Disclaimer: The characters, items, places etc of Naruto are property of Masashi Kishimoto. These objects are used without permission for entertainment only, not for making money. No infringement is intended.
AU SasuNaru! That's the eventual homosexual pairing of Sasuke and Naruto, set in the real world, not Konoha. If you don't like, don't read and click the back button now!
As often with me, here's a warning for occasional swearing. I also must point out now- here in England, indoor cats aren't the norm. People generally let their cats outside, and that's what I'm working with here. Please don't start arguments with me about the cruelty of outdoor cats vs. indoor cats, since I'm not going to rise to it. Each to their own opinion and all. That aside- please enjoy!
I apologise in advance if things seem a little choppy in places- this has undergone a lot more editing that usual, because I just could not get happy with it XD
By Nanaki Lioness
Naruto was really very fond of his job.
No, that was an understatement. He adored his job. He worked in a pet store- a job he'd been given by his good friend-come-semi-adoptive-father, Iruka. 'I'll let you work here if you don't spend all day playing with the animals', he had said.
Naruto was currently doing just that, stroking a rather large black and white cat that was sitting on the counter with him. He was the store's own cat- he had turned up one day, mewing for food, and upon being fed had taken up residence there. He had a collar around his neck, citing his name as Barney. Iruka had put up posters to locate the cat's real owners, but nothing ever came of it. So, he had stayed.
Every morning, he would be outside the back door, waiting to be let in for breakfast. At the end of the day, he would wait by the back door to be let out. Even on stormy, rainy days he would come by in the morning completely dry. Iruka suspected he had a second home at night, and he was using the shop as a second feeding ground, but he adored the cat too much to mind or to try and keep him out.
He was a long haired Tuxedo cat, slightly larger than your average cat because of his extreme love for food. He was also overly affectionate, which at first, Iruka had found endearing.
The only problem was he wanted both of these, all of the time.
"N-no!" Naruto was saying, trying to push the cat away as he attempted to take the money he'd been given out of his hand. "This is not food, Barney!"
Barney mewed pathetically and looked up at him with begging eyes.
"No," Naruto told him firmly, putting the money in the till and picking the cat up, moving him further along the counter. "You've just been fed you greedy bastard."
The customer took their purchase of hamster bedding and smiled, giving Barney a quick stroke and exiting the store. He held the door open for another customer, who took it from him without a word and entered the small store. His dark eyes swept slowly around, as though he were looking for something.
"Can I help you?" Naruto called, stroking Barney, who had snuck back across the counter and was slamming his head into Naruto's hand demanding affection.
"Dog food," the boy answered, turning to Naruto.
"Ah, right. It's the back of the store."
The boy made his way over to where Naruto was pointing, frowning as he noticed the huge array of tins, packets and boxes in front of him.
"I have no idea what I'm looking for," he admitted.
"Well, does the dog have a preference on food?" Naruto asked, making his way to the boy's side.
"Dogs have preferences?" The boy responded. Naruto looked at him incredulously.
"Of course," he replied. "All animals have something they prefer. If you're not sure, it's best to go with something like this."
He reached down, picking up a tin of rabbit in gravy, handing it to the boy with a satisfied smile.
"If he doesn't like that, I'll be surprised," Naruto told him.
"Right. Thanks," the boy replied, looking at the tin as though it was going to bite him.
Naruto made his way back to the till, stopping halfway there as he noticed Barney- who was uncharacteristically hissing from his spot on the counter.
"Barney?" He said, walking over to him and putting a hand on his back. The cat's hackles were raised, and he was looking in the direction of the new visitor, hissing and arching his back.
The dark haired boy looked over, looking slightly confused at the cat's reaction.
"Barney, what's wrong?" Naruto soothed, giving the boy an apologetic look. "He normally loves everybody- maybe he can smell the dog on you?"
"I should hope not," the boy muttered. "It's not my dog. I'm not really an animal person."
"Ah, that's it then," Naruto said, grinning and picking Barney up, holding him to his chest and rubbing his chin to calm him. "He can sense that."
The boy went to the counter with the tin of food, and a packet of dog treats, dropping them down and glaring at Barney. The cat was hissing at him again.
Naruto picked the cat up, depositing him on a chair behind him and ringing up the items.
"Sorry," he apologized. The boy shrugged, apparently not minding that the cat had taken a disliking to him.
Naruto picked up the dog treats, grinning slightly.
