This fic is my birthday present to myself. Not because it holds any special birthday meaning or anything, but because I wanted to post something on my birthday and this happened to be about ready. Or at least the first chapter was.

Also, this fic is set after the Wave arc, operating on the slight AU that nothing chuunin-exam related has happened. It's just one of those kind of generic set-whenever not-too-serious romance fics. Because those are fun and easy to write, especially with Sasuke and Naruto. And I felt like it. Oh, but because of this, there will be some Sakura-bashing. Nothing unreasonable, given her character at the time, and mostly coming from Sasuke, but this is in Sasuke's POV, so... yeah.

Not sure how long it will end up being. I've got a good 17 pages written, and I'm breaking it up at roughly four to five pages per chapter, but I'm not sure yet how much more I'll write, though I do have a rough plan. Still, this shouldn't be more than eight chapters, tops. Enjoy.

Sasuke woke up one morning three hours too early to a face hovering over his, dimpled cheeks and blue eyes filling his vision.

"I love you, dumbass," Naruto greeted him cheerfully, and Sasuke promptly shot a fireball into his face.

Then rolled over, and closed his eyes once more.


"Your breath stinks," was his own greeting to the other genin, though admittedly several hours later so perhaps Naruto could be excused for his perplexed expression. It wasn't as if, of course, Naruto exercised any sort of efficiency in either his thoughts or words, so it followed that the boy wouldn't be able to connect two events just a few hours apart.

Even if the first had been his own declaration of love; generally the sort of thing considered as being worth remembering.

But Naruto didn't seem to remember, and Sasuke certainly wasn't going to remind him – his teammate's saying that sort of thing had yet to manifest itself in public and Sasuke definitely didn't want to encourage the blond to do so. It could, after all, have been nothing more than a one-time act of insanity, typical of Naruto.

In the meantime, though, Naruto was trying to smell his own breath by blowing out into his cupped hands then quickly sniffing the same. It didn't seem successful and Sasuke turned away with a slight, "hn".

In his peripheral vision, Sakura arrived and for some reason he didn't catch hit Naruto so hard on the head that he flipped over the railing of the bridge and into the river. She then turned to greet him, but Sasuke's eyes had already slipped closed, his breathing relaxed despite the splashing and yells assaulting his ears.

He'd arrived exactly on time as always; knowing Kakashi, he'd have more than enough time to catch up on his required hours of rest.


Sasuke woke for the second time that day to dimpled cheeks and blue eyes (Sakura somewhere screeching not to bother her darling Sasuke's precious sleep), and this time almost panicked. If Naruto said or did anything here, in public – in front of Sakura no less, who he knew would never let it go – he'd have no recourse but to murder the idiot.

This thought in mind, Sasuke reacted before the blond could speak; immediately leaping into a combative position, he struck out and flung Naruto over the bridge for the second time that morning. This time though, there was no splash. Naruto had caught himself with a hand on Sasuke's shoulder, and used a foot to push off the railing and launch himself back onto the Uchiha.

Several minutes of intense, but predictable, grappling followed until they were finally separated by a bored Kakashi arriving out of nowhere in swirl of leaves.

"Now, now, Naruto, Sasuke," he scolded, tugging them apart by their shirt collars and tossing them roughly towards either end of the bridge. "I'm shocked at your lack of dedication. To hold up the entire team's training purely for selfish reasons is absolutely unforgivable, you know." In the moment of disbelief and collectively rising outrage that followed his statement, the masked jounin actually had the audacity to waggle a finger and say, "Shame on you!"

Sakura shrieked. Naruto pounced (and missed). Even Sasuke twitched and directed a vicious glare at a nearby twig.

Their sensei's mask lifted in his usual smile, and a typical day of training began.


After they were done for the day, Naruto did it again.

"Come on, let's all go get ramen, rameeeeen," he was wheedling, literally begging Sakura on his knees. He was totally ignoring Sasuke, who – though he didn't mind of course – was a little confused.

If Naruto supposedly loved him, why was he still so clearly fawning over Sakura?

Of course, it was right as he was thinking this that Sasuke had to take a sharp step to the right to dodge Naruto's attempted glomp. "Sasuke, you're coming too!"

A hand fisted in the back of his shirt before he could step fully out of reach, dragged him closer, and for just a single moment, Naruto's mouth brushed his ear. "Love you, now let's get some food," he whispered with hot breath before letting go, and Sasuke yanked away furiously.

