:Author Note: Holy shit. Bet no one ever expected me to post anything again, right? Did anyone actually care?

Anyway, this is my first one-shot of the Naruto variety. I'm pretty nervous about posting here, like I'm pushing my way into some tight-knit community. As if I wasn't in it already, the FFnet community. Hopefully I'm re-welcomed, although I don't think I'll be posting very often after this. This fic is just something that's been brewing for awhile. After reading so much of the SasuNaru/NaruSasu pairing, I guess it was about time I gave it a stab.

When I asked my BETA, Samara-chan, to help me out as-per classifying this as either SasuNaru or NaruSasu, she said, "NaruSasu, but it's so subtle you could call it anything." So, I'm calling it NaruSasu, for summaries sake. I won't ask anyone to go easy on me, because although there are flaws in this, I do think it's a good piece. I hope everyone else does, too!

Final note, I just want to shamelessly plug an original piece I re-posted on Fictionpress last night. It's a piece I'm particularly proud of, and I really want people to read it, so if you're feeling bored, head over to my Fictionpress profile and check it out ) out, and remember, reviews are really appreciated!

-Marochre-

:End Author Note:

Three days. That's all it will be, three days.

"The mission will take roughly three days. It's not particularly dangerous, in theory, but I'm sending all four of you in case things get rough."

That's what the Godaime, Tsunade had said when she had called for Shikamaru, Chouji, Sasuke and Iruka. Usually Naruto would have been included in this group, probably in place of Iruka, but he was currently bed-ridden due to injuries from the previous mission he and Sasuke had been sent on. It was this detail that sent Sasuke's mind into chaos, and it bothered him. Chaos wasn't something his mind was familiar with. Well, at least not of this kind.

After Sasuke returned from his training with Orochimaru, he had more or less become a permanent fixture into Naruto's daily life. This ray of blond sunshine had turned slightly less vibrant as he'd fought brutally in order to get his 'best friend' back home where he allegedly belonged. Hence, it made sense that Naruto would glue himself to Sasuke's side, so as to keep him in Konoha.

Annoyingly enough, it had worked. Sasuke supposed it was more of a pride thing, part of his revenge-seeking brain nagging him to stop becoming so ingrained in this peaceful lifestyle and fight for redemption. Lately though, he had been pushing this desire away, more for Naruto's sake than anything, he figured. Thoughts of revenge and the annoying twitch in his brain that constantly reminded him that Itachi was still alive and kicking, would have to wait for the right opportunity. He knew there would be no more chances for him if he left again, and judging by the way he was feeling at the prospect of a three-day absence of Naruto, he realised he probably wouldn't cope very well.

The idea of being dependent on Naruto didn't much appeal to Sasuke. However, it wasn't so much an idea anymore, as it was the reality. It had taken a fair bit of Sasuke's will to get him to admit that, if only to himself, and yet passing comments from friends, and his own mind had been forcing him to analyse it further.

"Honestly, you two quarrel like a married couple."

That was Shikamaru.

"You know, you could cut the sexual tension between you two with a knife."

That was Kakashi. Ever the tactful one.

"You two really complement each other, Sasuke."

Even Sakura was starting to come around.

Come around to what, though? Sasuke constantly wondered this. To him, they were close friends, comrades. He didn't see any reason for anyone to consider otherwise. But Sasuke was the first to say that he twisted his own thoughts, and more often than not tried to disregard them completely. It was this kind of intimate friendship he'd tried so long to avoid getting into, and he'd be damned if he allowed his companionship-seeking brain to let it get any worse.

It wasn't much of a surprise that Sasuke was slightly out of it for the bulk of this mission. It was going much to plan, and Tsunade's notion of them possibly needing four people for this job appeared to be unnecessary. The female Hokage hadn't disclosed her reasons for believing they'd need back-up, but Sasuke knew it had something to do with Akatsuki, who were on the prowl in a close enough vicinity to trigger worry.

Sasuke didn't doubt for a second that this was kept from him to keep him from letting his mind wander, which to him meant that he still hadn't gained the trust of Tsunade. She saw through him, and saw that he still yearned the feeling of honouring his clan, and while he knew she was just doing her job as Hokage, he knew she also kept him there on a personal note.