"So much for not being a dog person- treats, eh?"
"I was ordered to get them," the boy responded, redirecting his glare towards Naruto. "By the dog's owner."
"Ah, so you've been roped into a bit of dog-sitting, eh?" Naruto said, placing the items into a carrier bag. "Sounds like fun."
"Sounds like hell," the boy corrected, taking his bag with a small, wry smile. "I have no idea what I'm doing."
Naruto's face lit up. "Well, I could give you a quick run through of what's best for you to do? I love animals, but we're not allowed any in my apartment, so I have to make do with Barney here."
He laid a hand on the cat, who had calmed down slightly, but still seemed on-edge to the visitor.
The boy hesitated a moment before leaning on the counter slightly, sighing. "Alright…" He read Naruto's name badge. "Naruto."
Naruto smiled. "And you are?"
"Right- Sasuke. How long have you got him for?"
"Until his owner gets back from vacation," Sasuke replied.
"I presume he's living with you right now, then?"
Sasuke grimaced. "Yes."
"Oh, it's not that bad," Naruto replied, sensing his distaste. "Nothing like having an animal curled up on the bed, or waking you up in the morning."
"You make that sound like a good thing," Sasuke answered flatly. "I tried shutting my bedroom door but he howls outside all night, and it's driving me insane."
"You shut him out?" Naruto echoed. "Of course he howls- he's lonely!"
"How do I make him shut up?" Sasuke asked, running a hand through his hair and sighing, frustration evident in his voice. Naruto took a closer look at him, noticing he looked tired and worn. Black circles framed his dark eyes, and his skin was pale. Apparently, he wasn't getting much sleep with his new housemate.
"If he's normally allowed in his master's bedroom, he'll howl and whine to be let in when you shut him out," Naruto explained. "The quickest way to stop him is to just let him in."
He stopped, hearing barking coming from outside the store.
"Is that him?" He asked.
Sasuke ran a hand through his hair again, looking like he wanted to either kill himself, or kill the dog. "Yes."
Naruto patted Barney quickly and hurried outside to the front of the store, pulling the door open and looking outside. He was met by a small, dark haired pug, who looked up at him with wide eyes and wagged his tail, tongue hanging from his mouth happily.
"Hello there!" Naruto said gently, hearing Sasuke come up behind and him sigh, leaning in the doorway and keeping the door open by doing so. Naruto let go of the door upon seeing this, walking over to the pug and crouching down next to him.
"What's his name?" He asked, searching for a tag on the dog's collar and not finding one.
"Hello there, Pakkun," Naruto said, patting the dog on the head and rubbing around his ears. "Aren't you lovely?"
"You sound like a moron talking to him like that," Sasuke interjected rudely from behind them. Naruto glanced round at him, glaring.
"You can tell you're not an animal person," he said. "Pugs are sociable little things. They can be really clingy- they need affection."
"He needs to learn to shut up and let me sleep," Sasuke replied with a sigh.
"Let him in your bedroom tonight," Naruto replied, giving Pakkun one last pat on the head and standing up. "You'll sleep better than having to listen to the poor thing whine outside all night."
He stepped past Sasuke back inside the shop, looking slightly sheepish.
"I'm not supposed to leave the shop when I'm alone, but I'm a sucker for dogs," he said quietly, as though someone might hear him, even though nobody but he and Sasuke were there. He glanced over his shoulder at Barney, who had curled up in his chair behind the counter. "And cats."
Sasuke smiled slightly. "Thanks for the advice."
"Good luck," Naruto replied, making his way back to the counter, scooping Barney up into his arms and holding him to his chest. Barney mewed slightly in satisfaction, attempting to tunnel his head into Naruto's arm. "Bye."
Sasuke gave him a short wave. "See you."
He walked through the door, letting it close behind him. Naruto watched him untie Pakkun through the glass, smiling slightly and absently stroking Barney as he did so. He liked this Sasuke person, even if Barney didn't.
The following morning, Naruto was playing with Barney when he heard the front door open, glancing up from his place kneeling on the floor to see a familiar face.
He smiled, giving the toy he was waving above Barney one last shake before setting it aside and standing, giving Sasuke a small wave.
"You don't look so tired this morning," he commented. "Did letting him in your bedroom help you sleep?"
Sasuke stalked to the counter with another tin of rabbit in gravy food, looking thoroughly annoyed. "He didn't whine, he just curled up on the bottom of my bed," he replied, slamming the tin down.
