Yamato sighed, holding his open book flat by the spine and using it to fan himself, trying to dry the sheen of sweat dampening his forehead in an effort to cool off a tiny bit. The heat was intense, even here in the shade, and there was just no escaping it. Much of the village was still engaged in rebuilding efforts, but even those had slowed to a standstill in the past week; it was simply too hot to work.
On account of his mokuton abilities, Yamato was of course heavily involved in the rebuilding efforts again now that the war was over, but he had taken the day off with everyone else. He could have continued on erecting buildings alone, but it didn't strike him as entirely fair and the work was draining enough when the weather was pleasant--let alone when it was as sweltering as it was today.
He fanned himself with the book again and pushed the hair off his forehead, gaze wandering. Because it was so unbearably hot, Yamato had decided to expend the chakra and effort necessary to give the villagers somewhere to cool off. He'd used the full gamut of his chakra nature styles--first, he'd sunk a good-sized hollow in a large empty field, raising a cliff around the far side of the basin; next, he'd brought a river of water cascading over that cliff, turning the shallow basin into a small lake. Then he'd erected several large wooden open-sided pavilions for shade around the shore of the lake opposite the cliff-and-waterfall; currently, he was sitting beneath one.
The lake was full of civilians and shinobi alike swimming, splashing, playing--carefree and happy; it was an end that justified such effort, he decided.
Not that anyone really thanked him for it, beyond Kakashi's backhanded ribbing about his usefulness and passing comments from various friends. Not like anyone thanked him for all the buildings he'd created over the course of the rebuilding effort, either. To be fair, most of the civilians and a good number of the ninja probably couldn't pair his face with their knowledge of 'The Mokuton User'; he made no effort to cultivate his own celebrity, wasn't interested in being famous. It made sense that he got barely any acknowledgement from the village at large when most of them just didn't know who he was.
He didn't expect expressions of gratitude, and certainly wasn't doing any of this for the recognition, but it was still nice to feel appreciated.
Which was yet another reason he was here; seeing how people enjoyed what he'd created was good for his own personal morale.
He sighed and fanned himself again, eyes picking out familiar forms and faces among all the people taking advantage of the new lake.
There were villagers all over, in the water, in the shade, adults lounging like he was, children running and laughing, chasing each other and screaming for fun. He spotted Kakashi in swim trunks and ever-present mask being dragged into the lake by Gai, who was wearing something vividly green and far too tiny to leave anything to the imagination. Anko was hollering after them and waving from the shoreline, the laughter in her voice carrying all the way to Yamato. The Inuzuka boy that Naruto hung out with was standing a short distance away, whistling for his gigantic dog, who was romping at the shoreline heedless of whether or not the people in his path actually wanted to play with him. In the shade behind the Inuzuka were his teammates--the Hyuuga heiress and the Aburame boy, who was wearing way too much for the weather. He could tell the young man had probably shed a few layers underneath in concession to the heat and his hood was down, but he was still covered neck to toe. Yamato didn't think he'd ever seen an Aburame who wasn't; it probably had something to do with their kikaichu--he didn't know the reason and wasn't inclined to pry. It was just what they did. Right now, though, the Hyuuga heiress standing next to him looked like she wanted nothing more than to steal her teammate's coat and use it to cover herself, despite the fact that she was already wearing a very modest one-piece swimsuit. It didn't hide the fact that she was quite well-endowed, and people were noticing her in a way she clearly wasn't used to or entirely comfortable with.
She wasn't the only one drawing that sort of attention, though. All over the beach and in the water, girls in bikinis and swimsuits far skimpier than what the Hyuuga girl wore were laughing and flirting with scores of boys who were ridiculously eager to pay attention to them. Yamato remembered the tremendous pull of hormones at that age and smiled to himself, grateful that such embarrassing days were behind him.
There was a splash and a shout to his right and he turned to see Naruto flailing in the water, Sakura looming over him in a way that made clear she'd just thrown him. Yamato wondered for a split second if he was going to need to go break up a fight, but saw that both of them were laughing. Sai was with them, laughing also, and Yamato found himself smiling as Naruto picked himself up and dove for Sai, probably intent on dunking his teammate the same way he'd just been dunked.
Sai avoided the blond's lunge and dodged gracefully behind Sakura, and as he watched the three of them play Yamato found his thoughts tracing paths about how far Sai had come since both of them joined Team Kakashi, how easily Sai interacted with his teammates now, and how much the bright honesty in his laughing smile really suited him.
When he realized he'd been staring at Sai far longer than could be qualified as a passing glance, he shook his head at himself and resolutely went back to reading his book.
