Alright, so, here I am with the second chapter of this thing.

Not too much to say, if I'm being honest. I do want to note that the speed at which this second chapter released at is largely due to the fact that I had about half of chapter 2 written before I released the first chapter, so the speed of future releases will probably be a bit slower than this one. Not by too much, I hope.

Without further ado, let's get into our first Sasuke Chapter.


Chapter 2: An Attempt at Normal


Sasuke hadn't been sure what to expect of a place that Naruto would frequent, but it certainly hadn't been Ichiraku.

It was quaint, in the kind of way a larger, more well-rounded shop could never hope to be, and Sasuke found himself charmed almost immediately with the place, as the older gentleman behind the counter turned around and gave the two of them a bright smile.

"Good to see you, Naruto!" a young girl called out from the back of the shop, Sasuke guessed that she was working on the ramen.

He didn't actually know, he'd never been to a ramen shop, nor had he ever been any good at doing new things or breaking out of his shell. He was going to make an effort though, just this once, so that Naruto wouldn't be too down about those people earlier.

That perpetual smile on Naruto's face was fake, Sasuke knew that, but he'd try to keep it there as long as he could. The boy didn't look right without it.

"Hey Sis!" Naruto climbed into one of the 6 or so stools set up in front of the counter, and Sasuke did the same, "Hey old man!"

The Chef didn't chafe at Naruto's words, and instead seemed to smile wider. He finished washing a cup, placed it somewhere in the back, and stood in front of the two of them.

"Evening Naruto!" He looked at Sasuke appraisingly, and seemed unsure what to make of him. "I see you've brought a friend?"

There was both a hint of surprise and a note of optimism in the statement that Sasuke was able to catch, like he'd never expected Naruto to have any friends, but was happy for him nonetheless.

"Yeah! This is Sasuke! He's in my class."

Sasuke didn't miss the faint recognition in the man's eyes as they darted towards him, and then quickly moved away. The girl in the back had halted her movements as well, but continued the moment after. Sasuke hadn't missed that, either.

Yes, he thought, I was the one in all the papers.

He didn't say that, though. He'd never been very outspoken, certainly nothing like Naruto, though in his case that may have been more obliviousness than any conscious effort.

"Nice to meet you." was all that Sasuke was able to squeeze out, and the man in front of him adopted a pitying expression.

He hated it. Hated it more than anything.

He wasn't really sure why he came here, this was what always happened. Next thing he knew he'd be given a complementary bowl of ramen, and perhaps he'd like to take one more home with him, because of course he was too young to be living alone, and he must not be able to cook for himself and-

"Oi, old man!"

Naruto's voice snapped Sasuke out of his thoughts, and he looked over to see what the boy could be on about now.

Probably just ordering his food, Sasuke mused.

"Sasuke doesn't like being looked at like that! Just treat him like normal!"

It seemed as if the tension in the air had both doubled and broken all at once.

Why is it he's only ever perceptive when it's mortifying for me!?

The Chef, to his credit, seemed to catch on to his prior mistake, and regarded the both of them in a different way, sizing them up, before his face returned to that same bright smile he'd had before.

"My apologies, young Sasuke," He brushed his apron down and bowed ever so slightly, in a way that seemed to hurt his back, but if the expression on his face said anything to Sasuke, it was that he'd never let that stop him, "It wouldn't do for my customers to be uncomfortable. Please, excuse my discourtesy."

Sasuke fought the urge to immediately apologize.

He lost.

"It's fine, really. I get those looks everywhere I go, it's nothing memorable."

"Ah, but you see, sir, as the owner of an establishment such as this," The girl who made the ramen came out to the front and sat 2 bowls of identical fillings in front of Naruto and Sasuke, and the smell alone nearly made him drool, "I am looking to be remembered."

Sasuke liked this place, he decided, on his first taste of the light noodles, along with the rich, but not too rich broth.

Sasuke would be coming back to Ichiraku, he decided, on his fourth or so breath for air, about halfway through the bowl.

