A/N: takes place during the second task of the chuunin exam. assuming that they're 14 when they took it. written on a whim because I couldn't find a fic like it.

Resurfacing from the water, Naruto shook his golden, soaking wet hair from his face as Sasuke's kunai struck a flailing fish and pinned it to a tree. The other two that had leapt from the water escaped the kunai, returning to the stream after giving the dripping shinobi a taunting glance. Naruto sighed inwardy; Sasuke's aim was off - something that it never was - a sure sign that something was bothering him.

Before he could make an inquiry, he heard his name spoken by aforementioned team mate in a quiet, pensive voice.

"Yeah, Sasuke, what's up?" Naruto said, forgoing any of the usual insults in the hope that he would learn what was going in inside that black-haired head.

"I've been wondering," - yes, score one Uzumaki, Naruto thought inwardly - "you know when we were fighting the Grass ninja?" Sasuke had to refrain from saying 'Orochimaru', since he hadn't yet told Naruto of what had happened after the blond had passed out. He still had no intention of doing so, because that lead to telling him about the curse mark, an act that was waaaaay near the bottom of his to-do list.

At his question, Naruto felt a slight sense of foreboding. During that fight, he had let some of the Nine-Tailed fox's chakra out - it was only a tiny little part of it, but considering the amount of chakra the demon had in total, it was almost as much as all of his own. This incidence was nowhere near as bad as the one in the Land of the Waves, when they were fighting Haku, but at that point in time Sasuke had been conveniently unconscious and Sakura hadn't been able to see him. While his body had remained the same this time, he had the feeling that his eyes had changed, as the release of the chakra had brought on keener vision. When he had spoken, too, his voice sounded different to his own ears, more primal and savage, and he had desperately hoped that Sasuke hadn't noticed or would otherwise let it go.

No such luck.

"Yeah, what about it?" Naruto answered, internally wincing at how defensive and hostile it came out. You're going to give it away without actually telling him anything, he scolded himself.

"Well, I don't know if you're aware of this, but," - ohcraphereitcomes, Naruto thought, panicking - "you were...different. Your voice was... not the same, your eyes turned red and your pupils were slits - like a cat or something. What - what was that? What happened to you?" the avenger asked, sounding unsure and slightly desperate.

Crap crap craaaaaap, he wants to know about the Nine-Tailed fox, oh my god what do I say, what do I tell him - well, not the truth, that's for sure - there is absolutely no way that I'm telling one of my only friends ever that I've got the demon that killed half the village inside me, yeah, he'd take that real well, Naruto thought to himself. No, he wouldn't tell Sasuke the truth, and that was the end of it. I'll play dumb, Naruto thought wildly, that way I won't have to tell him - and I won't have him looking at me with those eyes.

"What are you talking about, Sasuke?" was his shaky answer, and he knew it wouldn't convince the Uchiha - hell, it didn't even sound convincing to himself. "You must have been seeing things, maybe you hit your head or something."

"You know perfectly well what I'm talking about, and you're not fooling anyone." Ouch, Naruto winced, score one Uchiha. "I'm not crazy, I know what I saw! You were like an animal! Tell me what the deal is, I deserve to know, I'm on your team." Sasuke said angrily, stressing the last part in particular. Way to play the guilt card, Naruto thought mutinously, but he still didn't want to talk.

"I don't want to talk about it, okay? Can you just... forget you ever saw that, or something?" the blond said quietly, gazing down at the fish swimming past him in the stream that were supposed to be breakfast, but at this point he doubted that they'd do any more fishing.

"Do you really expect me to forget that, Naruto?" the black-haired boy asked lowly, pitch black eyes staring at him incredulously. "How would you react, do you think, if I did the same thing? What would you do if I became something else right in front of your eyes? Would you just accept it? Would you say, 'oh, well that's fine', and move on? No! No, you wouldn't. You'd yell and complain until I told you exactly what was going on, and you know it! And as much as I wouldn't want to tell you, I'd have to, in the end, because you're too damn stubborn to let things go! So why shouldn't I do the same? Why should I forget about it, Naruto?"

Naruto, who'd been gaping at him and spluttering helplessly, set his jaw and turned away slightly. "It's - I can't tell you, Sasuke. I just can't. It's... my least favourite part about myself. Please, Sasuke, don't make me tell you, I couldn't face it if... please."

Giving a long-suffering sigh, the paler boy sat heavily on the ground, settling himself in for a long session of wheedling and several more guilt trips. First, though - "Why can't you tell me? What's stopping you?"

Getting a bit chilly from standing still in the water, Naruto heaved himself out and plopped wetly down next to his impatient companion.

"Look, Sasuke, you're my friend, and you might not want to believe it, but you're really important to me," Naruto started, keeping his eyes fixed on the stream. "You're one of the first friends I ever had, so I don't plan on losing you that easily. And trust me, if I told you, you'd probably want to get as far away from me as you could."

"What?" Sasuke asked quietly, in utter disbelief. "Are you a complete idiot, Naruto?"

