Well, sorry for the lack of updates to my other stories. But I was encountering a bit of a writer's block with The Other Naruto, so I decided to work on something completely new and different to get my thoughts flowing again. I believe it worked. So, I hope you enjoy this little one-shot it produced.

And yes, I know Sasuke is being a royal jerk at the moment. No, I am none too pleased with him. But I'm putting all that aside for the moment to write this. You know… classic denial. I'm good at that. For example, Itachi is not dead.

Nope, he's not.


Name Calling

They had gone over this many times before.

Honey, sweetheart, baby, pumpkin, teddy bear, snookums –let's stop there – were nice names.

Bone-head, idiot, jerk, butt-face, teme, dobe, and usuratonkatchi… were not.

Yet no matter how many times they tried to be "nice" to one another, the less than encouraging responses –weird looks, punches in the gut, and glares, just to name a few –always lead them to return to the less-than-nice names. But apparently it worked for them. Because for Sasuke and Naruto, nothing is conveyed in the meaning of a word; but rather, how that word is said.

"Dobe" could be said derogatorily when Sasuke wanted to let Naruto know that he was an idiot. It could be said challengingly when they were in the middle of an intense spar or mission. Or. It could be spoken affectionately, even exasperatedly, and with a fond shake of the head, sometimes even a smile, at a cute antic or gesture.

Naruto preferred the latter, though he would be pressed to admit so if asked.

Likewise, "teme" could be growled harshly between ground teeth in response to a withering glare. It could be whined at the top of one's voice with an annoying plea at the withholding of ramen. However, it could also be purred seductively at the back of one's throat, accompanied by a half-lidded look of lust, when the occasion called for it.

On most nights –hell all nights, any time of the day, if he was man enough to admit it –Sasuke preferred the latter as well.

Naruto sighed with tired exasperation as he wrapped the last piece of gauze around Sasuke's bicep, covering the two intertwined swirls inked into the pale skin in the process. He had had to use nearly the whole medicine kit for this one endeavour; they would have to add bandages to the next shopping list. But Naruto was really just relieved that the bleeding had stopped and Sasuke was okay.

He had been worrying himself sick these past three and a half days while Sasuke went out of the country to complete an SS-ranked mission. And how does he return? Worse than Naruto had dreamt for those three lonely nights.

Well. Maybe not worst.

Worst would be 'worse than dead'. Like, Sasuke had been sent to the deepest pits of Hell with no way to get out. And then Naruto would get a distressed dream from the man, seeing all the torture he was being forced to go through at the hands of huge fiery deamons, and Sasuke would be looking pleadingly at him to do something. But Naruto wouldn't even know how to get down there. What was worse than murdering? He would have to wipe out his entire village, and even then he wasn't sure what he would do if and when he got to Sasuke. But—

Okay. Deep breath. He should just stop there. That hadn't happened anyway. And it wasn't going to. Plus, Sasuke was beginning to give him weird looks as he started taking shorter and shorter breaths with each disturbing thought.

So yes, Sasuke had technically come back better than Naruto had expected, if only counting the fact that he came back. But he had still come back beaten and bruised with a few broken bones. And of course, he would not let anyone else attend to him accept for Naruto, who was only an intermediate medic nin at best–having been forced to learn at least something when he was the only one allowed to attend to the ANBU captain. Not that Naruto blamed the man; he trusted other people taking care of Sasuke as much as the other people trusted Sasuke himself. Which, let's just say was as far as he could throw the lot of them –not counting when he was in Sage mode.

But still, Naruto had gotten much better and was pleased with his handy medic work today. Sasuke should be better in a few days –not counting the two broken bones in his right arms –a fractured wrist and ulna- and one cracked rib.

"There," Naruto announced with satisfaction, lightly tapping the hard muscle above the wounded shoulder with the palm of his hand. "All patched up."

Sasuke grunted his thanks and rolled his left shoulder; he slowly stretched both his legs, cracked his knuckles, and twisted his neck this way and that.

"Better?" Naruto asked as he rolled up the last bit of gauze and tape and then closed the practically-empty kit with a snap.

