Touchy subject, huh? Naruto didn't want to touch that, honest, but he couldn't not ask, if only to confirm his suspicions concerning the Vindice's neutrality. "Mind if I ask why you haven't interfered yet?"

And oh, there was the I-cannot-decide-if-you-are-an-idiot-or-a-genius cat-like head slant Naruto was so used to getting from his Baby-Chief. "Perhaps I have misjudged you, Sawada Tsunayoshi not of this world." The look on his face—damn, were bandages always this expressive? Seriously, how?—revealed that yes, he very much minded, as did his scathing comeback. "You appear to possess knowledge that this Sawada Tsunayoshi lacks. Do not ask inane questions lest you wish for your intelligence to be called into question as well."

So, Evil-Twin's nasty radiation bullshit didn't affect only the current Arcobaleno. Copy that. Fuck that shit. One more reason to beat his scrawny ass to the next dimension. Despite the zombie-baby's frostbite-inducing reply, Naruto's smile was an upturn of rich warmth, a heartfelt promise. "Sorry, man. Just had to be sure, ya know? Don't worry, we'll fix this mess."

Alternate Baby-Chief, of-fucking-course, had to go and ruin their moment with his morbid sense of humor. "I shan't hold my breath."

Naruto's expression went flat as a pancake. You don't breathe, Baby-Chief. "So, about Muku-chan's freedom issue."

"I will agree to release the criminal known as Rokudo Mukuro in Vongola's custody, on the condition that you will personally escort him to Vendicare, so as to resume serving the remainder of his sentence, once this feud has reached its end, regardless of whose side claims victory."

On the whole, it was a fair deal, and just what he'd come to expect from any version of Baby-Chief. After thinking it through, Naruto nodded and went ahead with his counter-offer, for Scaredy-Cat's sake, because the poor kid wasn't in any condition to be making demands on the Vindice, at least not now (perhaps not ever, but Naruto had to have faith in his student or nobody else would). "Only if ya promise to talk with Tsuna-chan then. He'll probably wanna renegotiate for Muku-chan's permanent release or something."

And, miracle of miracles, Scaredy-Cat manned up and copied Naruto's nod, albeit with less self-assurance and this omigod-please-help-me look plastered on his face, when the zombie-baby chose to include him in the sealing of the deal as he droned, officious and frosty and final, "We have an accord, Sawada Tsunayoshi."

(When Alternate Jager returned to escort them to Alternate Mukuro's cell per the zombie-baby's instruction, Scaredy-Cat had retreated into a thousand-yard stare, following along blindly and stumbling through the hallways as they went down, down, down—

Eh, he'd snap out of it soon…ish. Hopefully. Dealing with the living dead built character. Lesson learned.)

Once Alternate Mukuro had been retrieved, Alternate Jager had tossed them out in the snow and slammed the gates in their face, unceremoniously and without preamble, as if to say good riddance and never darken our door again. Ah. Alternate Baby-Chief must have discovered the…colorful…changes, and not cared for his office's new aesthetic appeal. At all. Scaredy-Cat would need some supplementary lessons in diplomacy, i.e. sucking up and networking, before he approached the zombie-baby in the future.

While brushing snow off of his hair and shoulders, Naruto took the time to study the tall, lithe form of Alternate Mukuro in his fetching prison garb, a drab, washed out gray that really brought out his eyes, if Choco-Girl's love-struck exclamations were to be believed. So much for her unparalleled fashion sense.

"'lo, Muku-chan. You caused me a fuck-ton of trouble, brat."

Alternate Mukuro tied his weird-ass hair back in a low ponytail, caught his eyes and smiled. Like, you-don't-say and was-it-hard-to-think-up-that-line and I-live-to-make-your-life-miserable smiled. "I'm sure you're used to it."

Hooh. Talk about being resilient. Even spending the better part of a decade locked up in Vendicare hadn't cured that little shit of his uncuteness. Naruto snorted and did the adult thing again, because if he got into a verbal spat with the uncute brat, they'd never leave this frozen wasteland. "You got that right, but enough about me. Let's talk about you making amends, yeah? Starting with an apology to the Varia for kidnapping Gama-chan."

