Title: Fireworks

Author: Ember

Pairings: SasuNaru, almost exclusively

A/N: Alright. So this is the A/N for the whole story, 'cause I'm taking them out of the other chapters. Bwahah. Aren't I thoughtful for all of you? This is the first fic I finished- yes, finished- in four years. Just a nice, short fluffie for the SasuNaru fans out there, hope you enjoy it. It takes place right after the Zabuza-Haku incident, so there shouldn't be many spoilers. Reviews are appreciated. (I have eighty at the time I'm writing this. God, you all rock.) :D

Beta-ed by Amai from Chapter Seven to Epilogue. Thanks, Amai:D

Naruto © Kishimoto.

Warnings: Yaoi(you don't say!), occasional humor of poor quality, profanity, some violence, sexual content.

This story is rated Sprite for delicious lemon-lime goodness. Ph33r.

Art for ya'll, cause you rock: w w w .deviantart.c o m / deviation / 1 4 4 6 9 3 2 5 /

Take out the spaces. :D I might edit this if'n I get any more art done for this story; prolly not though. Thanks for any reviews given or any future ones!


I don't feel the way I've ever felt.

I know.

I'm gonna smile and not get worried.

I try but it shows.


Anyone can make what I have built.

And better now

Anyone can find the same white pills.

It takes my pain away.


Yamanaka Ino took a long time to get ready. Shikamaru stretched, leaned into the chair's embrace, and shrugged against the cloth, grunting at the thought. It wasn't like he was in a hurry to get anywhere. Leaning back, he caught sight of the clouds through the window and smiled to himself. It was another beautiful day. The sun kept the room steadily warm, just short of hot, and so long as Choji didn't complain he wasn't unhappy. Quite the opposite, in fact. It wasn't like he was looking forward to another day of D-level drudgery in the name of Konoha and the Ninjas and all of that.

The flow of the shower stopped suddenly, and the door opened with a slam. A pink towel wrapped around her waist and her arms folded severely over her chest, Ino poked the upper part of her body through the steam flowing out of the bathroom, her usually pretty eyes narrowed dangerously. "Shikamaru! We're out of hot water!"

The shadow-ninja shrugged, slowly, eyes closed against the glare of the sun through the window. He didn't even bother to turn and look at his teammate; Ino would be fuming, her hair wet and clinging to the sides of her face, her mouth twisted into an irrationally angry grimace and her eyes glittering. "What do you expect me to do?" he asked, the words drawn out. "It's not my fault. I don't take forty-minute showers every day." It was true; and while Shikamaru was very brief in his daily preparations, Ino could spend over an hour in that room, showering, fiddling with her hair, making sure she safeguarded her face so tightly against breakouts that her skin was, for the first two hours of morning, almost hard and completely dry of any natural oil. It reminded the other two members of Team 10 vaguely of an Egyptian mummy's distorted, preserved face. Shikamaru was always facinated by her. If this was how a female started her day, he never wanted to get married.

The girl ninja fumed, then the bathroom door slammed shut. Choji looked up, watched Shikamaru's minimalistic shrug, then mimicked it and stuffed a handful of cheet-o's down his throat.

A few minutes later, the three of them were walking, slowly, to where Asuma would meet them and give them their mission. Shikamaru, his arms folded behind his head, walked behind Ino and right in front of Choji, unconciously pouting as the girl in front of him alternatively sprung ahead and lagged back, constantly looking in all directions as if certain someone, anyone, was about to leap from behind a bush and assassinate her.

"He's not hiding," he said, the sixth time Ino, to her own mind subtely, looked behind her and glanced into the dark shadows of a bush. He rolled his eyes, making it amply obvious to the girl who had whirled around to glare at him.

Mustering as much dignity as she could manage, Ino replied, "I haven't the slightest clue who you're talking about."

Choji snorted into a handful of potato chips, and Shikamaru shrugged ironically. "Whatever," he said, then nodded towards the street to their right, where Team 7 was waiting, doubtlessly, for the arrival of their sensei. Naruto was yelling something at Sasuke, who looked bored and drawled something back. Sakura, looking mutually annoyed and left out, hovered on the edge of the conversation.