A few moments later, a cool presence loomed over him and Yamato glanced up; his heart-rate stumbled just a bit, and he blinked.
"Hello, Yamato-taichou!" Sai said brightly, flashing that brilliant smile, and Yamato's pulse jumped again.
"Hello, Sai," he returned warmly, giving his young teammate a broad smile of his own even though his mouth had gone a little dry. Sai was damp and beautiful and not two feet away; he smelled like fresh water and sunshine and Yamato for the life of him couldn't help seeing the way the water clung to Sai's body, glistened like condensation on his ANBU tattoo, the firm shape of his arms, the hard planes of his stomach.
Yamato tried valiantly to ignore the voice in the back of his head that suggested he lick every last drop from that pale skin. These were not the sort of thoughts he should be having about his young teammate, but there was a soft heat in his stomach now that had nothing to do with the weather.
"What are you reading, Taichou?" Sai asked, the curiosity in his tone notably more genuine than simply polite.
Yamato pulled his focus back where it belonged, lifted the book to display its cover to Sai. "Modern Design."
Sai glanced from the book to Yamato's face. "An architectural compilation?" There was a note of interest in his voice that pleased Yamato far more than warranted.
He nodded shortly, lowering the book back to his lap. "It's...sort of a hobby, yes." He found his gaze drawn to Sai again, did his best to keep it on Sai's face instead of the wet of his body or the way his long trunks clung to the damp shape of his thighs. "I'm looking for ideas to incorporate in rebuilding the village so that there's some variety from block to block and each district doesn't look identical to the last. Y'know?"
Sai cocked his head slightly. "That's very...conscientious of you," he said, slowly, like he was making sure he had the right word.
Yamato shrugged, smiled. "Just doing my part to help out."
Sai gave him a look of intently-assessing scrutiny; Yamato met his gaze squarely, trying very hard not to lose himself in the vivid dark of Sai's eyes.
"You work too hard, Yamato-taichou," Sai said at last, not looking away. "Everyone else has let the rebuilding work lie for today. You're the only one thinking about it."
"Probably." Yamato couldn't muster a proper rebuttal to the over-generalization, not when his attention was fixated on the artfully-messy way that Sai's hair fell around his face, the soft movement of Sai's full lips and the brief glimpse of his tongue when he spoke. That not-related-to-the-weather heat stirred inside him again, and Yamato swallowed.
Sai leaned toward him, just a little bit, and flashed him that brightly-honest smile. "You should come play with us," he said, earnestly, and Yamato's thoughts sort of derailed at the idea. He had a brief reel of fantasy, saw himself cavorting with the others in the sunshine and the waves, laughing and splashing; it would be terribly easy, then, to separate Sai from the group, chase him playfully to the far side of the lake, corner him in the space behind the waterfall out of view of everyone else, close in and--and--
His brain stuttered to a halt, appalled at the direction it seemed to be heading, and the heat in his belly curled softly.
He stared back at Sai helplessly. "Maybe a little later," he managed, trying to pull his brain on-track again.
"Alright," Sai said, not looking away, and if his expression was slightly disappointed, surely that was only Yamato's imagination.
The moment broke at the sudden roar nearby; they both looked up sharply to see Naruto high-tailing it away from the Inuzuka boy, who was yanking his swim trunks back up where they belonged as he gave chase. The Hyuuga girl was red-faced behind him, hands over her mouth as much to hide her smile as in shock at presumably being flashed. The Aburame boy appeared completely unfazed.
"Dammit, Naruto--get back here!" The Inuzuka charged by, hollering, tagging Sai on the shoulder as he passed. "C'mon, Sai--gimme a hand!"
"It seems that Kiba needs my help," Sai said, moving to follow, and there was faint amusement visible beneath his usual placid expression. "I will see you later, Yamato-taichou!" He jogged away a couple of steps, then paused and turned back. "I nearly forgot--thank you for creating this lake. I am enjoying it very much." His smile was understated, warm, sincere, and possibly the most beautiful expression Yamato had ever seen on his face.
This time, it was a curl of warmth in Yamato's chest rather than a curl of heat in his belly, but it still had nothing to do with the sweltering weather. "You're welcome," he replied; Sai flashed his usual brilliant smile again, and then he was gone.
Yamato let that warmth spread through him, let it bring a little smile to his own face.
Rebuilding the village was hard work, but it was no more than his sense of duty demanded. Creating things like this lake went beyond duty into generosity; it was still hard work regardless, and he knew it would continue to go largely unacknowledged.
But Sai's simple 'thank you' made it all more than worth it.