(That was what had happened, yep. Naruto's brats hadn't taken advantage of this unique opportunity to wreak havoc, nope. That was the official version, and nobody could prove otherwise. Naruto dared them to try.)

Alternate Mukuro's smile didn't falter, though the slight stiffening of his spine was another story. Something complex, multifaceted, passed through his gaze—displeasure, affront, disgust, attachment, a sense of entitlement and deep, old-festering loathing. "He was my apprentice first. I don't see why I have to give him up just because the Varia has taken a similar liking to him. He's better off not getting mixed with the dregs of society."

As opposed to an exemplary pillar of society like yourself? Oi, brat, don't tell me you're…jealous? In all honesty, Naruto shouldn't have been surprised. Mukuro was a possessive little shit, but he was usually less callous and more shameless in his affections. Also way, way less bitter. Naruto chalked that up to those Estraneo mad scientist fuckers. He hadn't asked (and he wouldn't), but his gut feeling told him nobody'd rescued this Mukuro. It still didn't excuse his behavior toward Gama-chan.

Somebody had to put that little shit in his place, and it obviously wouldn't be Scaredy-Cat, not with the way he was stealing glances at Alternate Mukuro, all wariness and reliving past traumas and shit, as if the guy was one step away from giving in to his serial-killer inclinations and going off on a merry murder spree across the Alps.

Naruto crossed his arms and stared at the pair, unimpressed, although for different reasons in each case. "And that makes him your property?"

It was the last word Naruto managed to get in edgewise. Inspired by Naruto's defense, Gama-chan took it upon himself to showcase why he was Alternate Mukuro's star pupil, how to snark in perfect deadpan, and the best way to set off homicidal pineapples, and wow, this shit was comedy gold. Naruto now understood why Byakuran had slipped him ten packs of buttered popcorn marshmallows 'for the road'.

"I'm not getting a tattoo that says 'Property of Pineapple Head' on my left butt cheek, Master. It's vulgar, like your face."

"Be silent, apprentice, or I will make that frog-shaped monstrosity a permanent part of your physiology."

"Bel-senpai made me wear it. Does that mean I have to kiss him if I want to break the spell? Ew. You're the evilest witch of them all, Master. The most wicked of the pineapple fairies."

"You haven't seen evil yet, but if you're so eager to experience Hell, it will be my pleasure to indulge you."

"Careful, Master. Your perverse vulgarity is showing. People might misunderstand our relationship—"

We are keeping this brat, yes? Kurama drawled in between loud crunching sounds as he popped marshmallows into his maw by the bucket.

I wish. Naruto wiped an imaginary tear off of the corner of his eye, watching this beautiful disaster, all the while munching on his much smaller pack and feeding Inari. Gama-chan's like, the gift that keeps on giving.

Scaredy-Cat, though… Kurama and Naruto exchanged a dry stare as that brat tripped, flailed impotently, and inevitably found himself face down on the snow for the third—no, wait, make that fourth time. What the hell? Did he trip on his own frickin' face? How? Was Prince Charming's clumsy spell contagious or something?

(It was a long, trippy, freezing-ass cold, fucked-up genjutsu trek down the mountain. On the plus side, Alternate Kyōya seemed to have found a new appreciation for toads and black comedy. Naruto counted it as a win.)

Someone up there (probably the god of order or sanity or shit) must really hate Naruto. There was no other explanation for this.

Naruto stood in the middle of the wreckage that used to be one of Evil-Twin's secret bases. Around him, human bodies were scattered about every which way, broken and mindfucked and riddled with holes like so much fucking Swiss cheese. In front of him, Kyōya was flicking blood off of his tonfas, face set in contempt and dissatisfaction, while Kyōko was fairy-smiling and daintily sitting on Alternate Belphegor's back as the tiara-brat struggled against his bonds in all his princely glory. Behind him, Naruto's entourage was observing the carnage with varying reactions, Scaredy-Cat's petrified denial and Alternate Kyōya's frown-y intrigue most prominent among them.