"Then why are you so angry?" Naruto replied, confused.
"Because he didn't keep me up by whining, he woke me up at five this morning by peeing on my bed instead."
Naruto stifled a laugh, earning a very dark gaze from the boy in front of him. "Well, did you let him out the night before?"
"I'm supposed to?"
Naruto sighed, rolling his eyes. "Well, of course he peed on your bed then! When was the last time he went outside yesterday?"
Sasuke shrugged. "When I came here in the afternoon."
"Well, it's your fault then," Naruto replied.
"Me?" Sasuke replied, eyes widening. "How is that my fault?"
Naruto sighed. "You really are clueless, aren't you? Let's put it this way- treat him like you would treat yourself. If someone had locked you in a room for hours on end when you needed to pee, you'd have probably have done the same as he did, right?"
Sasuke looked skyward, shaking his head slowly in an 'I'm not going to dignify that with an answer' way. "So how do I clean my mattress?"
Naruto smiled weakly. "You throw it out."
Sasuke glared at him. "No, really, how do I clean it?"
"I'm serious." Naruto responded. "It's tricky. You can clean it all you like, but you'll smell it in hot weather. Trust me."
Sasuke leant over the desk, sighing heavily. "Great."
"Don't be angry with Pakkun," Naruto urged. "It's not his fault."
Sasuke sighed again, pulling himself upright. "I guess I should get going and buy a new bed, then."
"Do you want to leave him here for a bit?" Naruto asked kindly. "Barney's fine with other animals- do you know what Pakkun is like with them?"
"I have no idea," Sasuke replied with a sigh, holding up the dog food. "I should pay you for this, by the way."
"Oh! Yeah," Naruto said, taking the money for the dog food from Sasuke. He'd been so engrossed in the conversation that he hadn't forgotten. "Leave him here while you go shopping, I'll take care of him."
Sasuke smiled slightly. "I appreciate that."
"Bring him in, then!"
Sasuke walked outside, untying Pakkun and leading him inside the store wearily. Pakkun yapped happily when he saw Naruto, straining on the lead to get to him.
"Hello boy!" Naruto said, dropping to his knees as Sasuke let the leash go. Pakkun bounded across to him as fast as his legs could carry him, his leash flapping along behind him. He jumped up at Naruto, licking his hands and face.
"He's so lovely," Naruto said, grabbing the leash and leading him behind the counter. "He's such an affectionate little thing. Like our Barney here."
Barney jumped up onto the counter and hissed at Sasuke again.
"Like our Barney normally," Naruto sighed, tying Pakkun's leash to the desk and grabbing Barney, putting him down next to the pug.
The two animals looked at each other for a moment, hackles rising on both sides. Barney circled the dog a couple of times before yawning and collapsing onto the floor, curling up by his side.
Pakkun sniffed Barney suspiciously before lying down next to him, looking up at Naruto with big, brown eyes.
"It's alright, he won't hurt you," Naruto told him.
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "So… I'll pick him up in an hour or so?"
"Take your time, I'll keep him entertained," Naruto replied, dropping to his knees and patting Pakkun on the head.
"Alright…" Sasuke replied. "Can I leave this?"
He shook the tin of dog food in his hand. Naruto nodded, taking it from him and placing it under the counter. "Have fun."
Sasuke sighed. "Yeah, thanks, I suppose."
He made his way out of the store, leaving Naruto to sigh happily and sit down in his chair, watching Barney and Pakkun curled up with each other. He was truly in his element around animals.
"Naruto! Who is this little guy?"
Naruto looked up with a jolt, looking sheepishly up at his manager.
"Ah, Iruka, I didn't see you come in," he lied through his teeth, unwilling to say he had been napping in the quiet afternoon.
Iruka was pointing down at Pakkun, who was still curled up by Barney's side.
"That's Pakkun," Naruto supplied, standing up and ignoring his spine's protests at doing so. "He's a customer's. Well, sort of. A customer's looking after him for someone else, and he hasn't got a clue."
"Well, why do we have him?" Iruka asked, crouching down and rubbing behind the pug's ears.
"I offered to take care of him for a while," Naruto explained. "The guy had to go and buy a new mattress since Pakkun had a little accident on it."
Iruka smiled slightly at that, standing upright. "I see. Barney seems to have taken a liking to him."
"You know Barney," Naruto said with a shrug. "He loves everybody." He frowned slightly. "Well, everyone except the guy looking after Pakkun. He hisses at him."