Naruto had already finished, chatting loudly with the Old Chef, whose name he still didn't know, about being able to answer a question in class, and how Iruka Sensei had been so proud of him.

A part of him wanted to remind Naruto that it was him who had given him the help he needed, but Sasuke viciously squashed that part of himself, and instead quietly listened to their conversation, interjecting only when directly addressed, as minutes turned to hours, and the sun set.

It was dark out when Naruto finally got out of his stool, thanked the Old man behind the counter, and left behind payment for both his and Sasuke's bowls. He wasn't even given the time to protest this, as he got pulled out of the small shop by Naruto.

Almost immediately, however, he heard someone call for them, and turned around to see the Owner of Ichiraku, holding a bowl of ramen in his hands. It was steaming, evidently brand new.

Naruto looked back over at him, but Sasuke waved him off, saying that he'd "Just be a second."

He already knew what was coming when the old man slowly handed him the full bowl of Ramen, it was something he'd been getting used to, recently, the sympathy of others. It was stifling, and embarrassing, and it angered him to no end.

This man had made efforts to be understanding to him, however, so Sasuke would try and come to a compromise.

"I'm sorry, sir," Sasuke stated, as bluntly as possible, "But I don't like to accept gifts out of charity."

The older man seemed to slump a bit, he must have been expecting this, but thought that he still had to try.

That ate at Sasuke, just a little.

Oh, fine. Just this once.

Sasuke held out his hand, filled with around 1000 yen.

"I'd like to pay for it, if that's fine."

The proprietor looked almost shocked, before his expression changed. he smiled at Sasuke, looking a bit proud.

"Alright," he held out his left hand, "That'll be 300 yen then."

Sasuke handed over the money and took the bowl of ramen. He mumbled a quiet "Thanks" as he rounded the corner towards his house, finally catching up with Naruto.

"What was that all about?" Naruto greeted him, before he saw what was in his hands, "Ah! He never lets me get anything after closing! That dirty old man!"

Sasuke can't suppress his smile, or the teasing voice that comes out after.

"Well, of course."

Naruto looked over, like Sasuke might give him the secret to obtaining late-night Ichiraku.

"I can do Shuriken Jutsu."

Naruto bristled, his hand shot out and pointed at him, and he screamed out into the night.

"What does that have to do with anything, you jerk!"

Sasuke couldn't help the small laugh that tumbled out of him. It wasn't quite full, just a mirth filled moment spent between… friends?

Were he and Naruto friends?

Sasuke wasn't sure.

He certainly didn't mind Naruto's company, and he had introduced him to Ichiraku, which certainly earned him some points. He smiled more around Naruto. He liked watching Naruto smile.

We could certainly be friends, Sasuke thought, I'll just have to give it time.

While Sasuke was thinking about this and that on his and Naruto's long journey, he barely avoided tripping over a fallen plank of wood, almost dropping his Ramen in the process. He'd nearly forgotten, what with the relaxing atmosphere of the cool evening air, but the Ichiraku owner had tried to trick him.

The old man probably thought he was being slick, too, Sasuke thought.

But he had been paying attention while he'd been sitting at the counter. He'd had nothing to do whilst listening to Naruto's conversations with the Father and daughter duo other than to look at the menu, posted on the wall.

He'd taken note of one particularly interesting fact.

The ramen there was supposed to be 700 yen.

Sasuke sighed.

He was smiling soon after.

It's a start.

\-\

"My name is Uzumaki Naruto! And I'm going to be Hokage!"

Several students sighed as the golden-haired boy repeated his mantra for what must have been the thousandth time. It had been something to make fun of at the start, a hilarious joke, and they didn't even have to come up with it, Naruto had given it to them for free.

But after a few months, and more than enough teasing to last several lifetimes, every member of the class was just ready for Naruto to stop saying it.

Surely he would, one of these days.

Sasuke had his doubts.

"Yes, Naruto," even Iruka Sensei, who normally tried his upmost to be kind and supportive, had been getting a little tired of it, "We've heard."