Ino's eyes grew wide and doe-like, and her hands immediately leapt to her hair, fettering with the lengths, toying with the tail. Shikamaru sighed, and Choji eyed the proceedings curiously while crumpling the metallic-colored snack bag into a ball in one pudgy hoof.

Sasuke didn't notice. If he even saw Ino, he thought nothing of it; his reply had gotten Naruto started and they had begun to bicker, their voices clearing the distance between Teams 7 and 10, if not the precise words. It was probably the same old pointless argument, though, and Shikamaru had long, long since gone past the point where he cared.

Finally, Ino had pranced and paced enough that Sakura had noticed her and, left with the two face-saving options of actually going over to the other three, which would be akin to admitting that she was trying to get Sasuke's attention while creating the confrontation she'd been trying to avoid, or leaving to go meet Asuma, she turned on her heel and Team 10 continued their walk.

"I don't," Shikamaru said after a long moment of silence, "see where it's worth it." He turned around, throwing a glance over his shoulder; the bustle of people had still a while to go before they completely blocked the other Team from view.

Ino pouted again. "My hair looked terrible," she said, as opposed to answering his unphrased question. "How humiliating."

Choji shrugged. "I don't think he noticed."

Ticked, the girl snatched Choji's third bag of chips from his hand, still only half-eaten, and threw it into the nearest trash-can to join the piles of grease-stained paper, half-eaten food and other pungant refuse. Choji stared after it in horror, obviously comparing priorities, and only Ino's exasperated sigh and fingers digging into his arm kept him from going after it.

"It's such a bitch to take care of," she continued in vein, and Choji had to stop and think before he realized Ino was talking about her hair, still, not him. "Impossible to take care of in the morning."

"So cut it," Shikamaru suggested, with a slight, quiet grunt. "Why go to the trouble? It's only hair." Choji, who had his hair always cut very short, nodded enthusiastic agreement.

Ino was still pouting. "Sasuke likes girls with long hair," she protested.

Shikamaru hadn't seen anything in Sasuke's attitude towards Ino to suggest that he liked any such thing. "How the hell do you know?" he asked, looking at Ino out of the corner of his eye.

Ino snorted. "Everyone knows," she replied, as if shocked that Shikamaru didn't know, too. The shadow-nin shrugged. He was certain everyone knew- everyone, that is, that also knew Sasuke's birthday, astrological sign, shoe size, daily horoscope, address, favorate color and preferred brand of shampoo. Which was close enough to everyone to be depressing, and a little sad.

Normally, he would drop it at that. But today, "I somehow doubt that," slipped out of his mouth. Ino turned on him, looking severely ticked off.

"What, you think he likes girls with short hair? What the hell makes you think that?"

Shikamaru looked over his shoulder. Sakura was leaning, looking irratated, against a wall, while Sasuke and Naruto, dropping into chairs beside a small coffee table in an outdoor cafe, had proceeded to prop their arms on their elbows, clasping hands, glaring across at the other's eyes while feverently trying to force the other's arm to the wood.

He shouldn't have said it out loud, but he did. "What makes you think he likes girls?"

There was a long moment of tense silence while Ino and Choji followed his gaze. Naruto's knuckles were an inch from the table, and he was leaning forward, desperately fighting to lift his hand. Shikamaru shook his head, slightly; it was significantly more difficult to push up than down, and Sasuke still didn't look like he was even trying. Of course, Sasuke wouldn't look like he was trying until he died; he kept effort from his face as naturally as any emotion. They watched, the rest of Konoha flowing past them as if they were inanimate, poles stretching above the crowds, murmmuring in their morning conversations. There was a slight struggle, then Naruto's hand hit with a thud they could almost hear as far away as they were against the table. They could hear the blonde shinobi's shouts at Sasuke, that he had cheated, that he was an arrogant prick who didn't deserve to be a ninja at all.

