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To Beat The Living Daylights Out

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The sky was clear, the birds were singing, the sunlight was bright and warm on Sakura’s skin, and in the middle of the training field, her teammates were attempting to kill each other. This was hardly a new occurrence. Ever since they had been teamed up, Sasuke and Naruto had regularly taken the opportunity to “spar” (read: beat the stuffing out of each other) at the slightest excuse. (And they got many such excuses, since Kakashi at least seemed to revel in watching them tear at each other and often assigned them to each other while he allowed Sakura to rest). Still, this seemed more vicious than usual.

“No jutsu,” Kakashi had ordered. This had made sense to Sakura at the time. Both of them were powerhouses, but she thought them over-reliant on their flashy jutsu. One day, when their chakra was running low, or they were sealed, or had to sneak around and rely on finesse for once, they would be grateful. (Or at least, Sakura told herself that her own style, adapted to her low chakra capacity, had its own advantages.)

Now, she thought it was a mistake. The jutsu at least kept them a safe distance apart. Now, they grappled together, as close and personal as two people could get without fusing into each other’s skin. Sakura wondered why Kakashi didn’t call an end. There were bruises on Sasuke’s pretty face (and was Sakura imagining things, or was Naruto especially targeting that?), and Naruto had dried blood that dripped from his nose caking his lips and chin. Surely there was no purpose in allowing them to keep going until they incapacitated each other. There were teeth marks on Sasuke’s arm, where Naruto had tried to take a bite out of his forearm, and bruises around Naruto’s neck where Sasuke had briefly been strangling him. This was not a spar between ninjas and teammates, but a brawl where the combatants tried to beat the living daylights out of each other. There was nothing educational about this for them, and if anything, the repetitive head trauma would only harm them.

“I want you to observe,” Kakashi had told Sakura, and she watched, fascinated. It was difficult not to watch. They beat each other up, so utterly focused on each other they ignored those around them. It made Sakura feel cut off from her own team, a stranger. It was as if under the skins of the boy she’d had a crush on since forever and the boy who had followed her around like a puppy dog equally since forever was… something raw, something uncontrollable, something monstrous. They were so covered in dirt and blood and sweat, that at a casual glance, they almost looked the same, as if they shared the same basic essence, and all that fighting was just a way to get closer and closer together.

The intimacy made her shiver, and curse her low endurance. “Hell yeah!” shouted Inner Sakura when Sasuke made a particularly brutal (beautiful) knee to Naruto’s groin. Part of her wanted to jump into the fight, feeling bones crunch beneath her fist and the skin over her knuckles split, while the other part of her recoiled from intruding on something that felt oddly private.

“What do you see?” asked Kakashi

Normally, Sakura would respond with an analysis of each combatant’s styles, pointing out strengths and weaknesses, and what they should work on. However, something fundamental in the dynamics of their team seemed to have shifted. She thought back to right before Kakashi had called the spar. They were eating lunch, Sakura recalled. She had tried to offer Sasuke some of her cucumber rolls that her mother made (really quite good), while Naruto was begging sweets off of her. It was an odd little triangle, but a balanced one, and she had a place in the center of it all.

“I need to get stronger. Because whatever that is,” at that, Sakura gestured at the flailing limbs in the center of the field, “is going to leave me behind without ever noticing.” She didn’t think that was the answer Kakashi was looking for, but she didn’t care.

--

Naruto didn’t know when Kakashi and Sakura left, but when he looked around, the haze of battle lifting slightly, it was dusk and the training ground was empty outside of Sasuke and him. By mutual, unspoken agreement, they had both collapsed side by side in a depression of dirt where there had been grass earlier that day, and Naruto only now had gathered enough energy to come back to his surroundings.

Naruto felt caked in grime and he hurt all over. He was fairly sure his wrist was broken, but he sure wasn’t going to move it to find out.

He started grumbling. “Jerk. Why did you have ruin my jumpsuit?” Naruto complained as he examined the tears in his clothes with his other good hand. The washing machine could probably deal with the stains (it always had in the past), but sewing up the rips would take ages.

Naruto glared at Sasuke. Sasuke was still bleeding sluggishly from numerous cuts over his body, and he resembled a hobo more than the “prince” all the girls seemed to think he was. He had the nerve to smirk when Naruto groused about his torn clothes, the bastard, as if his own clothing was in any better shape.

Naruto sat up and grabbed the front of Sasuke’s shirt, pulling him up. “You’d better pay for this,” Naruto insisted.

Sasuke eyed Naruto’s other arm, cradled in his lap now that the endorphins had worn off. “Make me,” he said, knowing that Naruto couldn’t give him that well deserved punch.

Naruto fumed. He would show that cocky bastard. Naruto pulled Sasuke in closer, making sure to breathe out right into his face, as he promised, “Watch me.”

Sasuke didn’t flinch at the olfactory assault and almost looked eager. Naruto didn’t know if he had wanted to bite off Sasuke’s lips or just freak him out, but he leaned forward, and somehow they were kissing. Naruto’s tongue was in Sasuke’s mouth, and Sasuke’s hands were wrapped around his head. They broke apart, flushed, both breathing heavily.

They tasted each other’s sweat, dirt, blood. They breathed in each other’s scents. They kissed again, and again, and they were fighting again, only on a different battlefield. In his gut, Naruto knew that they would be fighting with each other all their lives, and he found he didn’t mind.