"You know, when I gave you the go ahead to scope out Millefiore and their base of operations, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind, brats." Aware that attempting to reel the Kyō duo in at this point would be an exercise in futility, Naruto gave up and went with the flow. "What number are you on?"

"Seven." Kyōya's scoff revealed from where his dissatisfaction stemmed. Brat had no respect for unworthy opponents, especially when they wasted his time with empty boasts of their fighting prowess. No wonder ninety percent of the moaning bodies were missing their front teeth, and thus their ability of speech.

"I'm still on my fifth, but only because I was…delayed." Kyōko pouted and petted Alternate Belphegor's ridiculous hair, and if that wasn't indicative of the depths of her dismay, then the fact that she gleefully stole his precious crown amid his hissing threats certainly was. "Bel-kun was attacking this base when I arrived at the scene. At the rate he was going, there wouldn't have been any targets left for interrogation, so I was forced to incapacitate him."

Alternate Belphegor snapped his teeth at her when Kyōko brought her tiara-twirling hand dangerously close to his face. "You will bleed for this, elf witch."

Before Kyōya could interpret this gesture as a challenge on his mating claim—which, he sure as fuck would, and dammit, Kurama, this animal kingdom thing is all your fault, your wandering days are over, believe it—he cleared his throat. "I get it, Kyōko-chan, I really do. You've every right to be pissed that he got in your way, but do you think you could maybe untie him now that—"

Naruto never got to finish, because Gama-chan struck again, only this time he took it a step further and went all Shakespeare on the tiara-brat's ass. Also, no way was his ad-lib performance totally spontaneous. Was he taking lessons from this world's Plant-Hamlet or rehearsing this theater bullshit in the mirror every morning or what?

"You should address her royal elfiness, the High Queen of Summer, with the respect she is due to her station, Bel-senpai. Or she will feed you to her hounds."

"And you… I found you at long last, Froggie. You will regret forcing the Prince to search for your peasant self."

"O Fake Prince of Knives, heed my words. Confess your sins, repent for your crimes. 'Tis mighty foolish of you to proclaim your false royalty in her majestic presence. The Summer Queen sees all. The Summer Queen knows all."

"What is this nonsense, Froggie? Are you away with the fairies again? The Prince warned you not to consume every strange mushroom you find because you think they're pretty."

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Bel-senpai, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 'Tis not I who lives in a world of make-believe. Do not lay the blame for your pathological need to lie on poor, innocent fungi."

By this point, Kyōko had fallen half in love with the cheeky brat, which was bad, very, very bad, indeed, because—



"We are keeping him."

—yeah, that. Naruto'd need gallons of brain bleach to erase that image from his poor, violated memory. Forget the Sunset of Youth genjutsu flashbacks. A Gai-and-Lee routine with blatant sexual vibes was just… Holy fucking shit, this is just wrong! Gods, someone, anyone, please, say something

Thank fuck, Scaredy-Cat's voice box regained some of its lost function in the next second, though not all of it, unfortunately. "Kyōko-chan, you, uh…you can't just—he's Varia!"

Locked in a heated stare-off with Kyōya, rainbows and blooming flowers and fucking nymphs dancing naked in the background, Kyōko, for better or for worse, emulated the other half of her parentage in response. "Hm? Did you say something, Tsuna-kun?"

Scaredy-Cat's voice box malfunctioned again. Alternate Kyōya's brows drew apart in a smooth expression that signified deep, instinctive, animalistic understanding. The part of Naruto that still prayed for divine intervention died inside of him. The god of order or sanity or whatever could go fuck itself. Booze was the only divine spirit he believed in, anyway.

Naruto'd probably come to regret his decision to green-light his brats' self-appointed mission and allow the destruction of Evil-Twin's bases to continue, but that was a concern for a later time. (Or never, but he wasn't counting on being that lucky.) All he cared for at the moment was that his brats had graciously agreed to join forces with Scaredy-Cat and provide him with practical lessons in the art of aggressive negotiation. Alternate Kyōya was all over that. So was Alternate Mukuro. And Alternate Belphegor. Actually, the sole objection came from Scaredy-Cat, who persisted in being the odd man out and whose fledgling nindō was shaping up to be: I will never take my reality for granted.