The young teacher turned to the rest of the class and began reciting something off of a clipboard. Naruto had just lost his training match against Shino Aburame, and Sasuke felt no one could blame him for that one, the boy had, after all, summoned a couple hundred bugs from within his own skin, and even then Naruto still had the gall to announce that he would defeat him.

It hadn't gone well, in Sasuke's opinion, but he couldn't help but admire the attempt.

On one hand, he thought that without an area of effect typed Jutsu like Sasuke's Fireball, Naruto never really stood a chance against such a swarm.

On the other hand, he couldn't not tease Naruto about it, just a little.

"You've got bugs in your hair." Sasuke said, trying to keep his visage serious.

"Aaaah!" Predictably, Naruto immediately started jumping in place, scratching into his scalp. "Get them off me! Shino, get your crappy bugs off of me!"

Shino's eyes narrowed, or at least, Sasuke assumed they did, not that he could see past the black goggles on the other boy's face.

"My bugs are not crappy, nor are any of my beetles present on your person."

Naruto paused for a second.

"Speak Normally!"

Shino sighed dramatically, before replying.

"None of my very useful bugs are on you."

"But Sasuke said-"

Naruto turned around to look at him, and Sasuke tried desperately to keep it together, thought evidently, it wasn't going too well.

"Dang it, Sasuke!" Naruto was clearly annoyed, and he walked up next to him, arms crossed.

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Sasuke tried not to laugh, even if he was vibrating slightly, "There were just some in your hair." He was restraining himself now, "You got them though, you definitely got them."

A small snicker broke through his defenses, and the makeshift walls he'd put up exploded as he laughed at Naruto's expense.

He failed to hold it together, ultimately, but Sasuke liked to think he'd put up a good fight.

"That's enough, you three," Iruka Sensei's commanding voice put a stop to any rebuttal Naruto may have had, but the boy did fix Sasuke with a particularly nasty pout. "Would anyone like to volunteer to fight next?"

"I'll do it!"

"You can't go twice in a row, Naruto."

"Aw…"

Despite himself, Sasuke reached out and patted the boy on the shoulder. He might have teased him, but their relationship had been getting better since the incident at the docks a few weeks prior, and he didn't like seeing Naruto down.

"Sorry about that, I was kidding." He whispered quietly to the boy beside him, trying to keep his voice down so that Iruka wouldn't hear them.

Naruto continued to pout at him for a few more seconds, but then, like the sun on a cloudy day, his smile shone back through.

"Eh, it's fine," The boy's expression became devious, and he narrowed his eyes, "Especially since I'm going to beat you later anyways."

Sasuke knew he was being baited, that much was obvious.

He had, however, never been very good at not rising to said baits, turning to look at Naruto with a devilish smirk.

"Oh ok," Sasuke turned back to the arena, where two girls, whose names he was sure he should've known, were fighting, "I'll ask you later how that went for you."

One of them, the girl with blonde hair, struck out at the other pink-haired girl. It wasn't an effective attack, given that it wasn't backed up by any form or style, and was easily dodged. It would have been a good opportunity for a counter, had he been in the arena, a fairly easy way to end the battle.

The other girl present, however, didn't seem to see that, as she returned with her own attack just as clumsily as the first had been delivered, and allowed the blonde to escape. The two went on like that for a while, until finally, the blonde-haired girl managed to down her opponent with a full body tackle.

"The winner is Ino." Iruka Sensei declared as he walked into the center of the ring, helping both girls to get to their feet. "Well done, the both of you." He gave them the same words he gave everyone after every fight, regardless of how well they'd done.

Sasuke didn't feel like these two deserved any praise for the performance they'd put on, but he wasn't going to say that out loud.

"Alright, this will be our second to last match, who would like to fight next?"

"Oo!" Naruto was jumping up and down on the spot. "Me! Me me me! Pick me Sensei!"

Iruka sighed, looking around the schoolyard.

