by Ember


If you can hear a piano fall

You can hear me coming down the hall

And if I could just hear your pretty voice

I don't think I need to see at all

Don't think I'd need to see at all

Soft hand and a velvet tongue

Gonna give you what you give to me

And every breath that is in your lungs

Is a tiny little gift to me

Is a tiny little gift to me


A year later...

The little restaurant wasn't made for this sort of thing. Ichiraku Ramen almost creaked at the seams, full to bursting with loud, more-or-less excited Genin- from left to right were Shikamaru, then Chouji, then Ino; Sakura with two empty seats to her right; Kiba, then Hinata, then Shino. The whole place filled with scent as miso ramen was cooked in huge pots, dished into bowls and half-thrown down the counter to the ordering Genin. Kiba had three empty bowls in front of him and was giving Akamaru, once more zipped up inside his jacket, little chunks of pork and long noodles. Hinata was still working on her first bowl, Ino was ordering her second, Shikamaru was sucking the last bit of broth out of his second bowl before Chouji, who had a stack of a half-dozen empty bowls in front of him, stole it from him. Sakura was waiting patiently before starting, and Shino hadn't spoken up to order or really said anything since he'd gotten there.

When the door finally opened again, Naruto of course preceeded Sasuke into the restaurant, a huge grin on his face which he only ever wore in two situations, one of which was when he was being when presented with ramen. The darker-haired Genin followed him, a little behind, wincing slightly at the noise when he came in and again at the impact of the scent. Naruto threw himself into his seat beside Sakura, leaving the seat between the blonde and Kiba for Sasuke.

Sasuke really preferred to avoid situations that called for close contact with his peers. To his utmost horror, after Ino and Sakura got over the shock of losing their crush forever, they found his- nonconventional sexuality...

"Well, Naruto! You're forty-five minutes late and it's a ramen-oriented event! It seems to me like some people may have been having an early Valentines Day present... Hmm? Do either of them smell like leather, Kiba?"

...Extremely amusing.

As Sasuke took his seat, Naruto grinned evilly and, waving two fingers in the air for the chef behind the counter to see, leaned in close to whisper something inaudible to his audience of the two giggling girls. Sasuke rolled his eyes skyward and remained silent until their food was brought, then his broke his chopsticks apart and pulled a string of noodles out of the broth, sucking the flavor out of the wood as he swallowed. Of course, they were late because they'd been practicing- and, to Naruto's disappointment, practicing nothing more exciting than hand seals. A holiday wasn't really an excuse not to train, especially not a stupid and irrelevant one like Valentines Day.

Of all the holidays- and there weren't many he liked- Sasuke perhaps hated Valentines most.

Naruto, of course, had been overly-excited, boucing around, sneaking up behind Sasuke to cover his eyes with his hands or give him a kiss on the cheek. Sasuke hated that, too. Well, maybe not all of it. But most of it. Some of it, at least. He'd spent more time than ever training, though even then it was hard to avoid the blonde- which most of the time, for the record, wasn't that bad. It had been under the theory that it wouldn't be bad at all that Sasuke had agreed to let him move in, and while the kyuubi vessel hadn't been that bad of a roommate, between Christmas and Valentines the black-haired shinobi was close to the edge. Did he have to enthuse all over everything?

Well, of course he did. He was Naruto.

And it was because the blonde was indeed himself that Sasuke had allowed himself to be talked into coming to Sakura's asinine Valentines 'party,' such as it was. Because he had made the stupid 'puppy-dog' eyes and begged in that annoyingly nasal tone of voice that he only used regarding ramen and sex, and because he said 'please' enough times that the 'l' infliction was starting to blur out and each repitition was starting to blend with the one before it. It was either pathetically endearing or adorably pathetic, but either way Sasuke had, in the end, given in.

After all, it was an hour at most. How bad could it be?

"So," Ino started, grinning evilly; Naruto glanced up at her as he dived into his second bowl; Sasuke stared at him and took the second bite of his first. He never did get used to that. "Which one of you is better?"

Sasuke was close enough to a spit-take that Kiba choked on laughter at the look on his face. Naruto, being Naruto, was unphased. "I am," he replied without hesitation. Then, "At what?"

Shikamaru sighed and rolled his eyes. "What do you think, Naruto? She's Ino."

Naruto paused, his chopsticks stuck in his mouth. "Oh," he said around the wood.

Sasuke smirked and reached over with his own, stealing a chunk of pork out of Naruto's bowl. The blonde looked indignant as his lover chewed, but regained his equilibrium before the dark-haired Genin had swallowed. "Well, that goes without saying."

"Yeah, I guess it does," Sasuke responded sarcastically.

The kyuubi vessel glared at Sasuke hotly, his blue eyes narrowed. "What're you saying?" he asked.

Sasuke only snorted and smirked half-sarcastically down at the blonde; Naruto rolled his eyes skyward but looked placated. Sakura was smiling, Kiba looked like he had something sarcastic to say but given that Hinata was more in his lap than beside him, he decided against saying it.

Shikamaru rolled his eyes and let Chouji pull the bowl of ramen from in front of him. "Idiots."