"He does?" Iruka asked, eyes wide. "How strange."
"He's not an animal person," Naruto shrugged. "I guess Barney can tell."
Iruka placed a piece of paper down in front of Naruto, who picked it up and looked at it, frowning.
"Another worker?" He queried.
"A part timer for the weekends and busy mornings," Iruka explained. "Lee is going off to college out of town and won't be able to fill in anymore, and I'm finding it hard to be here as often as I need to. Put this up in the window- I need to head off again."
"Alright," Naruto replied, picking up some sticky tape from under the counter and setting about attaching some to the corners.
He had just finished when the door opened, and he looked up to see Sasuke re-enter the store.
"Any luck?" He asked.
Sasuke didn't look very pleased, he noted, stalking over to the counter and glaring over it to Pakkun. Pakkun looked up at him with soft, brown eyes, cocking his head slightly.
"You just cost me a lot of money," he sighed.
"You found a mattress then?" Naruto asked.
Sasuke nodded. "I managed to convince them to deliver it today as well, so I need to get home. Thanks for looking after him for me."
"He was very well behaved- he just sat with Barney all the time," Naruto told him, untying the lead and walking Pakkun around the counter to Sasuke. Barney stood up and hissed at Sasuke again.
"Yes, alright, I get the message- you hate me," Sasuke snapped down at him.
"Make sure you let him out tonight," Naruto snickered, handing Sasuke the dog food he'd left earlier as well.
Sasuke glared darkly at him. "He's staying outside all evening."
Naruto's face fell. "You can't do that to him!"
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "Why not?"
"He needs human interaction," Naruto stressed. "Unless you're planning on staying outside all evening with him, too?"
"Why don't you come by and deal with him then?" Sasuke said, continuing to glare at the blonde.
Naruto grinned at him. "I might just have to do that. You seem like you could do with a break."
Sasuke, surprisingly, seemed to warm to that idea. He picked up a pen, beckoning to Naruto to hand him some paper, which he did so. He noted his address down neatly and quickly, handing it to Naruto.
"Since you seem to like him so much, come round and see to him for a bit," Sasuke told him. "I could do with an evening spent without a dog trying to crawl into my lap and drown me with its tongue."
Naruto smirked. "He's just saying he likes you."
"He's just trying to make me take ten showers a night, you mean."
Naruto picked up the sign about needing another member of staff, meaning to put it in the window, but his gaze fell on Sasuke instead.
"Say- do you work, Sasuke?"
Sasuke looked at him curiously. "Not right now."
"Are you looking?"
"I don't see how it's any of your business."
Naruto held up the sign, which stated 'Part time help wanted' in big, bold lettering. He grinned widely. "There's a job opening here if you want it, Sasuke."
Sasuke glared at him. "I don't like animals, idiot."
"We don't sell any animals other than hamsters and mice and things."
"Those are still animals. Vermin, in fact."
Naruto's face fell, glancing over towards the line of plastic hamster housing to his right. "They're cute! All you have to do is put a glove on and take the one the customer wants out, put it in a special box, and hand them over. It's easy! You spend more time with people in this job than animals."
"I don't like people either."
Naruto frowned. "You'd get to work along side me?"
Sasuke frowned back at him. "Is that supposed to be a good thing?"
"Why did I offer to help you again?" Naruto sighed, sitting down in his chair. Barney, who had finished eating, promptly jumped up into his lap, prodding his thighs with his paws to make him more comfortable to lie on. "Ow! Barney- no claws," Naruto scolded, pulling the cat's paws up and tapping them gently.
"Because you seem to have some kind of attachment to my dog," Sasuke replied. "And you seem to think spending an evening with him will be fun."
Sasuke scowled at him. "You know what I mean."
Naruto snickered. "Go on- go home to get your mattress. I'll see you tonight, Sasuke."
Sasuke pulled on Pakkun's leash to indicate he should get up off the floor, rolling his eyes at Naruto and heading to the exit. "Yeah. I'll see you tonight."
Notes: Barney is actually a real cat- at one of my jobs, he was the
cat that lived across the road, but he'd spend most afternoons when
his owner was at work sitting on my chair, or on my lap, or curled up
on the counter, or basically anywhere I'd allow him. He adored
people, food, and affection, to the point where if I put him down on
the chair behind me to serve someone, he would cry and prod me in the
back repeatedly until I turned round to him XD