Naruto. It was always Naruto. Everything he did, said, and felt, it just lead back to the hyperactive blond ninja. Just like Sasuke knew that Naruto's affection toward him gained him acceptance into the village again, he knew that Tsunade kept him in the village strictly for Naruto's sake. It seemed to him like Tsunade treated him as she would any other traitor; with suspicion, and patronising authority. At first, it was more apparent, this outside treatment. Two years later though, it wasn't quite so obvious.

And once again, Sasuke was sure it had something to do with Naruto. Had Naruto noticed, and told Tsunade to cut it out? It wouldn't have surprised him. Naruto was one of the very few people who dared to question Tsunade, probably because he'd met her under the pretence that she was just some compulsive gambler Jiraiya had once known.

Every incident surrounding Naruto, every conversation about him, swirled around in Sasuke's mind, as he lay himself down on the stiff camping matt, sleeping bag up to his shoulders. He was sharing a tent with Iruka. It felt so wrong to him, like he was about to undergo a strange interrogation from the talkative ninja. Sasuke was used to rooming with Naruto, and had become accustomed to the endless flow of words that floated around his consciousness as he tried to sleep. For some reason though, as soon as Iruka began to speak, Sasuke knew he wasn't going to be able to block it out.

"It's strange for you, isn't it?"

"What's strange?" Sasuke asked. He mentally cursed; if he'd just submitted to the question, and nodded dismissively, then maybe he'd be free to sleep and not have to listen anymore.

Iruka continued. "Being on a mission without Naruto. Rooming with me instead of him."

"Oh," replied Sasuke. He'd known, of course he'd known. "I guess so. At least you don't snore."

"But you miss him, don't you? I bet he's missing you like crazy."

Now that wasn't something Sasuke had allowed himself to consider. Missing Naruto was like the ultimate show of devotion and dependence, and Sasuke didn't want that. He couldn't even think of a reason why. Why shouldn't he just acknowledge anything he might, and that is stressed, might be feeling and allow himself to be happy?

"I'm capable of functioning without him, Iruka."

"Are you? Because I don't think your heart is truly in this mission."

Sasuke felt his stomach flip over. It was a good point Iruka had just made. His heart wasn't in it at all. Usually, the mission and it's directions were his top priority, and he never strayed from it. This time around, if he had been asked right at that second why he was resting from a trip to and from the Sand village, he wouldn't have been able to say.

When Sasuke didn't reply, Iruka chuckled softly. "My point exactly. It's lucky we haven't been attacked, you'd probably be an easy target right now."

"Is there a point to this?" Sasuke asked. He didn't want to talk about his preoccupation with Naruto. Especially not with what could only be described as said boy's father-figure.

"Well, yes," Iruka replied honestly. "I'm not sure I can get you to reveal anything personal to me, but I'm definitely curious about your feelings toward Naruto."

"Yeah, well curiosity killed the cat, Iruka. There's really nothing to know."

Sasuke hadn't just made a death-threat to his former teacher. They both knew that. It was simply an indication to leave it alone, but that was just bait to Iruka's little cross-examination.

"There's plenty to know. Every friendship is unique, Sasuke. The one you have with Naruto is up there with the strangest ones I've seen, but in that, I also see love in it's purest form," Iruka explained.

Love? Sasuke groaned inwardly. This was just getting worse and worse. He and Naruto spent everyday together, usually sparring, and thus they were incredibly close, but it wasn't a physical thing. Or an emotional thing, Sasuke added to himself.

"Maybe you're just looking too much into it," Sasuke reasoned.

"Maybe you're not looking into it enough," Iruka replied.

Sasuke sighed. "Why should I? What's wrong with the way things are?"

"There's nothing wrong, exactly," Iruka said, "but I can see it in your eyes, you push yourself away from the idea of becoming close to people. I'm not you, so I don't know for sure, but it definitely seems like you could spare yourself a lot of stress if you just went with it."

"You're right," Sasuke said quickly. "You're not me. How do you know that me and Naruto getting closer would make things better and not worse? It could completely fuck up everything."

It was dark, but Sasuke knew that Iruka had rolled his eyes. Sasuke wasn't sure why he was delving into this stupid hypothetical with his tent-mate, but it was making him feel uneasy. Like he was revealing too much.

"And what is everything, Sasuke?"

Sasuke thought for a second. "People who get attached to someone get a real kick in the teeth when they're taken away. I'm a ninja, I live constantly aware that I could die tomorrow."

"So how do you think people make little ninjas, Sasuke? People fall in love, have babies and the cycle of life goes on. I'm sure everyone considers what you just said, but you seem to be the only one denying yourself your own happiness."