Sasuke didn't answer –not that Naruto was really expecting one –and instead reached for his neko mask; eyes hardening as his gaze centered on the purple-painted porcelain. There were three deep purple whisker marks on each side, small black holes for the eyes, a half-swirled line for the mouth –almost like a sadistic smirk, if one so chose to look at it that way -and a light triangular-shaped nose in the middle.

Seeing where this was going, Naruto immediately sat up and stood in front of Sasuke, blocking his view of the cursed object.

"No," was all Naruto said; voice commanding volumes as he crossed his arms in defiance.

Sasuke raised an eyebrow, while his eyes narrowed in a glare at the same time –a feat only Sasuke could succeed in.

"I have another mission to complete and –"

"By Wednesday," Naruto quickly interjected, voice still commanding. "It's Monday."

Sasuke growled, "But you said –"

"I'm changing the assignment as of –"

"It will take at least three days to complete!" Sasuke spoke hurriedly, eager to get a full sentence in. Only the dobe could make him, Sasuke, eager to speak.

"Fine," Naruto dropped his arms to his side as if the whole matter was finished. "Friday it is then. You can leave no earlier than tomorrow. But you have to say goodbye this time." Naruto knew he wouldn't, and from the look Sasuke was giving him, Sasuke knew Naruto knew. It was so hard to say goodbye before a mission, no matter how many times they both had tried. Goodbyes always made it harder to leave, even for the simplest of retrieval missions.

Sasuke opened his mouth to protest, but quickly shut it at the look of concern, sternness, and guilt on the blond's face, all somehow wrapped into one.

If Naruto wanted, he could send Sasuke to an impregnable jail cell for the rest of his life, call for his execution, banish him from Konoha forever, or implement whatever other punishments for traitors were suggested in those many forbidden scrolls in Naruto's possession.

But he didn't.

And everyone knew there was more than one reason why. Naruto had more control over Sasuke, a six-year glorified captain for the ANBU, than the whole ANBU division; and they both knew it.

"Dobe," Sasuke muttered, shaking his head in exasperation; wincing slightly at the pain in his chest as he took a particularly deep breath. It would seem that Naruto would never get over the guilt of having power lorded over Sasuke because of elevated positions and stupid –beyond psychotic –decisions made years ago on a younger Sasuke's part. Sasuke knew had gotten more than deserved when he returned to the village, sliding out easy compared to the punishment –death –he should have been sentenced to. And it was all thanks to Naruto. Yet no matter what Sasuke did or said to convince Naruto that he was more than satisfied with the situation –ecstatic really, if a male Uchiha would ever deign to show such elation – Naruto would always just turn his head and change the subject. Even years later, with past supposedly behind them and buried deep, Naruto would never stop feeling guilty; never stop worrying about Sasuke.

"Fine." Sasuke rolled his eyes in defeat. "Friday," he confirmed. Naruto relaxed and made to sit back down on his plush green couch, beckoning Sasuke to join him. "Usuratonkatchi."

"Jerk," Naruto shot back, pulling Sasuke down into his lap while minding the other's still tender injuries. Settling against each other, Naruto leaned his chin atop Sasuke's head and closed his eyes. "You officially have the rest of the day off captain; what are you going to do?"

Sasuke pressed back carefully against Naruto's chest and surveyed the desk across the room, which was half-covered in a teetering tower of papers that were leaning dangerously close to the open bottle of ink.

"I don't know, dobe." Sasuke smirked. "It's a nice day outside," he said lightly with a sly smirk that Naruto could not see.

Naruto responded by looking longingly at the window. It really was a nice day. Sun out, not a cloud in the sky, birds chirping, and children laughing and shouting in joy as school let out for the day. Turning back to look at his desk, he released a sigh of breath he hadn't even known he had been holding.

"Teme," he growled, biting hard on the inside of his bottom lip and tightening his arms around Sasuke's waist as he rolled the current choices over in his mind.

He could, stay inside and sign more paperwork –possibly cramping his hand permanently in the process.

Or, he could skip work, go outside, and enjoy the rest of the day with one infamous raven.

"Decisions, decisions," Naruto rubbed Sasuke's upper arms slowly, kneading the muscle with his palm as his mind began to wander from the possible punishment he would receive later from Sakura and Tsunade for neglecting his paper work to what he could be doing outside at this very moment. "Alright," Naruto threw his head back against the couch in defeat. "I'll go with you. Just stop begging!" he cried.