"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?! I'm telling you -"

"Okay," Sasuke cut him off firmly, "you might be really annoying sometimes, you're too loud and you don't think things through. But you're my friend too, loser, so what could possibly be that bad that you think I'll just run away like a frightened little girl?"

"It's - it is that bad, okay, and I'm still not telling you!" Naruto said, trying to ignore the blatant insults and the mental images of the Uchiha as a little girl. "Bad enough that almost the whole village hates me, alright?" he added morosely.

"The- the whole village, are you joking? No way. There's no way. Wait, you mean that many people know? How come I've never heard about it, then?" the bewildered boy asked, completely thrown off.

The Uzumaki laughed bitterly, to his friend's surprise, and answered, "It was forbidden to tell children about it. They didn't want even more people hating me, but of course, it didn't stop most people. Maybe because you're an orphan... actually, I'm surprised Sakura doesn't know." Laying back on the rock, and enjoying the sun, the tanned boy added, "No one was supposed to tell me, either, but then this one guy tried to kill me, and the whole thing came out."

"He actually tried to kill you? It's that bad?" Sasuke asked in shock, starting to feel slightly sick.

"Yeah, that's what I'm trying to tell you," Naruto said, sitting up at looking at Sasuke with determination. The Uchiha held his gaze, matching his will to have his way. They stared like this for a few minutes, before a thought made itself know inside of a black haired head.

"Hold on, you don't honestly believe that I'd hate you after you told me?" When his blond haired idiot of a friend just glared at him, he felt the need to add, "Naruto, I know you. The only way I could hate you would be if the Naruto I know is fabricated or something."

Naruto, on his part, groaned loudly and fell back down again.

"You just don't give up, do you?" he complained loudly.

"Isn't that what you were yelling at me not to do just the other day?" Sasuke retorted with a smirk, glad to be back on the familiar plane of banter, if only for a minute.

Naruto laughed, his bare chest rising and falling rapidly, his eyes closing into happy curved lines and his teeth gritted in a full-blown smile. As Sasuke looked at him, laying in the sun, his golden hair still dripping, he swore for an instant that he'd never seen anything more beautiful, before immediately questioning his sanity and beating that part of his mind into unconsciousness.

"Yeah, you've got a point there," Naruto grinned up at him - and his heart absolutely did not skip a beat, no matter what anyone said.

"Hmm, okay," Naruto said thoughtfully, sitting up and crossing his legs so that he was facing Sasuke instead of the stream. "Okay," he repeated, pointing a finger sharply at Sasuke's chest - the owner of the chest in question just looked at said finger with amusement, "if I tell you this, Sasuke, you can not, are in no circumstance allowed to think of me any differently. Do you understand that?" he asked - very seriously, mind you, so he was totally thrown when Sasuke threw back his head and laughed. Actually laughed!

"Hey, what gives, what's so funny?" Naruto demanded angrily. "Sasuke!" he added when the other boy showed no sign of stopping.

"Well, for one," Sasuke started, wiping the tears that had decided to congregate to celebrate his mirth, "you look ridiculous - you're in your underwear, soaking wet, and you expect me to take you seriously?"

"Yes, I do! This is a serious matter!" the young shinobi protested, annoyed that his friend was being so light-hearted.

"For two," Sasuke said, ignoring him completely, "isn't that exactly what I was just telling you I'd do?"

"But that's - I mean - okay, but I've gotta make sure, okay?"

"Naruto," Sasuke said seriously, shifting so that he was copying Naruto's position, "I promise that, whatever you tell me, you will still be a clueless, annoying loser to me."

Naruto pouted with indignation, but he got the message. "Only you could say that with a straight face, jerk. Okay, then, but if you do decide to run off, don't tell Sakura? I don't – I'll tell her when I'm ready, alright?"

"Sure," Sasuke agreed easily, shrugging, "Now can you just tell me already? You're killing me with the anticipation."

Naruto snorted, before deciding on his plan of attack. "When's my birthday?"

"What? What does that have to do with... actually, I don't know. When is your birthday?"

"The tenth of October," he answered sagely, trying to gauge the reaction.

"Really? Well, that's good to know, but I don't see how - hang on, isn't that the day of mourning?" Sasuke realised.

"Yeah," Naruto answered, his eyes downcast. "And how many years has it been since the attack?"

"Fourteen, but I still don't - oh. Okay, so you were born on the day that the Nine-Tailed fox attacked, so what?" the Uchiha asked uneasily.

"Not many people know this, but my father was the Fourth Hokage," came the sadly-toned answer.

"Seriously? The same Great Fourth Hokage who killed the Nine-Tailed Demon fox and saved the entire village? So - but that doesn't explain why people hate you - if anything, you should be respected as the son of such a hero!" the Uchiha protested, completely unaware.

"No, see, there's one thing wrong with that statement. The Fourth Hokage didn't kill the demon fox, he - he trapped it inside a newborn child," Naruto said reluctantly, unwilling to look at Sasuke any longer, for fear that he'd be looking at him with those eyes.

After a very long, pregnant pause, Sasuke had the presence of mine to answer. "But... you don't mean..."