Chouji looked over at him and seemed to figure out what was bothing his brillant teammate; he stopped with his next bite halfway to his mouth and smiled over at Shikamaru. "You know, Shika-kun," he said, quietly, "you might not be doomed for love." He looked faintly amused, stuffing the waiting bite into his mouth as soon as he was done, before it cooled off.

Shikamaru waved to the waiter and asked for two more bowls, a replacement for his own and a new one for Chouji. "Nah. Not worth it."

Chouji shrugged and drank the last of the broth from Shikamaru's bowl. "I'm just saying," he said, as Naruto whispered something that elicted a burst of giggling from Ino and Sakura and a cuff to the back of the head from Sasuke. "Maybe someday you'll, you know, find someone who doesn't ask a lot of you. Like, someone who just wants... you know. You for Shikamaru."

The genius-nin looked over, one eyebrow raised, at Chouji, who blushed and stared down at the beached spice leaves on the bottom of his bowl.

"Maybe." And then he leaned over to kiss the pudgy shinobi on the cheek, and set into his new ramen with a slightly increased vigor.


"Oh, come on, Sasuke. It wasn't that bad."

The black-haired Genin shot Naruto a death-glare that could have shot down a golem. Naruto, who had seen it before, didn't blink. "Maybe not to you," Sasuke growled bitterly, "but then again, all you did was sit around and make up stories about our sex life."


"So! You do that anyway! You don't have to go out and drag me out in order to do it!"

Naruto shook his head, the blonde mane of his hair becoming even less organized than it was. "Come on. You had fun."

"I did not."

Naruto grinned and half-jogged after Sasuke, who was heading silently for the stairs. He caught him halfway and slid his arm around the darker boy's shoulders, wrapping his other arm around Sasuke's waist. The other paused, silently waiting.

"I got you a present!"

Sasuke writhed from Naruto's grip, starting to walk away again. "You asshole. I told you, I hate this holiday. I specifically told you not to get me anything."

It was under the chair in the family room. Naruto fell to his knees, grabbed it, then began running after Sasuke, who was already almost upstairs. "I didn't listen to you. Wait! You bastard, stop and open it!"

"I don't want it." Was he going for the bedroom? Why was he going there? Was he going to lock Naruto out? Naruto couldn't be locked out of his bedroom by his boyfriend on Valentines Day, it would ruin the whole holiday!

To his relief, Sasuke left the door open and sat tiredly down on his side of the bed, glaring nails at the blonde when he walked in. Naruto grinned brightly and handed it to him, careful not to damage the wrapping any more than being applied by Naruto had already damaged it. Sasuke scowled.

"Open it," Naruto urged. He gave his best Naruto smile until Sasuke finally caved in and slid his forefinger under the paper, moving it so that the tape popped up and he was able to pull the paper off without ripping it. This was his house and Naruto trashed it enough as it was; he had to keep it neat or wade through his own trashed posessions.

Sasuke glared down at the present to the best of his ability. It was hard when a miniscule smile, risking the same quick snuff all such expressions risked when they dared appear on the genius Genin's face risked, was starting to manifest.

"What the fuck is this?"

Naruto saw the smile and smiled back, leaning over the framed picture beside his teammate. "It's that picture Iruka-san took of us, remember? With you and me and Kakashi and Sakura...?"

"I remember, idiot. Why did you get it framed?"

The blonde shrugged. "Well, Sakura and I both got our's framed, and your's was just sitting there, on top of your television, like you didn't care about it either way."

"I don't," Sasuke replied coldly as he set the fucking picture sitting upright on the desk by his side of the bed. Naruto grinned to himself, not even noticing as Sasuke's hand plunged under his pillow and came back until the black-haired ninja was holding a red-foil present in front of his face.

If Sasuke's hand had come back with a long and bloodied knife, a small animal, or a cursing, drunken leprechaun, Naruto wouldn't have looked more surprised. "You got me a present?" The package was weirdly shaped, almost triangular, but with rounded corners; despite its odd form it was strangely perfectly wrapped.

"Just open it, idiot." Sasuke wasn't looking at him or the picture, like he didn't want any further reminders that he was, indeed, a human inside.

With a shrug, Naruto pulled the ribbon off the top, cutting through the tangled knot with his teeth, then slowly slid the wrapping paper off of his Valentine's Day present. His fingers slid down the smooth sides, the round corners. It was dark brown, plastic, with a round top that, despite its plastic seal, let go a sweet scent. It was...

"Chocolate syrup?" Naruto looked, confused, over at Sasuke, to see a sudden smile that left no room for confusion. Long fingers curled around his orange jacket, pulling him to the edge of the bed, Sasuke's lips pressing against the blonde's. Sasuke pulled him onto the bed, sliding on top of him, pressing the two together until the kiss became a full-body caress, their hearts racing, eyes squeezed shut. Sasuke slid his present from Naruto's hand and curled his free arm around the blonde's shoulders.

Naruto leaned into the kiss, leaned into the contact, and moaned loudly into Sasuke's mouth, a ferverent and passionate sound broken only by the quiet pop of the syrup bottle opening.