Ino turned, the side of her lip perked slightly above the white curve of her right canine. "That's revolting, Shikamaru."

He shrugged. It wasn't worth getting into a fight over.


Uzumaki Naruto almost knocked over the chair, standing up in sudden, fevered haste, shaking out the throbbing muscles of his arm. "You were cheating, Sasuke! Your elbow wasn't touching the table the whole time! I saw! I saw! You cheated!"

Sasuke's eyebrow arched above his dark eye. He waited until Naruto's hasty accusations had subsided slightly before replying, his voice cold and dismissing. "You, I should remind you, were standing up and pulling your hand up with both arms." His head tilted slightly to the side. "You're making an idiot out of yourself, Naruto. Calm down."

The clear, emotionless voice only stoked the fires inside Naruto. "That's a lie!" he claimed, though he did know it wasn't. He'd just wanted to beat Sasuke, this once, and prove that he was at least as good as the black-haired shinobi, that he was strong and worthy of the title Hokage.

Well. One day he would beat Sasuke without any doubt behind it, and then they would all see. He curled the fingers of his hand into a fist and locked glares with the other boy, smiling challenge.

Sasuke's calm glare responded, saying as clearly as if he had articulated the thought that he found no challenge whatsoever in Naruto. A white tinging appearing in Naruto's knuckles. Someday, Sasuke. Let's see how arrogant you are when I'm Hokage and you're taking orders from me.

Sakura looked from Naruto to Sasuke, then back to the blonde. He looked like he was expecting daggers to shoot from his eyes, and at this point in time she wouldn't be surprised if they did, from either boy. Not to even think about their earlier behavior, with Naruto shouting loud enough that half of Konoha heard him, and plopping into a chair just to arm-wrestle the other Genin. He's such an idiot. How embarrassing.

Sakura scanned the treeline, grinning as she caught sight of a couple splashes of white and pink. It had been a long winter, but the cherry blossoms were starting to bloom, which was a sure sign that, even if it was still too cold to go without a jacket, it was quickly coming upon spring. She eyed Sasuke with the general air of a predator eyeing prey. Or, possibly, a predator in heat eyeing another. He caught her in the corner of his eye and gifted her a glare slightly more sour than what he had turned on Naruto, which caused her heart to immediately plunge. But... It's almost spring. Spring is the time where love blossoms. She bit her lip hopefully. Sasuke... Can't you see I'm in love with you? You spend your whole time worrying about being stronger than Naruto. He's ruining us. Not that, deep inside, Sakura wasn't clearly aware that there was no 'us' between her and Sasuke. She still blamed Naruto for her chaste position with ferver.

Sasuke watched Sakura turn slowly away and shifted his glare to settle back on the blue-eyed shinobi before him. Naruto was going off on the familiar vein of his future as Hokage. Sasuke smiled, slightly; it was a derisive smile, at once putting Naruto off his ranting and staining his knuckles, defined by the tight fist he had pulled his hand into, a bright ivory. Sasuke felt- well. Sasuke didn't feel. He thought, with the same detachment he kept perpetually between himself and his emotions, that Naruto was being an idiot. What had he expected? Every day, the blonde was an asshole, alternatively challenging Sasuke and fawning over Sakura.

And at the same time, he thought... He bit down on his lip, turning his head in the pretence of scanning the streets for Kakashi, looking anywhere but at livid blue eyes. He had almost lost their little bout a moment ago, when he had wrapped his fingers around Naruto's hand and the tip of his index digit had graced something hard and almost scaley, a livid red welt on the other Genin's hand. A huge, blistered scar, scarlet-colored, the exact size of a hypothetical scar one could make by one driving a kunai into one's own palm to pull poison from one's body, preventing the team from having to turn back. Which was, of course, precisely what it was. It had stirred memories, quite a few memories, not all too distant but seeming lifetimes ago. Glaring at the demon's vessel from across the round table, he remembered pained moans while poison drained from Naruto's blood from a wound self-inflicted with his own weapon.