What was Iruka implying, Sasuke wondered. It sounded as if the older ninja was telling Sasuke to hook up with Naruto, because of some strange notion he had that the two were in love. Sasuke was suddenly aware though, that it wasn't a strange notion anymore. He had been speaking to Iruka under the implication that he was actually in love with Naruto. His excuses for not considering anything other than friendship were those of someone deeply troubled by a love they were denying themself of.

Had Iruka manipulated him? Was that his intention?

He asked. "Are you trying to manipulate me?"

"Why would I want to do that? I don't want you to start believing something that isn't true. That would definitely destroy you and Naruto. Everything you've just said to me stems from truth, I can see it. So what are you going to do about it?"

Do? He was supposed to do something?

"Who said I was doing anything?" he asked incredulously.

"I don't believe that anything we've said tonight will sit easily with you until you do something about it. I think I've made you consider something you've never allowed yourself to think about before, so there's nothing more you can do except act on it."

"That's a ridiculously simple way to look at it."

"Well, why complicate it?" Iruka challenged.

Why? Well, because that's just what Sasuke did. Everything was complicated. There was no simple explanation for anything. He knew his desires for revenge were many and complicated, even though it should have been simple. If he had seen it as a simple problem, then maybe he could have let it go years ago and just been peaceful. That just wasn't the way he was, though. Just as he wasn't with going to simplify his thirst for revenge, he wasn't going to simplify this situation of his and Naruto's supposed romantic spark.

He wasn't particularly worried about embarrassment, as some people might have been. Naruto was strange enough that he probably would make out with Sasuke with no feelings behind it just to see what it was like. Not that Naruto was particularly experienced in that area. The thought of Naruto kissing anyone was something Sasuke just couldn't conjure up, whether it was out of possessiveness or just lack of imagination. It was simply Naruto's way to just go with it, just as it was Sasuke's way to overanalyse it.

"Some things are meant to be complicated." That's the way Sasuke dealt with that one. He wasn't sure how much he believed it, as Iruka's words made a certain amount of sense to him. But how could he back down now? Iruka expected that, and Sasuke didn't like being predictable.

"What's so complicated about giving Naruto an extra smile, or hugging him back? God knows that such random displays of affection would probably alert him to your undying love for him," Iruka said, clearly beginning to enjoy this.

"Why do you have to put it that way? And what makes you think he loves me that way?" Sasuke winced at his own use of the 'L' word, and also at his submission to Iruka's tirade.

"I think he loves you in every way. You can't go wrong, Sasuke," replied Iruka.

"Whatever. Can I go to sleep now?" Sasuke hadn't meant to phrase it as a question, but regardless, Iruka replied with a simple "Yes", and they both ceased conversing.

Iruka was right in saying that it was driving him insane now. Sasuke tried to fall asleep but couldn't help but wonder what he'd do upon visiting Naruto at the end of the mission, which would be around twenty four hours from the current moment. Thoughts and possible words floated around his consciousness as he struggled to lose it, just for a few hours so he could be free from this burden. He found himself picturing the last time Naruto had hugged him and how it had felt to be able to lean into Naruto and rest his head against the crook of his neck. The height difference was now so apparent between the two.

He suddenly felt warm, and Sasuke realised he was probably blushing. Increasing this heat further, was the surfacing thought of Naruto kissing him. Imagining what Naruto's mouth would feel like, if it were to shut up and press against his own, sent Sasuke's mind and body into disarray and he shut off the thought as quickly as it had started.

However, these thoughts out the way, allowed him a tiny peace of mind, and put him at rest just enough to put him into a shallow, but somewhat comfortable slumber, until he was forced out of it hours later by Iruka preparing to head back to Konoha. He felt more refreshed than he thought he would, and allowed himself a few moments to wake up completely before silently packing up his belongings.

Thankfully, Iruka didn't say anything, though Sasuke felt himself being scrutinised under his gaze for the remainder of their journey. It was as if Iruka expected Sasuke to waltz over and outline his intentions to the somewhat smug ninja. As far as Sasuke was concerned, it wasn't really his business, though he found it difficult to hold Iruka in contempt for his actions. It was probably another one of those instances where someone was looking out for Naruto. That was usually the case, and Sasuke often wondered why he didn't feel resentful towards his friend for all the protection he had around him. Especially since a great deal of said protection probably was to do with Sasuke and his previous betrayal.