And that was how Naruto arrived at the Varia HQ, blissfully alone and more late than Kakashi-sensei on a bad hair day, strolled through the entrance and hollered, "Yo! Anybody home?"

Squalo, who was in the middle of something with his counterpart (that, for some reason, involved comparing the tail length of their fire-chakra sharks—nope, not gonna ask, not for all the money in the world), cursed in apparent defeat and scowled at him. "Voi! You finally got here, Ramen-Trash! Took you long enough."

"Yeah, I had to do some pit stops on the way here and collect my brats, but we finally made it."

Understatement of the century, and Squalo seemed to know it, too.

"I don't want to know," he all but spat, bolting across the room, as if being in close proximity to Naruto would somehow lead to a memory transfer.

Naruto lacked the energy for anything more demonstrative than a wry twitch of brows and lips. "Wise of you," he deadpanned, and huh, would you look at that, Gama-chan was rubbing off on him. He should return the favor and teach the brat some Uzumaki-style mannerisms, y'know, for diversity. "So, here's the deal. Gama-chan's gonna spend some time with us—"

Alternate Squalo had kept silent until now, eyeballing Naruto with the air of someone inspecting an extraterrestrial life form, which was jarringly abnormal and kinda throwing Naruto off, but this…he could not abide. "Voi! I don't know who the fuck you think you are, trash, and I don't care to know, but you're not fucking kidnapping him again. Fran is ours."

"I never said he wasn't." Fed up with all the constant interruptions today, Naruto concluded that two could play the who's-the-bigger-asshole game and edited his original (vastly more detailed) synopsis to, "Look, some shit happened and now Gama-chan thinks Kyōko-chan's his fairy godmother or something, alright?"

Squalo nodded to himself, as if his hunch had just been validated, and poured them all a glass of scotch. Fucking finally! I've been waiting all day for this. You're good people, Sword-Psycho. Alternate Squalo just gazed at him, mouth agape, flabbergasted.

A blink. "What."

"Yeah," Naruto exhaled a breath as he savored his drink, "that happened."

Another blink. "How?"

Squalo's gaze connected with Naruto's, totally on the same wavelength, then they shrugged and said in unison, "Same way it always does?"

All that came out of Alternate Squalo's gaping mouth was, "Voi. How the fuck do you deal with this bullshit?"

The million dollar question, yeah. Again in unison, this time with raised glasses for emphasis, "Booze. Lots and lots of booze."

Speaking of which. "Oi, Sword-Psycho." Naruto slashed him with a glare, blood-drenched and listen, man, 'cause I'll only say this once. "Tell that fucker Xanxus he owes me—"

"I owe you what, scum?"

Oh, for the love ofwhat is it with rude assholes cutting me off everywhere I go? Like, what the fuck, Batman? Did you lie in wait and time this shit just to mess with me? All petty grudges, no matter how trivial, awoke with a vengeance and accumulated, swelling through his veins, as Naruto fixed his blood-red glare on that fucker. "You? Nothing yet. Your counterpart? Sixteen bottles of whiskey, eight bottles of wine, four bottles of bourbon, one bottle of tequila, and my mother's purity."

Alternate Xanxus' hand froze in midair as the rim of the glass was about to touch his lips. "Your mother?" Then, because it evidently bore repeating, "Your mother. Wait, isn't she Sawada's wife? The fuck?" He stared at the whiskey in his glass with this numb sort of betrayal, the are-you-for-real unmistakable in his tone, then at Naruto, whose glare was blazing with abso-fucking-lutely, 'ttebayo.

Alternate Xanxus threw the offending glass at Alternate Squalo's head and drank straight from the bottle. For the first time since Naruto had met him, that bastard missed. Then again, Squalo never had it in him to actually dodge, so. One whiskey-soaked Sword-Psycho was as good as another.

(Of the many lessons Naruto had to impart today, this one definitely stuck: Don't screw around with people's mothers. Now, if Espresso-Maniac could also take the hint, that'd be golden.)