It had been stupid of him, but brave. Or maybe the other way around; maybe brave, but stupid. The two terms seemed to coincide quite often, especially around Naruto, and sometimes they blended so well it was difficult to tell one from the other. He was endearing in this way, and completely defiant of expectations. Who would expect a fox to be an idiot? Who would expect it to be capable and willing to give up everything for another person's benefit? Foxes were not pack animals, they weren't wolves; their top priority was always to themselves. Who would expect one to arise that so contradicted that?

But Naruto defied more than just the nature of the fox. After all, who would expect an Uchiha to be any better? To give up everything, to give up dreams and aspirations and his own life, for... Anything? Oh, yes, the blonde shinobi found a way to defy every expectation ever set, to change everything from what it was supposed to be, from the nature of the vessel of the kyuubi to Sasuke's first kiss.

Had that been why he had been willing to die for him?

Sasuke shivered and pushed the thought away. He couldn't recall his thoughts- couldn't recall precisely thinking- when he had moved, couldn't remember the moment where he'd realized he was willing to move so decisively into a trap like that, like he had against Haku so many days- days? not years- ago, and for no one but some blonde idiot who painted profanity on the faces of the city's heroes. His body hadn't moved on its own, though, despite his words to Naruto at the time, it couldn't have; he had long since passed the point in his training where the muscles moved in automatic response to emotion. He had long since cut his heart off from his reflexes even if only by intense dicipline. He didn't really want to remember why he had saved Naruto. He didn't want it to control him, didn't want it to mean so much to him. Didn't want anyone to mean that much. But somehow, something did, and it did frighten him on a level he didn't want to acknolege.

He remembered the feel of a scar under his palm, and shivered, even though it wasn't that cold of a day and the sun was bright enough that in full light it was almost enough to take off his jacket. Trying to distract himself, he turned his observations outward, to the shifting crowds of people around him. Naruto and Sakura were arguing, Sakura sounding genuinely annoyed and Naruto sounding just meekly appreciative to have her attention. Sasuke smiled to himself and listened to their voices while continuing off in his own mind. He didn't belong in the conversation, anyway. He didn't belong in the knots of people holding irrelevent conversations with hypocrites constantly judging their every move. He didn't belong with anyone, just off to the side, ignored but present, listening to conversations and training almost constantly towards his own dreams.

He belonged alone until someone else drifted to the sidelines and trained beside him, watching him, measuring himself against him. Then, he wasn't alone anymore.

Was anyone made to be alone? Did anyone belong alone?

Was someone else actually pushed to where he was constantly fighting his way to be? Were the same people constantly badgering him to come talk to them, come hang around with them, come sleep with them- were they pushing Naruto away towards the edges while they tried to draw Sasuke out?

Had that been why he had been willing to die for him?

Or was Naruto not pushed at all, but had he come on his own, just a few times every week, starting back when they learned to climb the tree- had be come on his own to train beside Sasuke because he, too, had a dream to live up to and was working his way to the top, just like the other boy?

To become Hokage. Everyone knew what Naruto's dream was. To make everyone acknolege me. No one paid any mind to it. No one believed it.

That hadn't been the reason. Why would Sasuke almost die for a dream that had no hopes of realization?

Sakura frowned at Naruto, who scratched innocently at the back of his head, fingers buried in the messy blonde hair. Sasuke, looking mildly amused, was watching their tirade though his eyes were slightly glazed over and as much as the pink-haired shinobi wanted to believe it was with love and admiration for her she had to admit that he had his head in the clouds. She opened her mouth to try and talk to him then closed it as something moved off the edge of her sight.

"Kakashi!" She caught sight of the disturbance in the air moments before the other two did. "You're late. Again."

She didn't even really pay attention to his reply. Her eyes had settled again on Sasuke, who had broken out of his thoughts like a dolphin breaking the still surface of water and was watching their sensei intently. An errant tendril of wind brought the scent of cherry blossoms from the edge of the woods.

end chapter one