It was good to be home.
His dog, lethargic from the drive, hurried inside to claim his favorite sleeping spot, the plush area rug that got the most sun from the large bay window facing the desert. Sasuke left his luggage in the car; Bogey had the right idea. A nap was in order.
His house was dusty, the air stale. No one had been inside it for three months. Sasuke shuddered inwardly, imagining the state of his refrigerator, and decided that too could wait until he'd gotten some sleep.
LA always took everything out of him.
Despite his exhaustion – seven hours' drive in his Cadillac always took its toll – he was glad to be back. He didn't love much in the world, but he loved his dog, and he loved his old, rustic home in Sedona. Bogey, he could take with him when he had work; indeed there wasn't a job on the planet he would take if it couldn't accommodate his dog. It was the house – well-kept if old-fashioned – that Sasuke missed on these months-long studio lot shoots.
He'd had it prearranged with his agent that under no circumstances was he to be contacted for one week, for any reason. Sasuke was notoriously private, and when shooting wrapped up and he was no longer required on set, he took off for Sedona. No one, save for his agent and a few very close friends all sworn to secrecy, knew exactly where he lived. His phone number was restricted to the same handful of people and living off the radar had ensured that the paparazzi and screaming fans who hounded his every footstep in LA remained firmly ignorant to his whereabouts once filming wrapped.
The week-long reprieve was a rarity, and Sasuke did not intend to take it for granted. There would be press junkets coming up, interviews; it was down in his contract to promote the films he starred in, even if he despised reporters and found the entire process arduous and boring. Not to mention, his agent was always on the lookout for promising scripts, buzzworthy roles for him to take on. The annoying part was, Kakashi was frustratingly prescient; nearly every role he'd pressed Sasuke to audition for had been interesting, dynamic, and, most importantly, profitable. In the four years since he'd begun working with Kakashi, every movie Sasuke had appeared in had made a killing at the box office. Sasuke was, unequivocally, the most highly sought-after young actor working in Hollywood.
Despite his fame and the fortune he'd amassed since he was 18, there weren't many aspects of the Hollywood lifestyle he wasn't perfectly comfortable abandoning. He resented the smog of LA, and the humidity, to say nothing of the constant lack of privacy and the pervading materialism. He justified making his living there, but his life was in Sedona.
Content that Bogey was all right for awhile, Sasuke shuffled into his bedroom and threw open the windows. Such openness would have been an impossibility at his apartment in LA, but out here, where there was no one else around for miles, he could allow himself this blessed luxury. A pleasant spring breeze tousled his hair and he exhaled, allowing the stress of his job and frustration with California evaporate in the solitude of his room.
Home again. Home alone.
Sasuke's phone held exactly seven contacts.
His agent, Kakashi Hatake, was the person with whom he had the most communication, and that was entirely a professional obligation. Personally, Sasuke resented the older man's constant interference in his life, his frustratingly accurate predictions of which roles Sasuke would enjoy playing, and the generally needling paternal way Kakashi often spoke to him.
Also in Sasuke's phone was his veterinarian, Hana Inuzuka, who took excellent care of Bogey and was always available for a house examination whenever Sasuke and Bogey were in LA. Hana's younger brother Kiba, with whom Sasuke had grown up in California, also featured on his contact list as one of his closest friends.
His best friend was Naruto, an aspiring director currently working as an assistant (read: Starbucks bitch) to Jiraiya, the screenwriter behind many of Hollywood's most misogynistic, Bechdel test-flouting films, where it was rumored that actresses were only considered if they wore DD-cup bras or above. Shikamaru Nara, a cameraman who'd just gotten his first gig on a sitcom set, and Chouji Akimichi, whose family's company catered a great deal of film sets in LA, were two more of his friends whom he trusted enough to allow in his contacts.
And the last person in his phone was someone with whom he rarely ever spoke, and even then, only with open hostility:
His frequent co-star, and eternal pain in the ass, Sakura Haruno.