"Usuratonkatchi," Sasuke chuckled, pushing his shoulders back into Naruto's hands when the other had paused in his actions. Massages were his weakness, though he never said so aloud. Naruto just knew. "I don't remember even asking you for anything." He made an exaggeratingly slow sweeping gesture to the window –whether due to his injuries or for effect, Naruto wasn't quite sure –while keeping the light, mocking smirk on his face. "I was merely commenting on the nice weather we're having. Small talk, you know about that." He inclined his head to the man under him without even glancing into his eyes.

Now Sasuke was just laying it on thicker and thicker, like molasses. But that's how things were supposed to be. Sasuke taunted, teased, and baited, then Naruto responded with anger, frustration, and yelling. Sasuke would then taunt him even further, pulling the string along that extra tiny inch more, by simply smirking. Naruto would then puff his cheeks out in anger, waiting for the right words, preferably an insult, to come to his mind so he could put the pent-up breath to use, but rarely did anything coherent or effective ever come out. Sasuke could count the seconds it took for Naruto to blow up and go off on a rant that Sasuke seldom saw the need to listen to. In all reality, little had changed since they first met. The only difference was that now it was all in good fun –and habit -for the most part. Because they both knew what the other was really saying.

"Whatever teme," Naruto said, his carefree smile telling Sasuke, 'too bad, you're stuck with me.'

"Yeah dobe, blame me for your slacking on duty." Sasuke shifted in Naruto's lap to get up, trying his hardest not to jolt his injured arm or rib. As he lifted himself up onto his own two feet, he grabbed Naruto's shoulder to steady himself and allowed his eyes to crease slightly in a smile, saying, 'I wouldn't want it any other way.'

Naruto then stood up and put a steadying hand behind Sasuke, on the small of his back.

"I'm not slacking, you jerk; I need a break after worrying over your ass these past three days. You're making my hair grey!" Naruto pulled at his bright blond locks for with his free hand for emphasis, no hint of grey or even white-blond present at all.

'I'm glad you're back.'

Sasuke shook his head. "Sure dobe, another excuse for you getting older faster than me. Too bad you don't have the Uchiha genes of perfection." Sasuke stepped to the right, barely missing a light punch aimed at his head. Lucky for him, his legs weren't broken or even that worse for the wear.

'I missed you too.'

Turning around, after making sure that Sasuke was okay on his own, Naruto pushed his kage cloak off his shoulders. Stepping forward once again, Sasuke took the red collar of the uniform with his good hand and pulled the jacket away in one fluid motion, placing it on the rack with Naruto's already discarded hat.

Naruto turned around with his hands out and palms up, waiting for Sasuke's evaluation of his current status –shed of all his duties for the day and wearing only his comfortable black shirt and orange pants.

"Yes?" Sasuke asked; eyebrows quirking and snorting softly, as though he had no idea what Naruto was waiting for. 'You look amazing.' Tilting his head to the side, he asked, "So, you coming…dobe?"

"Move it, teme!" Naruto shouted, dropping his hands to his side in frustration and waving his hands in a shooing motion at the cocky young man before him. Even wrapped up in bandages Sasuke still stood like he ruled the world. Grabbing at the pale hand hanging casually by his side, Naruto rushed towards the door before stopping as he took a step past the threshold. He paused, looked to the window, turned around, and made a dash to that small open space, dragging Sasuke along for the ride. As one hand slammed down on the sill, Naruto flung his whole body, and Sasuke, through the window and down to the ground. Not a long jump for a ninja, but still pretty far.

Naruto landed on his feet –not a hair out of place – with huge smile on his face as he looked around him, deciding the best path to start out on.

"Ever one for the dramatics," Sasuke grunted once he had regained his breath after landing a bit more forcefully than usual on his feet.

'You're crazy… but I still won't let go.'

"Alright," Naruto called, tugging on Sasuke's hand and moving on as though such exits were a daily occurrence – which they were. "Daylight's a-wasting. Let's go!"

And then some words needed no translation at all.

It was all in the way they were said.




'And I don't want the world to see me, 'cause I don't think that they'd understand.

When everything's made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am.'