"Would anyone else like to volunteer, seeing as how Naruto has already fought once today?"

No one raised their hands.

"Ugh, fine. Come on, Naruto."

"Yah!"

As Naruto made his way into the center of the ring, Sasuke's eyes instead turned to the blonde-haired girl who'd just fought, currently making her way across the schoolyard towards him.

What had Iruka Sensei said her name was again?

Oh right, Sasuke thought, her name is Ino.

She'd been trying to get him to like her for a few months now.

He groaned internally, knowing there was no way this was going to be fun.

"Did you see that, Sasuke!?" she said with a rosy face, her hands at her hips. "That win was for you!"

Maybe, by being completely silent and not moving, Ino would think he'd disappeared.

"Sasuke?"

OK, so plan A was a bust.

He needed a new plan. What was the fastest way to get rid of her, without actually having to say or do anything stupid?

Tell her to get out of his face?

Well that would certainly work, and he was about half a second away from saying that when something odd happened. A tiny voice somewhere in his mind, that sounded vaguely like a certain loud-mouthed friend he had, told him that that would be 'mean'.

He'd never really thought about it before, what with the intense revenge-plotting sessions he liked to hold during class, but the girls he dismissed always seemed to look a bit disappointed when he sent them away.

Another voice somewhere in Sasuke's mind, which sounded, annoying, a lot like himself, said that he shouldn't really care if he was being mean, he had more important things to think about than puppy crushes and schoolgirl dreams. Things like evil brothers, overly-obnoxious blonde's, and tomatoes.

Besides, what was he even supposed to do other than tell them to go away? Sasuke had never really diversified his profile beyond that.

'Be nice!'

Sasuke was a bit embarrassed to admit that he didn't have any real experience with that. Even before his family's deaths, he'd been at best an antisocial loner.

But, well…

I'll try.

"Err… Thanks." The words sounded forced even to him, and as he brought his hand up and gave her what may have been the weakest thumbs up of all time, along with a smile that looked like he was standing on a paper bomb, he couldn't help wishing that he'd spontaneously combust. "I'm…"

What did he say now?

What the heck did he say now!?

"…Glad?"

Not that!

Well, it was over, not even this girl in front of him, who had managed to misconstrue him telling her to leave him alone about 400 times as him being shy, would ever fall for that.

"Eeeeeeee!"

Ino squealed at the top of her lungs, and the expression on her face was one Sasuke could only describe as pure joy. She immediately ran off towards her circle of friends and began loudly retelling the events that had just transpired, though from what he could make out, Sasuke had the suspicion that it may have been slightly exaggerated.

Honestly, Sasuke thought, I should've just told her to leave me alone again.

He wasn't really sure why he hadn't, other than that annoying voice in his head told him he shouldn't, which in hindsight seemed like a dumb reason.

Still, Sasuke noted, that felt strangely… good.

He also felt like he needed to sleep, though given that it was 10 in the morning, and he had only just woken up a few hours ago, he felt the chances of that were rather low.

Idly, he noticed that the pink-haired girl Ino had been fighting in the mock duel was in that group as well, though she seemed to hang back a little further than the rest.

What was her name again? Sakura or something?

That sounded vaguely correct.

Sakura turned towards him, and he immediately looked away, hoping beyond all hope she hadn't noticed him staring. The last thing he wanted was her misinterpreting that as his undying love or something. A few seconds later, he checked to see if she'd gone back to talking with her friends.

Oh gods, she was walking over to him.

"Um…" The pink-haired girl mumbled the second she walked up to him, "I'm sorry, Sasuke."

He couldn't imagine what she'd be sorry about, unless it was for constantly bothering him during class, in which case he would be glad to accept her apology, and then to have her get away from him as fast as-

"I was trying to win that one for you, as well, but I… I really blew it."

Sakura had tears in her eyes, and instantly Sasuke felt terrible.

She was clearly trying quite hard to avoid crying, her hands balled into tiny fists, and her lip quivering. The tears in her eyes didn't fall, but they were growing larger, threatening to spill over.