Everyone, even Naruto, knew that he was not to be bothered while on leave. He'd had Kakashi's word that there would be no impromptu calls, no emails with some unfinished script in the attachment, along with a sly suggestion to glance it over, not even a text reminding him of his obligations to promote the film he'd just finished once the week was up. He was confident that Kakashi would keep his promise, if only to avoid a fight. Bogey had just been to the vet before they'd come back to Sedona so there was no reason to contact Hana, Kiba, Chouji, Shikamaru and Naruto were busy enough in their own jobs to appreciate his need for privacy and relaxation so soon after finishing his movie, and none of them, he knew, would be foolish enough to attempt to speak to him when he was on his break.
No, when his phone rang at 8:30 that night, two hours after he and Bogey had arrived back home and six days before he was expected to speak to another living soul, he knew exactly who was calling.
Annoyed, but knowing she would persist if he ignored her, he sat up in bed and snapped into the receiver, "I was sleeping."
Sounding supremely unapologetic, Sakura's breathy voice sounded in his ear, "Well don't sound so happy to hear from me!"
"I'm not." I just got a damn break from you. "What do you want."
"I'm stuck at the airport."
"Not my problem."
"Can I come stay with you?"
"That would require me letting you know where I live."
"And you have no intention of doing that."
"Not in this lifetime."
She tsked in his ear, and he pictured what her expression might be: annoyed, definitely, but clearly amused, because he heard the smile in her voice.
"You think people would still come to our movies if they knew how much we hated each other in real life?" she asked.
Sasuke refused to smile back; not even in the privacy of his own home would he permit himself any show of amusement at Sakura's quick, rapacious wit.
"Why are you calling me."
"I'm bored, mostly. But also because if I have to be inconvenienced when all I want to do is get home, then so do you. It's not fair you're already home and I'm not."
"It's your dumb fault for living across the country."
"Oh, so you don't live across the country, then? Good, that narrows it down quite a bit…"
"I'm hanging up, you asshole."
At that, Sakura burst out laughing, and Sasuke despised the warmth that spread through him at the sound.
"I'll mention that to the writers," she promised. "Maybe in our next movie, they can work in Sasuke Uchiha calling Sakura Haruno an asshole."
The corners of his lips twitched, but Sasuke held firm.
"I'm going back to bed."
But before he could swipe to end the conversation, Sakura stopped him.
"No, wait! I had a reason for calling, I promise. Not just to be a pain in the ass."
"Your agent talked to my agent this morning."
"She told me they're both in cahoots for our next project."
"Yeah, cahoots. It means that-"
"I know what it means, you freak."
"Okay then don't interrupt! She says they found the script and that, if it gets picked up by the right director, we could both be looking at the Oscars next year. She also said that no one's allowed to talk to you for a week, according to your agent."
"And you thought, somehow, you were an exception to that?"
"Look, douchebag, there's gonna be a lot of competition for this project and Tsunade got me shortlisted for the role; I'm assuming your agent did the same for you. We need to pull the trigger, see if it's worth it."
Sasuke was fuming. Sakura, for her infinite faults, knew him very, very well, and knew that his interest in taking on coveted, well-written roles would win out over his desire to relax, unbothered and alone, for a week. Kakashi knew that, too, hence passing the information to Sakura's agent, who relayed it to Sakura herself, who was entirely too obnoxious not to bother him with it immediately.
"So? You in?"
Hating that he'd only gotten a few hours' respite from her feminine wiles, and begrudgingly intrigued, he ground out, "Send me the script and don't ever call me again."
He wasn't quick enough to swipe to drown out another peal of laughter.
"Fucking pain in the ass," Sasuke ground out for the sixth time that morning.