He spun around to glare hotly at Naruto, but the blond boy was already back to pleading with Sakura, acting as if nothing had just happened!

A tic started up in Sasuke's eye, and he spun right back around to face the opposite direction. Glaring at everything, he stomped up the path, completely ignoring both teammates that ended up following him.

Somehow, that path happened to lead into the street that held Ichiraku Ramen (a completely unintentional choice on his part). Sasuke ended up sandwiched unwillingly between his teammates, Sakura pressed disturbingly close and Naruto completely absorbed in his fourth bowl of miso ramen to the point of forgetting all else –apparent love interests included.

Sasuke took a deep breath, berated himself as a fool for even caring, and blew gently on his own (first) bowl of miso, cooling the steaming surface.


Luckily, that was the end of the declarations for the first day, and when he woke up the next morning it was to the mildly less irritating breeeeep-breeeeep of his alarm clock, no Naruto in sight. Sasuke promptly flung several kunai at his clock, but the damnable thing was geared for ninjas and made of very strong stuff, so nothing but getting up and turning it off properly silenced it. By that point of course, Sasuke was fully awake anyway, and his daily rituals commenced as if the interruption of yesterday had never happened.

As the day continued, and in fact for the rest of the week, Sasuke began to think that perhaps the whole thing had been some odd hallucination on his part, or – more likely – temporary insanity on Naruto's, since the boy didn't make any signs of continuing his little whatever-that-had-been.

Sasuke would like to say that he'd forgotten all about the whole affair by the time several days had passed without Naruto repeating those three perplexing words; but in fact very few people had ever told Sasuke they loved him. His family hadn't approved of expressing emotions too much anyway, so Sasuke could count on his hands the number of times he'd been told he was loved before the massacre. After it – well, he got plenty of confessions and love letters in the Academy, and some of his more persistent fans still sent them. Sakura practically confessed daily, too, but to Sasuke that wasn't the same. It was fangirlism and thus completely worthless, not even to be considered.

But Naruto, whatever he was – and he was a great many things – was certainly not a fangirl. This was undeniable, and in fact Sasuke didn't think he'd ever heard the other boy profess love to anyone – or anything for that matter, but ramen and the color orange. He claimed to like Sakura for some ungodly reason, but not love her.

So Sasuke's sudden upgrading (if you could call being on par with orange and ramen an upgrading) was perplexing and attention-grabbing. It wasn't quite as easy to forget as it should have been, even when Naruto freely claimed to hate him at least ten times daily. Sasuke couldn't help but puzzle over that somewhat, despite never attempting to understand Naruto's reasoning before.

Thus, when Naruto finally confessed (was it a confession, really?) again, after sixteen days of acting like nothing had happened, Sasuke was not quite as irritated as before. In fact, he was almost relieved, because he would have hated to be putting so much time and mental effort into unraveling something that meant nothing to Naruto. He didn't like the thought that Naruto, who spoke of love as infrequently as Sasuke himself, was capable of declaring it just on a whim and then forgetting about it.

Of course, none of that was to say that Sasuke reacted well to the third claim of love.


They were sparring in the woods, both winded heavily and covered in dirt, sweat, and sewage from the truly disgusting D-rank they had taken earlier that day. In fact, the two boys were so rank that they'd both been refused access to the Hokage Tower, so Sakura and Kakashi (both having avoided the messy part of the job because they were a girl and a jounin respectively, and therefore apparently exempt from anything even remotely involving sewage blockages) had gone to drop off the mission scroll and receive the team's payment by themselves. This left Naruto and Sasuke alone, and before Sasuke had managed to escape to the nearest stream or shower, Naruto had leapt at him on some pretext of Sasuke having killed fewer giant sewer rats – he'd killed about four more than Naruto, actually – and the sparring (or really, fight) began.

They'd been going at it for over two hours, and the sun was setting; they'd skipped lunch earlier so Naruto's stomach growling almost drowned out his insults, and even Sasuke was close to giving up just so he could get to dinner already. But both boys were too stubborn to halt first, and the fight might have lasted all night if Naruto's ankle wasn't caught in the crook of a branch during a particularly athletic dodge and jerked to the right with a sickening snap!

