The first time Naruto saw Sasuke after their fight at the battle of the end wasn't some epic battle or clash of titans. No, in their own ways both ninja were looking to escape for just a little while.

Jiriaya had given Naruto a trite little philosophical exercise and gone off to do some research at the hot springs. He told the young blonde to ask himself why he fought. In spite of Jiriaya's constant insistence that he needed to think things through, Naruto discovered that was a question he really did not want to answer and went looking for one of the great shinobi vices.

Sasuke was visiting the border town near rice country to pick up an intelligence report from one of the spies further into Fire Country. Orochimaru works him harder than Kakashi ever would have and Sasuke loves every minute of it. On this particular day however, he decided to enjoy his phantom freedom just a little bit and stop for a drink before heading back. He smirked as he saw a familiar blonde head and ordered a bottle of sake.

"Dobe," Sasuke drawled as he sat across from his former teammate and set the bottle between them.

"Teme."

"What, no demands that I return with you? No promises of unending pursuit?" Sasuke poured two drinks while mentally cataloguing the room's occupants and contents.

The next three rounds were drank in silence.

"You know that I have the demon fox sealed inside me," It wasn't so much a question as a statement.

"I figured it out eventually," Sasuke confirmed.

"Ever since I found out I have tried to deny that the Fox had any influence over me."

"Basic survival, the village already wanted you dead," the Uchiha agreed.

Naruto slugged back the last of the sake and called for another bottle. He sighed and suddenly looked tired for the first time Sasuke had ever seen, "What makes you feel alive?"

"Excuse me?"

"What really makes you feel alive Sasuke?" Naruto poured another drink for both of them, "What is the one thing in all the world that makes you really happy to be alive?"

"Family," Sasuked told him. "When I was a kid I loved my family. There were always so many cousins, aunts, and uncles that I never felt alone. Itachi destroyed everything I ever lived for, and though some people talk about their genin teams as family I just never felt that way in Team Seven."

"I did," Naruto told him. "Even though we fought, I used to think of you like a brother. Of the whole village I think you might be the only one who could ever understand me. Maybe Gaara, maybe not."

"Used to?" Sasuke asked.

"You left," Naruto said simply. "If you asked, I would have thrown myself at your brother as a distraction so you could kill him. If you asked, I would have followed you, even into Orochimaru's arms. But you never asked. We were a team and you left."

"And what do you live for Uzumaki?"

"I never thought about it until today. By the time I was six I was known as a prankster, always pulling off the completely impossible. I never once tried to hide who did it. I taunted them all. Chase me, find me, fight me, try to kill me, I never cared," Naruto looked his former teammate in the eyes. "Then I went to the Academy. They taught me how to fight, how to throw weapons, use explosives, and how to kill. Even though no one would practice with me, I knew something about this ninja thing just felt right."

"So you live to be a shinobi?"

"I always denied that I was anything like the Kyuubi. I was nothing like that engine of chaos and destruction. It was some sort of monstrous evil machine and I wasn't," Naruto looked away from Sasuke.

"But you are," Sasuke half stated half asked, "When you really go all out, holding nothing back, you are almost as unstoppable as it was."

Naruto nodded sadly, "I am. I live for battle, its like I was born to destroy anything I am placed in front of. I love the look in my enemies eyes when I do something they never expected. I love it when they do the same. In those moments, I finally feel alive. Either one of us could die at any moment and I love it. A fight with enemy ninja is the perfect expression of the chaos and mayhem that makes up my life."

Sasuke caught his eyes and simply stared into the blue orbs for a few moments. "I understand," And perhaps he did.

Naruto got to his feet and placed some money on the table, "So are we going to do this or did you already poison me with that first bottle of sake?"

Sasuke shook his head and turned for the door, "No, when I come to kill you, you will be upright, you will be armed, and you will be facing me."

Both boys couldn't help but smile as Naruto waved goodbye, "I'll look forward to it."