He'd downloaded the script Sakura emailed to him off his home computer and had spent the rest of the night reading it over. To his fury, she was right; the male lead, a shinobi who betrays his homeland to seek great power elsewhere, was well-written, deep and dynamic, his motives suspect, his dialogue minimal but engaging. There would be action scenes, too, stunts that he would perform himself, as well as a romantic subplot, which didn't surprise him, especially if he and Sakura were both up for the lead roles. They'd made movies together for years, and producers were dying to cash in on their chemistry. Sakura, if she snagged the role (and he was quite certain she would), would be portraying a female ninja who, despite numerous physical shortcomings, blossoms into a powerful ally who attempts to save Sasuke's character from a plunge into darkness.
Thinking of Sakura, he could understand why she'd been so intrigued by the role of the female ninja. While she didn't necessarily mind the romantic aspect of the movies she signed onto, she was like him in many respects: interested primarily in a good character and a powerful storyline. The female ninja (unnamed, as of yet) was written very well, from what he could see so far, had an interesting back-story, plenty of character development…everything Sakura looked for in a role.
He sighed as he reached the end of the script, then set back in his desk chair, stretching his arms behind his head.
So much for his vacation.
"Pain in the ass," he repeated vengefully.
Bogey let out a loud whine from the kitchen, indicating that he wanted a walk, but Sasuke ignored him. He hadn't slept well, haunted by the potential the script held for him, and for his career. This was typical Sakura, though: allow him to be contented with the prospect of a few days to himself, then present him with the juiciest, meatiest, most awards-worthy script he'd come across since signing his Hollywood contract as a teenager.
"Quiet, Bogey!" he called irritably, when Bogey whined again. "Damn dog."
His phone rang, and he sighed when he saw Sakura's name; as if clairvoyant, she always seemed to know when she was on his mind.
"Didn't I say not to call me anymore?" he asked in lieu of greeting.
"It's good, isn't it? The script. Really good."
"Tch, the title's weak."
"I know, that part's a little silly. 'Konoha: Lost City of Leaves.' But you know they always throw ridiculous working titles in there to start, they'll improve it before the end. But it's good, I know you think so."
"Oh, bullshit, Sasuke!" Sakura was laughing on the other end of the phone, and he steeled himself against the tinkling sound's witchy allure. "C'mon, I'm doing you a favor."
"You're doing yourself a favor. You think if they know we're both going out for the lead roles, they'll be likelier to give it to us."
Sakura's annoyed tsk on the other line brought him great satisfaction; at least he irritated her as greatly as she irritated him.
"If you think I'm trying to piggyback off your film success, instead of capitalize on my own," she said hotly, "then I don't know why I waste my time talking to you. Look, I saw the script and before I even knew you were in contention, I saw you in the role. Okay? This shinobi? He's just like you. He's bad at relationships, he's shit with people and he's an overall piece of garbage but so are you. It's like a perfect fit. Easy Oscar."
"Don't try to sweeten the pot," he hissed, stung at her steady stream of insults.
Sasuke froze. "How do you know where I…"
"Your area code on Caller ID. I looked it up; it's an Arizona area code."
"Fucking creepy little st…"
"Oh come on, I still don't know where your house is. But I bet it's nicer than here," she added wistfully.
Sasuke pictured New York City in his mind; not as bad as LA, a place he point-blank refused to make his home, but still too busy, too populated for his tastes. He preferred the dry heat and solitude of the desert.
"I just got home, like, ten minutes ago," she went on conversationally. "Nightmare, absolutely a nightmare. Finally got a flight out but I was recognized, and ughhhh. Maybe Tsunade's right when she says I should get a bodyguard but it just feels elitist and wrong, right?"
"…you don't have a fucking bodyguard?"
"Of course not," she replied briskly, "which you'd know if you attempted to be friends with me."
"We're not friends."
"Oh I know, but it's not for lack of trying on my end! They're doing open auditions next week but if we show up on Monday, before everyone else gets a shot over the weekend, we're basically guaranteed to be cast. So?"
Sasuke was fuming, but he knew the answer he would give. So did Sakura.
note.. thanks for reading, let me know if you liked it. have a good weekend :)