The familiar entrance to the village became visible, like they were approaching in fast-forward, and Sasuke felt like he was dealing with some annoying deadline. As they approached Tsunade's office to inform her of the mission's success, Sasuke couldn't think about what they'd just completed. Shikamaru and Chouji outlined the mission and it's events, while Sasuke just stared off into space, just barely registering their voices. Iruka confirmed the mission's completion again, and they were all free to go home. Sasuke snapped out of his reverie and concentrated on walking in the direction of his own apartment. He was going to head to Naruto's place, but not until he had changed into something slightly more leisurely. He was dressed for combat, and it suddenly felt uncomfortable.

He changed into a plain shirt and black track-pants in a silent trance, and if anyone had stuck their foot out in front of him, he would have tripped, no questions asked. It was comforting that the village was relatively quiet that night, and so his migration to Naruto's nearby apartment wasn't particularly difficult, despite his distinct lack of concentration.

Sasuke found himself at Naruto's front door sooner than he would have liked. He had been told that Naruto would be discharged around the second day of their mission, and he assumed that those details hadn't changed. He could have stood there and contemplated, to make up the time he would have liked to have spent in motion, but he wasn't one to stand still in his tracks. He knocked calmly, and waited. There was no answer. His eyebrows furrowed into a concerned crease, and he tried the doorknob. It was unlocked.

Naruto wasn't in the lounge room, which was viewable from the instant he walked through the door. Nor was he in the kitchen. Sasuke couldn't hear the shower, and so he made his way down the small corridor and opened the door that would put him in Naruto's bedroom.

The blond was stretched out on the double bed, and Sasuke found himself smiling. There was something so endearing about a sleeping Naruto, and Sasuke narrowed it down to the fact that he wasn't talking. Whatever it was, it caused him to walk across the small room and climb onto the bed. This wasn't something he usually did. They usually spent their time at their own apartments during the night, but in the rare times they spent the night together, they wouldn't share a bed. So, naturally, it felt weird for Sasuke to crawl across Naruto's bed and set himself down by his best friend's hips.

Sasuke's hand moved of its own accord, and rocked Naruto awake. This motion wasn't something Naruto was accustomed to; they were both awoken, every day, by a shrill alarm clock. A tender hand may have been more pleasant, but it wasn't something Naruto was expecting, clearly, in his blissful sleep.

Blue eyes opened and shone, confused in Sasuke's own brown orbs. After a couple of blinks, Naruto was conscious, and Sasuke was mildly surprised at how simple it had been to rouse him.

"How'd you get in?"

Had Naruto not missed him? Iruka was so sure, and yet Naruto didn't seem to care. Sasuke panicked for a moment, before regaining his bearings.

"The door was unlocked."

"Oh."

The two friends were silent, and Naruto pulled himself into a sitting position. His eyes suddenly widened, and he looked at Sasuke as if he'd just registered he wasn't alone on his bed. After the initial confusion was swept aside, Sasuke found himself looking at a happy, classically-Naruto smile.

"How was the mission?" asked the blond.

"To be honest with you, I have no idea," replied Sasuke.

"Really? Well, I'll be honest with you too," Naruto said. "I don't care how it went, so long as you're back in one piece. And you are. So I'm happy."

Sasuke felt a smile tug at his lips, and he let it form, shyly. Naruto's eyes brightened even more at this, and the taller boy suddenly leaned forwards onto his knees and pulled Sasuke into a hug. Sasuke, suddenly pressed against Naruto's shoulders, snuggled into the warm body and hesitantly slipped his arms around his friend's waist.

"I did miss you, though," Naruto said quietly. Sasuke felt Naruto's hold on him slip a little bit, as the blond sat beside him. Sasuke released his own hold, but stayed rested against Naruto's shoulder for a few seconds longer.

"You missed me too, then?" Naruto asked cheekily, and it suddenly clicked with Sasuke that this was the perfect opportunity to show Naruto that he had indeed missed him. He tilted his head up slightly and saw Naruto's adoring eyes and smiled into them with his own, before closing the gap between them by pressing his lips onto those of what he supposed, from then on, could no longer be called his best friend.

Judging by the way Naruto's arm slipped around Sasuke's waist, forcing him to fit more snugly at his side, Sasuke was pretty sure Naruto wasn't unhappy with this development. And as they broke their contact, just for a second, to allow Naruto to push Sasuke down onto the soft pillows before resuming their activity, it seemed to Sasuke that this was a development he wasn't going to regret.