Naruto's face went white and Sasuke took advantage to leap close and hold a kunai to his throat. After several seconds of glaring, Naruto's shoulders slumped in defeat, and Sasuke rolled his eyes and turned to retrieve his teammate's ankle from where it was wedged in the branch.

Naruto yelped and gripped hard on Sasuke's arm, but the whole process didn't take long and soon Sasuke was dumping his teammate on the dirt. He kneeled forward to look at Naruto's foot, only to be stopped by the invalid in question.

"I'm fine, it's nothing," Naruto insisted.

"Don't play tough, stupid, you've probably broken it," Sasuke scowled back, but Naruto's grip on his wrist only tightened and finally, with a scoff, he gave up. "Whatever. Don't blame me when you get suspended from missions for a week."

Naruto grinned and let go. "I won't," he promised, and then, without any warning, he met Sasuke's eyes and in a matter-of-fact voice said, "I love you."

The moment of almost-camaraderie was broken instantly. Sasuke jerked back to his feet, eyes wide and emotions swirling. He didn't have any words to retort with, it was so sudden – and Naruto was still just grinning at him like nothing had happened. The other genin wasn't fleeing (which made sense, given the broken ankle) or changing the subject or doing anything else that might convince Sasuke the words had been his imagination, just grinning.

So– Sasuke punched him in the face and fled using all his speed, went straight home forgetting about food and straight to bed forgetting about bathing. He closed his eyes, shoved his face into his pillow, and refused to even begin to think about what had happened or what Naruto could mean, because this time was definite. This time wasn't a dream or a misunderstood whisper as the others could have been, and Sasuke had no clue how to respond to the first real time someone had told him they loved him in six years.

He didn't want to comprehend it, especially since it was Naruto, of all people– instead Sasuke forced himself into sleep and tried desperately to delay the inevitable consequences.


But in the morning, unexpectedly, the consequences did not come.

Well – of course Sasuke woke disgruntled, stinky and incredibly hungry. The dirt and sewage muck was caked onto his skin and in his sheets, which made for an irritating wake up and laundry to do. But the real consequences, the ones involving Naruto – they never came.

Naruto arrived at the bridge like always, jogging up and waving obnoxiously and saying one too many hellos to Sakura. He didn't even glance in Sasuke's direction, which – while perfectly normal – was irritating and confusing in equal measure.

More confusing, though, was the lack of any mark on Naruto. Bruises from sparring aside, which Sasuke could understand being hidden or not a big deal, he had punched Naruto hard, right in the face. But there was no mark, not even the tiniest bruise. …And Naruto had jogged up to the bridge, showing absolutely no sign of favoring the ankle that had been broken or at the very least badly sprained the night before.

The bruise thing could maybe have been makeup or even Sasuke, in his panic, misjudging how much force he had used. It was potentially explicable – but the ankle was perplexing enough that Sasuke, despite his resolve to not invite any contact with Naruto after yesterday, had to ask.

"Oi, idiot," he said, interrupting Kakashi's excuse of the day (apparently there had been an emergency involving a bull and a china shop), "what about your ankle?"

Sakura and Kakashi gave him perplexed glances, as did Naruto, oddly enough. Sasuke was actually beginning to fear that the whole thing yesterday hadn't happened at all, and he was truly going crazy or something – but then Naruto's eyes widened in understanding, and he laughed forcedly.

"Oh, that?" Naruto rubbed the back of his head, waggling the ankle in question slightly in front of him. "It's fine. It was nothing, like I said."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed, because there was something strange here and he was starting to suspect it wasn't him. "It was broken."

Naruto's grin turned a little nervous, and he put his foot back on the bridge in a vicious stomp. In his peripheral vision, Sasuke noticed Kakashi's visible eye widening slightly in understanding – though he still had no clue.

"Look, see?" Naruto stomped again. "It's fine. I'm telling you, it's fine. Even you can be wrong sometimes, jerk."

Sasuke didn't choose to fall for such obvious baiting; only staring at the ankle in question for several seconds more before turning away. "Hn."

And that was that.

Naruto didn't mention the previous nights' events again, even though in normal circumstances he would have been raving at Sasuke for punching him after the spar had ended. And even though Sasuke watched carefully, Naruto's ankle really did seem fine; he was putting normal amounts of stress on it and showed no signs of pain or impaired functioning. It was all very… suspicious.