-Seven years ago-

Pollen, as soft and plump as dandelion heads, floated with idle ease in the early evening air. A gentle glow of sun brushed the pollen in shifting shades of amber and honey yellow. Each tiny speck waltzed lightly, weaving an untraceable path towards the sky as though they might become stars if only they reached far enough. Sasuke rolled over, burying his face into open palms.

"Hey, Sasuke."

He didn't answer. For a moment he wondered whether it would disappear if he just stayed still, quiet. Perhaps if he waited…


"Damn it Naruto, what the hell are you doing?" Sasuke mumbled. "Can't you see I'm sleeping? Idiot." He smirked, not having to lift his head to know there would be a clenched fist waving in his direction.

"Who're you calling idiot? You're not sleeping at all, liar! Get up off the floor and say that to my face, you damn lazy Uchiha!"

Sasuke rolled onto his back once more, the corners of his mouth tilting slightly upwards. He stretched his arms and tucked them behind his head. "As if you could take me on."

"Yeah? Want to try? I won't go easy on you this time Sasuke!" Despite his indignant tone, Naruto grinned widely and dropped to the ground next to his friend. His arms and legs flopped down heavily as he spread out, sending a puff of gold rising up around him, spiralling slowly away. Breathing in deeply, savouring the warm touch of light on his skin, he felt peaceful and calm. It was as though on that hillside, far from the bustle and rush of Konoha's centre with its constant pressure, stress and worry of training or missions, he could just relax.

There was a hollow thud as Sasuke whacked Naruto's chest.

"Oof! What the-?" he managed to cough out when Sasuke cut him off.

"Stop snoring loser. You sound like a pig." He turned over calmly, leaving a pair of eyes staring furiously at the back of his head.

"WHAT?" Naruto yelled. "What kind of reason is that? I don't snore and I was wide awake you damn idiot!" He flung his fist down where Sasuke's side should have been but it met with the hard soil. "OW! You, dammit! Get back here! Hey! SASUKE!"

Naruto charged after him, cursing noisily all the way and eventually catching up. When he reached him he grabbed his shoulder roughly, whirling him round. Seeing the flicker of a smile in Sasuke's face that threatened to develop into a full blown chuckle, Naruto collapsed in the grass unable to breathe from a fit of laughter. "You... phwaaa! Haha! Sa..haha! Sasuke!"

Despite his efforts he couldn't help but find the laughter contagious. Sasuke covered his mouth, trying to stop. This made Naruto laugh even harder. Tears ran freely down his cheeks and he gripped his aching stomach.

Sasuke recovered quickly, the look of indifference masking his amusement and his narrowed eyes glancing away in embarrassment. He cleared his throat.

"Oi," he nudged Naruto with a toe, "get up."

"Wait…wait a second. I need to…catch my breath…!" Sasuke began walking, though much slower. "Hey! Hey I said… wait dammit!"

They found the well worn path out of the field that would return them to the village centre. The white dust lifted around their feet, joining the yellow skies. For a while they followed the path, allowed it to take them further away from the fields while their minds were enchanted by the serenity. Somewhere along the path Sasuke slowly stopped. Naruto turned back.


"Why did you come here?" He spoke emotionlessly, looking out towards Konoha. The flat and empty tone wiped cleanly away all the humour. Naruto stood.

"Well I was just taking a walk through-"

"Don't." Sharply he turned and faced Naruto with hard, coal black eyes. "Don't lie to me."

He sighed, muttering guiltily, "I wish you would let me finish…" This time his gaze met Sasuke's with a sudden sense of solemnity. "It worried me. When you left, that is. I thought you would have been happy about this. I mean, you've been working so hard towards getting this placement. Are you alright?"

There was a long pause in which Naruto shifted uncomfortably, waiting for a reply. But the dark eyes just watched the pollen filled skies, looking beyond them at something only he could see.

"This was his."

Itachi. How long had it been since he passed away? It seemed as though only yesterday he was practicing his new jutsu with Sasuke behind the clan's village. It still felt like he might appear at any time to poke his little brother's forehead for frowning too long. His overwhelming absence never eased its grip on that little brother's thoughts. And it was especially strong now that Sasuke had been appointed captain of the ANBU squad, a position that had belonged to Itachi.

"He would be proud of you right now," Naruto told him.

"Itachi is dead." His hand curled into a fist yet his voice was still devoid of emotion.

"He would be proud of you," he repeated more forcefully. Then he reached out to Sasuke, placing his palm on his shoulder. His voice became much softer when he spoke, "And I'm proud to be your friend."

Sasuke's eyes snapped back to Naruto's face, stunned. The smile he received was so warming, so childlike and innocent that it immediately coaxed out his own small smile. It appeared and vanished very quickly, but Naruto saw it and grinned wider.

Sasuke started walking again, passing ahead of Naruto. When he was a few feet away he stopped and twisted his head back. "Loser."

"Hey Sasuke! Your proud to be my friend too, aren't you? Neh? Sasuke!"

"What? Of an idiot like you?"

"You're the damn idiot! HEY! SASUKE!"

FLASHBACK! Okay, so you may be a little annoyed that this chapter doesn't follow straight on from the last but I felt that it would help to build up their bond a lot more if the background stuff is there. Also, as you may have noticed, this chapter is short. I know I said I would be trying to write longer chapters - and I am trying! - but at the moment time is not something I have very much of. Hence the tiny chapter. For a couple of weeks my updates will probably be less frequent, that is until this exam season is over, and then hopefully I'll be able to write/update a lot more.

Thanks for reading - please please please review! I would really like to hear what you think of this chapter ^_^