Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Strangely enough, this silence was almost unbearable to the two boys waiting at the bridge. Normally, it would have been filled with the sounds of various shouts and screams and mocking, sarcastic quips, yet today, nothing.
Perhaps it was because the female of their number was absent, leading to a lack of a catalyst for the boys to have an excuse to snap at each other. Or perhaps it was simply the fact that there was nothing to say, for once. Of course, that reason simply couldn't be, considering Sasuke is Sasuke and Naruto is... Naruto.
The two still had a few unresolved issues from the mission to Wave Country and Sasuke's near death at the hands of Haku, and tension between them had risen inexplicably.
Every once in a while, Naruto would look at Sasuke as if expecting him to glare back, and then look away. A minute later, Sasuke would stare at Naruto as though he was predicting the blonde to do another unpredictable, though predictably loud antic.
Expectations failed them, save for the most basic one of the life of Team Seven.
"Yo." The silver haired excuse for a jounin teacher said cheerily, his always close Icha Icha Paradise book held in one hand. "There was a building burning down and-"
"YOU'RE LATE!" Naruto shouted, with all his usual indignant force, yet it felt weak, like a half-heartedly thrown punch.
"That sounded a little quieter than normal..." Kakashi murmured, grazing his eye over his "cute little pupils", as he referred to them in the jounin lounge (and somtimes to said pupils' faces). Finally, he realized the lack of pink in his daily sights. "Sakura's sick, I suppose."
Naruto looked a little eager, wanting to be sent out to make sure if his pink haired teammate was okay. Sasuke merely looked bored.
The Copy Ninja decided to grab on this opportunity to continue the lazy, easy nature of the day. "Alright, both of you... spar for a couple hours, and then take the rest of the day off." Kakashi grinned (as best they could tell, anyway) cheerily and waved with his free hand, before burying his nose in the book and walking off.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Naruto began, and even Sasuke moved toward the Copy Ninja, but before they could do anything, Kakashi vanished in a puff of smoke.
"One of these days, I'm going to figure out that damn trick of his-" Naruto began to rant angrily, gritting his teeth in irritation.
"And do what, dead last?" Sasuke asked snidely, smirking at the blonde with his infamous "I'm-The-Almighty-Sasuke" look (as Naruto had dubbed it).
"Go to Hell, bastard." Naruto grumbled, giving the Uchiha a one fingered salute, feeling a little relieved Sakura wasn't here to reign in on their usual argument.
Sasuke raised an eyebrow, looking at the offending finger for a moment, before smirking a little wider. "No thanks." He drawled slowly, staring at the finger still.
Naruto blinked, and gritted his teeth again, crouching low, allowing his heels to dig into the dirt, shifting his weight in preparation for an attack. "Shut up!" he snarled, fists curling tightly. "Let's just fight and get it over with!"
"Get ready to eat dirt, dumb ass." Sasuke replied haughtily, smirking to his widest (knowing full well how much it would irritate the blonde), and moving into attack position.
"Enough talking, let's fight!" Naruto, predictably acting Naruto-ish, charged in, fists raised and ready to blindly over commit to the first attack.
And Sasuke, being Sasuke, took advantage of his teammate's headstrong nature and leapt up high, easily avoiding the attack, causing Naruto to stumbled forward, out of balance. When the Uchiha reached the apex of the leap, he flipped in midair, coming down hard with his leg in a powerful downward blow.
Naruto gritted his teeth and blocked with both arms, a powerful pain shooting through the limbs as the blow connected, and his arms quaked under the pressure. Sasuke smirked.
Enraged, Naruto pushed forward with nothing but iron determination and indomitable will, causing Sasuke to do a back flip to avoid falling to the ground.
"Take this!" Naruto roared, charging forward with all haste once again. Sasuke blocked the blow with one hand, and lashed out with his foot, delivering a particularly winding blow to the blonde's gut.
Of course, Sasuke knew it wouldn't be enough to bring down his teammate, not from watching and training with him for this long. Naruto, regardless of his immature, headstrong nature and lack of fundamental skills, had insane stamina and chakra. No matter how hard you hit him, he could keep standing, and get back up.
Naruto's determination only hardened after the hit, as the Uchiha had predicted, and switched over to his favorite move. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
The telltale cloud of smoke was Sasuke's clue to get backwards fast, just in time to see a score of angry Naruto's appear from behind the grayness, fists clenched. In unison, they gave a loud shout, and charged rapidly, like a herd of angry bulls.
Sasuke moved faster, lashing out once more with his leg, swatting aside one Naruto into three more, causing them all to disappear with a loud pop. Without stopping, he lashed out with his fist and took out a fifth.
That was the end of his advantage however, as the remainder of the Naruto clones hemmed in like a swarm. Sasuke blocked and grappled with the first one to attack, before knocking that one backwards, destroying a sixth clone in the process.