He wanted to make them go away, altogether.

Unfortunately, he still wasn't very good at this whole being nice to people thing.

But he would try again, because he knew Naruto would have.

"Um, Sakura?"

The girl looked surprised when her eyes met his, and Sasuke fidgeted under the attention. He wouldn't let it get to him, though, he had to say something to help her right now.

"I…" Great start, "Your fight was…" Bad, it was bad, "really good, I thought you did..." Aaaand stick the landing, "…Well?"

Somewhere, off in the distance, Sasuke thought he could hear his pride let out an otherworldly screech as it died a painful death.

He looked at Sakura, trying to inspect the damage he'd caused with his uplifting, genius speech, and found her staring at him, slack-jawed.

OK, so maybe he could salvage this, now all he had to do was make his escape when she ran back to her friends, and then commit ritual suicide when he arrived home. Perhaps his honor would recover then.

Strange though, he'd really expected Sakura to have said something by now, even if said thing was professing her love for him, which would have annoyed him to no end.

He looked back to her, and saw that she hadn't moved an inch, nor had her expression changed.

"Sakura?"

"Hey, Sasuke!" Naruto came jumping up beside them, kicking up a cloud of dirt. "Did you see my fight? I won!"

Wait, seriously? Naruto never wins.

"Yeah, of course you won, Naruto," Now Ino had walked back over, though Sasuke noticed that she still had a hint of her earlier joyous expression on her face, "You were fighting Hinata."

Oh, that explains that.

"So?" Naruto crossed his arms, seemingly offended. "A win's a win."

"Naruto, your only wins are against Hinata and Shikamaru." Ino put her hands together in front of her face, like she was trying to explain a math problem to an infant. "Hinata never fights you seriously, and Shikamaru literally concedes the second the match starts!"

"Err… that's-"

"By the way," Ino turned away from Naruto, ignoring the boy's attempt at a rebuttal entirely, and towards Sasuke and Sakura, "You've been surprisingly quiet, Sakura, what's up with you?"

The girl in question continued to stare blankly into the middle distance, and at this point Sasuke was becoming a little concerned.

Ino walked to stand beside Sakura and waved her hand above the girl's eyes a few times, before she snickered, and turned towards their teacher.

"Sensei! Sakura fainted!"

"She did what!?"

\-\

As Sasuke laid down in his bed that night, he couldn't help the small smile on his face.

It had been an exhausting day, fraught with girls, embarrassment, and, to his horror, social interaction. Still, it had also been a day where he'd stepped out of his comfort zone, tried something new, and had it work out for him.

How the hell does Naruto do it? Sasuke couldn't help but ask, as he felt his eyelids growing heavy already. I talked to a couple of people and I felt like my head was going to explode, yet all he does is scream out and draw attention to himself.

All day, every day, without end.

Honestly, Sasuke thought he would rather die.

Still though, things were going better lately. He'd managed to talk to a few kids in his class without pushing them all away from him, and they seemed to be… kind of all right, all things considered.

He smiled lightly, content to think about this some more in the morning, he shut his eyes.

'Foolish little brother, if you wish to kill me, then hate me, detest me, curse me, and survive in an unsightly way. Run, Run, and cling to your pitiful life.'

Suddenly, any and all happy thoughts were snatched violently from his mind, and all that remained were his brother's words.

Oh, he hated him all right, detested him, and cursed him every night since then, all just to grow strong enough to kill him. Honestly, he'd only stopped thinking about Itachi-

Wait, Sasuke thought, what was it that made me stop thinking about him?

The answer came to him a second later, he had barely had time to think about it at all.

Naruto.

That boy, no matter how strange he was, nor how loud he yelled, or however many times he shouted out that he would become Hokage, had undoubtedly brightened up his last few weeks.

Even just now, thinking about him led to thoughts of his brother being pushed away, back to the darkest recesses of his mind, which, until recently, had been festering, growing larger and larger, threatening to consume him whole.

