The first time Sasuke punched Naruto was the day of their first training session. Naruto had been babbling about something unimportant as usual. Sasuke ignored him, dismissing the chatter before it even registered.

One sentence, however, did filter through.

"Damn bastard is still a touchy woman because of that kiss…"

Sasuke punched him for daring to believe that some nameless, worthless dead-last boy could ever be important enough for Sasuke to agonize over.

(you are an Uchiha. and Uzumaki Naruto is beneath you.)

Team 7 trekked toward a small town near Fire Country's borders. The mission should have been simple enough: recover a package and return it to the client. Like so many of their missions, however, it took a turn for the worse.

A trio of shinobi from a village Sasuke had never heard of before fought them for it. They were challenging, but not as dangerous as many of their former enemies. One dove forward, thrusting his long sword. Sharingan tracked the movement and Sasuke twisted. The blade would cut him, but it would not strike anywhere deadly.

Of course, the idiot had to intervene.

He felt Naruto's familiar warm weight at his shoulder. He fell against the floor hard, his ever-present scowl darkening as he turned around.

The long-sword was protruding from Naruto's gut.

(you don't need anyone. you don't need him.)

It was on reflex that Sasuke attacked the shinobi standing over Naruto. Sakura knelt by Naruto's side calling to Kakashi. When Sasuke glanced at the wound again, he was surprised to see it was smaller than it should have been and did not appear lethal.

When Kakashi declared that Naruto was not in any danger and the mission could proceed, Sasuke stepped up to the shorter boy and punched him.

Let me go. Let me go. I have to do this. I have to. I have to.

The words reverberated in his mind. All he had to do was kill Naruto. Kill the annoying, loud-mouthed failure and he could have the eyes he needed to destroy Itachi.

The curse seal whispered its approval. Kill him and go to Orochimaru. Stronger. Powerful.

Chidori screamed, the darkness tainting it. His hand aimed for where he knew Naruto's heart would be.

Kill him.

He consoled himself, saying that it was just a whim. He didn't want to gain power following Itachi's instructions. He'd do it his own way and prove he was so much better than his brother.

(but you've never been very good at deluding yourself, have you? the truth always catches up.)

At the time, he was not thinking of that. He wasn't thinking at all. All he knew was that Chidori died around his hand and it was a fist that sank into Naruto's body. Just a fist.

It was almost four years since he'd left Konoha. Four years since he'd last seen the wide gate.

Of course, it wasn't the same gate that he'd walked away from. But it was almost identical.

(you didn't want to see it again. never thought you would. underestimated the stupid dobe right until the end.)

Naruto continued looking at him out of the corner of his eye as if Sasuke would disappear at any moment. When he stepped into the village, Naruto breathed an audible sigh of relief. His smile extended from ear to ear.

Sasuke rolled his eyes.

Naruto threw his arms around Sasuke's neck, dragging the raven-haired boy against his chest.

"Bastard!" he crowed cheerfully.

"Usuratonkachi," Sasuke muttered and sucker-punched him because that was the next move in this strange dance.

He leaned against the railing of the balcony, basking in the moon's light and the soft breeze cooling his overheated body.

(it was never supposed to be like this.)

Arms wrapped around his waist, a chin leaning on his shoulder. A nose tickled the spot just under his ear.

"I told you," Naruto whispered and Sasuke could feel his smile against his skin. "You love me."

"Tch." Sasuke turned enough to aim a fist at Naruto's jaw. But the blow was soft, just a push of Naruto's head to the side, the knuckles brushing over his lips.

(you never have been good at deluding yourself.)

"Over-confident, aren't you?" Sasuke smirked.

Naruto's grin widened. "Always."

(you are an Uchiha. and Naruto is your match.)