Laughter is the Best Medicine

Sakura remembers clearly the day Sasuke began to laugh again. Team Seven was celebrating Naruto's eighteenth birthday at Ichiraku. It was a quiet party—much to Sakura's surprise. She had assumed Naruto would want the biggest blowout celebration in all of Konoha. But he only smiled, saying he wanted to spend his eighteenth birthday with his two best friends (Twenty-one, he assured them, would be quiet a different celebration entirely). So as Sakura contentedly finished up her noodles, she never expected the night to turn into one of the best in their lives.

"Na, na, so where are my presents?" Naruto asked, as he swirled around in one of Ichiraku's spinning chairs.

"You already got mine." Sasuke said from Sakura's right. Naruto frowned.

"Hey treating me to ramen shouldn't count!" Naruto said stubbornly, crossing his arms with a glare. "That's just a nice gesture, no real birthday gift in that."

"What do you want, dobe?" Sasuke asked, stirring his ramen aimlessly with a chopstick.

"Don't call me that. And um, oh I know! How about that katana? You never use it anymore anyway, right? Pleaaaaaaaase?" Sasuke frowned. The sword had been an Uchiha heirloom, but without a clan Sasuke didn't feel as strong a need to hold onto the object so much anymore.

"Fine. Come pick it up tomorrow." The Uchiha said and Naruto let out a whoop of joy.

"Thanks a lot, Sasuke! I've always wanted to learn how to use one of those things."

"Just don't kill yourself or the villagers will blame me." Sasuke muttered.

"Wasn't planning on it." Naruto said contentedly as he swiveled around once more.

"Alright. My turn." Sakura said as she pulled out a box and handed it to Naruto with a shy smile.

"Sugei, it's so big Sakura-chan!" Naruto said as he took the box from her.

"Don't be impressed just yet. I made it myself so I don't know how great you'll think it is once you see it." Sakura said as she watched Naruto remove the top from the box and raffle through a few layers of paper. Sasuke glanced up as Naruto removed the object from the padded box. It was a handcrafted replica of the Hokage headdress, constructed a bit simpler than it's professional counterpart, but still well put together. Naruto's eyes widened as he stared at the present.

"Wow, you MADE this?" He asked, watching at Sakura with a newfound respect. Sakura nodded.

"Well it wasn't like I could go out and buy the real thing now could I?" Sakura said with a smirk. "It's not as complex as Tsunade-sama's, but it might fool a few people. Try it out on Gaara. That'd be a shocker." She grinned and Naruto stared at her with a wide smile.

"This is amazing, Sakura-chan! Arigatou!" The mock Hokage flaps fell with a fwap as Naruto jammed the headgear on. He grinned brightly, "Naa, Sasuke see?" He said jerking a finger towards his hat. Sasuke stared and turned his head away so suddenly Sakura almost thought he was having a fit. Sasuke felt his shoulders shaking, and covered his eyes with a hand.

"Eh? Nani?" Naruto asked, smile fading. "What is it?" He looked at Sakura with concern.

Sakura gently placed a hand on Sasuke's back, but before she even had a chance of worrying she caught his grin, barely visible beneath the shadow of his hand.

"Oi…" Naruto pressed leaning closer towards Sakura and the dark-haired boy, but froze when he heard Sasuke let out a noise he never heard the other boy make before.

Was the bastard laughing at him?

"Hey what's so goddamn funny?" Naruto shouted as he watched his teammate with some dismay. Sasuke ignored him; the image of Naruto grinning stupidly beneath the Hokage's headdress burned itself in his mind. Naruto was just so goddamn wonderfully predictable it was a relieving in a way. This is normal, Sasuke thought letting out a ridiculous giggle. This absurdity that was Naruto's unwavering belief to become Hokage was so standard, how could Sasuke ever forget it during his absence from Konoha?

Sakura looked at Naruto nervously but the orange boy was smiling sheepishly at her. She felt her lips begin to quirk up too at the sound of Sasuke's laughter. It was nice, she decided. No, it was better than that, it was so endearing she couldn't help but grin as Sasuke tried desperately to conceal his amusement. It was only a matter of seconds before the three of them were laughing so hard Naruto had tears streaming down his face.

"Sa-sasuke, I can't believe you actually laughed at my birthday present." Naruto said, holding onto his aching sides. "I think that's the only time I've ever heard you sound so happy. You should laugh more often, ya know?"

Perhaps it was the high from the endorphin rush but Sasuke decided to actually respond. "I…did when I was younger. Before the massacre." He added, rubbing his eyes slightly. "It was a lot easier then."

"Yeah. Well you're out of practice." Naruto said grinning broadly. Sasuke seemed to come to himself then, glancing away shyly as he agreed with a small Un. Sakura, however, didn't miss the forlorn smile Sasuke wore as picked away at the rest of his ramen.

By the end of the night they had managed to make Sasuke laugh two more times.