And then a mass of flesh and fists descended upon the Uchiha,
"Do... you... surrender... now..." Sasuke gasped slowly, leaning against the tree heavily for support. His shirt had a few tears in it and his face was scratched up, but for the most part, he was fine. Naruto hadn't been able to hurt him for real, but the sheer number of blows it took to get to this point had drained Sasuke's entire body and left him unable to do more than stand.
Naruto, on the other hand, was on the ground, groaning every now and then and gasping for air. Still, he pulled on the grass for a handle, trying to pull himself toward his pale teammate. There was a red mark on his cheek from a particularly determined haymaker from Sasuke, and his face was smudged with dirt. "Not... even... close..." he murmured, into the dirt.
This normally would have been the point where Kakashi would shake his head and laugh at how utterly ridiculous his two male students were, and Sakura would scold Naruto for making the fight last so long and praise Sasuke for winning (technically).
Without the others, however, they simply continued to glare at one another, as if daring the other to do something.
Finally, Sasuke could no longer stand and slumped against the tree, utterly exhausted, gasping for air. Though he would never admit it, he knew fighting Naruto was perhaps the best way to build it up stamina there was.
Naruto too, let his body rest, but not before dragging himself up to the tree where Sasuke was resting and moving to a nearby rock, letting his back press against the stone. In silence, the two allowed themselves to breathe, letting the sweat and exertion from their battle slip away.
It was then that one of the strangest phenomena happened to the two boys of Team Seven.
It began with Naruto, who felt it build up, felt the uncontrollable urge from deep within his belly to begin laughing. Sasuke on the other hand, had his lips already twitching and was struggling valiantly.
Finally, the two could no longer hold it in.
Naruto cracked first, his lips twitching for only a few seconds before he began to chuckle, at first a low, tired one that was more relieved than amused, but then soon, he began to laugh loudly, his laughter ringing out throughout the training area.
Sasuke, despite himself, followed suit with his own chuckle, followed by a quieter, but no less ringing laugh that joined Naruto's. They harmonized, sounding out throughout the otherwise deserted training area
Neither one was quite sure why they were laughing- only that it could not be held in and that it could not be stopped except by allowing it to continue. Perhaps it was exhaustion- perhaps, after all that tension and anger, there was nothing left but to laugh.
After a few minutes, the friendly madness subsided and they stopped laughing, with Sasuke still smiling very faintly against the tree and Naruto chuckling at odd moments.
Naruto, past the tears of laughter that had fallen down his face, glanced at Sasuke's peaceful, almost happy expression. Despite himself, he liked this smiling Sasuke a lot better than the broody bastard version.
"Why don't you smile like that more often?" he asked, as always as blunt as a wooden log and twice as thick.
"What are you talking about, dumbass?" Sasuke changed his face to a scowl, but Naruto had already latched onto the idea and would run with it for as long as it annoyed Sasuke.
"You'd be a lot less of a bastard if you'd stop smirking and kept smiling, you know." Naruto said blithely, looking dead tired. "People might actually stop thinking you're a jackass."
"Shut up." Sasuke groaned, not really ever caring what people thought of him- unless it was that he was the best, jackass or not. "Don't you ever stop talking?"
They passed off into silence for a little while.
Yet despite himself, it was as though Sasuke could not help but answer. "I don't like smiling." Sasuke's voice was a reflection of himself- unbowed, proud, and completely and utterly grating on Naruto.
"Hey! What are you talking about?" if he had any more energy, Naruto probably would have leapt up and tried to grab Sasuke- luckily, he was currently unable to do little more than glare at the Uchiha. "Don't you know it takes less muscles to smile than to frown?"
"Then people who frown are stronger." Sasuke countered, smirking despite his scratched up, sweaty face.
Naruto gave a low growl, but decided it wasn't worth the effort to even try to move at this point. "I hate you." He muttered tiredly, leaning back against the tree.
"Right back at you, dead last." Sasuke said, in a voice that was too sardonic to be a whisper but too low to have a lot of force to it. "Besides... not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve." His voice had quieted down, and was barely able to be heard.
"So what if I say what I mean?" Naruto shot back, but his eyes were closing and his body relaxing against the tree. He was really, really exhausted... "There's nothing wrong with smiling like you mean it, is there?"
Sasuke closed his eyes, and as he looked away made a soft "che" noise, and scoffed, "You're an idiot."
"And you're a jackass." Naruto replied tiredly, slumping against the tree. Briefly, it occurred to him that their exchange had softened down to a few steps below friendly banter. Before he could latch onto that thought, his body finally succumbed to exhaustion. Sasuke soon followed.
They were asleep in moments.
When Sakura found them the next morning, slumped against a rock and a tree in the training area, beaten, scratched, and sleeping, she was not happy in the least.
Still, it made Kakashi and the rest of the jounin (who were promptly told by the highly amused Copy Ninja) laugh for the next couple of days.