Being friends with Naruto, laughing with him and teasing him, being kind to everyone in his class, maybe even getting to know more of them, he'd only just gotten to try all of it, and for the first time in a few months, he finally felt like he could smile again.

But all of that was holding back his desire for revenge.

And Sasuke didn't know how to feel about that.

Sure, they were all nice things, talking and laughing with everyone else like he was some normal kid, who would be given the chance to live a normal life. But Sasuke Uchiha was not a normal child, he was an avenger, chosen by the murderer of their clan to be a deliverer of justice. He had no time to worry about the gossip of his peers, or what kind of clothing was considered stylish, or what funny thing Naruto would say next that would light up his entire day.

Even if that was all he wanted to do.

A knock on his door kicked him out of his own head, and nearly spiraling onto the floor, though Sasuke did manage to recover before he fell out of his bed.

Who would be coming by at this hour?

Actually, he was fairly sure he already knew, and he did his best to fake a tired sigh as he made his way over to the door.

He felt it would've been more convincing had he not been grinning from ear to ear.

"Naruto, do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Uhm," The boy standing just beyond his doorway looked at him in mild confusion, before he looked at the clock that was hanging on Sasuke's wall and seemed to grow even more bewildered. "about… Six o'clock… in the evening?"

Alright, so apparently social interaction had indeed taken all of his energy for the day.

"I was just going to ask if you wanted to go to Ichiraku," Naruto rubbed the back of his head a bit sheepishly, "But if you were…" he looked straight at Sasuke and squinted, like he was inspecting some weird bug he'd found, "Sleeping, or something, then that's fine."

Honestly, that sounded like a fun night, and a nice way to spend some time with Naruto, whilst still being able to relax and unwind.

He took one step forward, and felt an invisible, intangible hand grasp onto his shoulder.

It was trying desperately to pull him back into his dark room. It was bony and cold, like a dead body that had started to decay.

It promised revenge, Itachi's death, assuredly. It promised a world where the Uchiha could have their name restored, and one in which their slaughter would be avenged.

It promised him loneliness, sadness, and solitude.

He felt that, if Naruto hadn't fallen down that hill those weeks ago, then the choice probably would've been an easy one to make. He'd have taken the path that led straight to his revenge, the darker path, where he never felt anything other than his desire to kill Itachi.

But now?

He saw a different hand in front of him, one real, and waiting for him, completely sure that Sasuke would reach out with his own to take it.

Honestly, to put that much blind faith into him, whoever was offering their hand was clearly a complete fool.

Yes, definitely. A fool, through and through. A loud-mouthed, obnoxious, hopelessly overconfident fool.

A fool he was glad to be able to call his friend.

He didn't hesitate, he extended his own hand, and Naruto's face exploded into that sun-like expression as their hands met.

As he took the final step out of his door, he felt the hand on his shoulder slip off of him, and slink back away into the darkness.

It promised him that it would always stay with him, waiting to see if he'd ever choose to join their hands together. Until then, it would wait, for him to come crawling back.

Sasuke smiled as he closed the door and twisted his key to lock it. He turned back towards Naruto and followed him.

Thank you for everything. Sasuke thought, his head clearer than it had been in months,

But I won't be needing you.

End Chapter 2


Hey, an Author's Note, look at that.

Like I said, this chapter came out so fast because I had most of it written, but I hope to have chapter 3 (which I have yet to start) out in about a week. I'd like to stick to a weekly schedule, or at least close to that. I imagine chapters will stay at about this length, unless I get caught up with something.

I've actually gone into my old documents and found some of my old Naruto fanfics, and was shocked to find that they were actually kind of OK, so I may edit those a bit, and then release them as One-shots for now, and then, once I finish this story, I'll update them normally.

We'll see though.

Next chapter will be the final main characters chapter, before we get into the actual manga story of Naruto.

Anyways, if you've made it this far, thanks for reading my story! I always appreciate a review, even if it's literally "Hey, this sucked."

(I'm kidding, please don't leave that.)