Sighing with the knowledge that this next sentence would end his greatest friendship, Naruto delivered the final blow.

"He sealed the Nine-Tailed demon fox inside of his own newborn child," he said, staring defiantly into Sasuke's eyes, silently daring him to hate him for what he was.

Sasuke was, if it were possible, even paler than normal, and trying his best not to completely freak out. After a few moments of incoherent trains of thought, he managed to mutter, "Please tell me you have a secret twin brother."

"Nope," Naruto answered calmly, still staring resignedly at Sasuke, waiting for the inevitable angry, fearful explosion.

"So, it's - it's in - inside...?" Sasuke asked quietly, gesturing vaguely at Naruto's torso.

At his careful nod, Sasuke could only blankly ask, "But how does that work?"

Slightly amused - and cheered - by the fact that this was all he had to say after hearing such a thing, Naruto answered, "Well, it's like it isn't there, most of the time. I mean, I can't feel it inside me, and we don't exactly have casual chit-chat. The only difference I can notice is that I have increased stamina and chakra reserves. Apart from that, it just stays put and leaves me alone."

"So, what made it... come out, then?" was Sasuke's next question, and he sounded genuinely curious.

"Aah...well..." Naruto said nervously, rubbing the back of his neck and looking away, "You were about to die, and it seems to slip out when I - when I go through emotional trauma." He said the last part so quietly and quickly that Sasuke would have missed it if he weren't sitting right in front of him.

Try as he might, Sasuke couldn't keep the smirk from unfolding across his face. Naruto had just thrown him through a loop, and he personally felt that a little taunting was well-deserved. "Aww, were you worried about me?" he asked in a baby voice.

"No! Well, who am I kidding, did you see yourself? Of course I was worried!" Naruto said loudly, before softly adding, "You were about to die, Sasuke, and you'd just... given up. I couldn't help it, I just, I dunno, lost control for a minute, but that was all it took."

"I didn't know you cared so much, Naruto," Sasuke said, leaning forward and getting in Naruto's face, and all but purring the other boy's name.

Trying to cover up his blush, Naruto said angrily, "Yeah, well, don't expect me to super nice to you or anything, you jerk!" Suddenly remembering the conversation they'd been having, he asked, "A-Anyway, aren't you supposed to hate me know? Call me a monster, a freak, and run away, proclaiming that you'd never interact with scum like me?"

"What are you talking about, you idiot? Why would I do any of that? You said yourself that it doesn't really change you, right?" the Uchiha asked, taken aback by this line of thinking.

"Yeah, but most people - " Naruto started to say, but was rudely cut off by his friend.

"I guess I'm not most people, then," he said, somewhat smugly, leaning back on his hands and taking in Naruto's expression.

"I still don't get it - why are you taking it so well?" the blond asked, looking worriedly over at Sasuke.

"Because I know you, Naruto. You're not a monster, you're Naruto Uzumaki, and I just have to accept the fact that you've got a demon curled up in there, and hope it doesn't bust out one day thinking that I'm breakfast," he replied sardonically.

Oblivious to the almost tender way that his friend said his name, Naruto gave Sasuke a playful glare, before saying, "Nah, I don't think it can do that. It's… hard to explain, but it's like the fox has some kind of… barrier, I guess, keeping it in one place. Oh! No, I know, it's like a cage, that's what it feels like!"

"Well, I can relax then, if there's no chance of me becoming demon fox-food. As long as it stays put and you stay yourself, I don't mind, okay? You won't get rid of me that easily," the avenger assured him.

"Are… are you sure?" Naruto couldn't help asking, the worry he still felt lacing his voice along with the disbelief that his best friend would take it so well.

"Positive," Sasuke assured him firmly, leaning forward again and looking him evenly in the eye.

He was absolutely thrown, when, a few heartbeats later, the bright blue eyes he was looking at began to sparkle with tears. He was even more thrown when the owner of said eyes threw himself bodily at him, tackling him to the hard ground with a huge hug.

Tears flowing down his cheeks, Naruto proclaimed into the other boy's chest, "You're the best friend ever, Sasuke! Thank you!"

"Yeah, well," he answered awkwardly, blushing and patting Naruto on the back as the blond, spike hair tickled his face, "Just don't forget it, okay?"

Sniffling happily, Naruto nodded and mumbled a quiet "I won't", still clinging to Sasuke, unaware of the fond smile he was receiving.

The moment was ruined when Sakura emerged from the trees with an exasperated, "There you two are, I was starting to wonder if… if…" Trailing off at the sight in front of her – her two team mates (one in soaking wet and in his underwear) cuddling on the ground – she was startled into silence.

"Oh, yeah, sorry Sakura, we lost track of time," Naruto apologised, getting up and smiling brightly at her. "Let's go eat then, what are we waiting for?" He zipped off, Sasuke trailing after him and telling him to slow down.

About thirty seconds later came the pink-haired konoichi's indignant yell of "You only got one fish?!"

A/N: Hmm, after reading over this, I realised that Naruto might not have ACTUALLY KNOWN that the fourth was his pops. oops, whatever. tell me what you think pretty please I'll pay you in love