"Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away"
-Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones
Sasuke sat at the table, gazing gloomily out a window, waiting for his roommate to arrive. Normally, he would've gone straight home after a long workday, but Shikamaru had sounded as if he had something important that needed to be discussed.
It was early May. The winter had been long, the Spring rainy. He knew that much because six days out of the week, he'd commute downtown for work, and that was just enough exposure to the outside world to note a change in seasons. Irritably, he tapped his fingers on the red and white checked tablecloth, staring disinterestedly as a waitress flew past him with a large pizza atop a silver tray. As if on cue, his stomach growled. He'd had a yogurt for breakfast but nothing for lunch.
The door swung open - Sasuke had seated himself so that he'd be facing it - and Shikamaru walked inside. Immediately he headed in Sasuke's direction and sat in the opposite chair with a tired grunt.
"It seemed like every moron tourist and their mother was waiting to get on the C tonight."
The waitress stopped at their table. She brought Shikamaru a glass of water and gave them another few minutes to decide their order.
Sasuke shifted in the chair and set his elbow on the table. He sent Shikamaru a pointed, curious look.
"Ah," Shikamaru briefly glanced at the menu. "Are we getting the same as usual?"
Sasuke glared. "Are you going to tell me why we had to meet for dinner, and why this couldn't wait until we were both at the apartment?"
Shikamaru chuckled while tugging at his tie, loosening it. He stretched nervously, reaching behind his head to tighten that stubby ponytail he always wore.
"Right, well, I thought we could wait until we ordered," Shikamaru said.
Sasuke eyed him suspiciously. "I'd prefer if you got straight to the point. Then I can decide whether or not I want to stay."
Shikamaru narrowed his eyes. "So stubborn." He glanced off to his right before rubbing the bridge of his nose. He looked more tired than usual. "Fine," he sighed.
Sasuke waited with a dull expression, head tilted a bit to the side.
"I'm moving out."
Sasuke blinked at him several times. "Pardon?"
Shikamaru grabbed his glass of water and swallowed a generous amount. "For the summer. I have to go out of town to take care of some…private business."
Sasuke raised an eyebrow but wasn't interested enough in his roommate's affairs to pry, especially if he was unwilling to volunteer any further, specific information.
"But," Shikamaru said, licking the corner of his bottom lip. "I'm going to take care of the sublease. I have someone in mind."
"Someone in mind?" Sasuke repeated, nearly growling. "I don't want to live with some stranger for three months."
Shikamaru sighed again, on the verge of appearing desperate. "Listen, I wouldn't do this if it wasn't important, and it's better than trying to rent it out online. In this city who knows what'll show up at your door, but…"
Sasuke's fingers scraped across the tablecloth. He placed the hand back down into his lap. "But?"
"But," Shikamaru continued after mulling over his thoughts, "I need to use savings I might otherwise use to pay the rent ahead for what I need to do."
With Shikamaru being so vague, Sasuke found it difficult to find more to inquire on the subject. For a long while they stared at one another until the waitress came by to take their order. She was ever the professional, disregarding the obvious tension between the two of them. Shikamaru ordered a large pizza with sausage, peppers, and mushrooms.
When she went away, Sasuke cleared his throat and spoke: "Who is it?"
A nervous habit, Shikamaru hunched his shoulders and slouched against his chair. "A friend of mine. He's going to need to relocate soon."
"Relocate?" Sasuke asked, frowning. "From where?"
"Brooklyn," Shikamaru said. He picked at the edge of the rolled silverware, tearing at the napkin. "I've known him," He scratched his chin and forced a thoughtful expression. "Four? Five years?"
"Have you mentioned him before?"
Shikamaru gave a nod of the head. "Maybe. We don't run around in the same circles as much anymore."
"Why are you being vague?"
"Am I?" Shikamaru intoned lazily, sounding amused at the suggestion he'd go to the trouble of hiding something.
Sasuke restrained himself from rolling his eyes. "Whatever. So what does he do? Can he pay rent?"
Shikamaru nodded again, rolling the silverware around the table. He cleared his throat. "He's, uh, into bonds. I think. I don't know, but I can vouch for him that he can afford rent just fine. He…switches jobs frequently, so it's hard to keep track of everything he does."
"But he is employed currently?" Sasuke watched the silverware roll back and forth, feeling as if he wasn't getting the full story here.
"Oh yeah," Shikamaru muttered as he turned his face away. "Nearly every night. I've never actually seen someone work so hard in my life. He tires me out. He may work even more than you do."
Sasuke grunted at the comparison and sneered. "I don't care. I'll trust you, Shikamaru, because I don't have time to look for a subleaser on my own, but - "
"But?" Shikamaru pushed the silverware away. He leaned back and threw an arm across the top of the empty chair next to him.
"But if this doesn't work out," Sasuke said, hunching over the table. "I'm not above calling in a favor."
Shikamaru chuckled heartily under his breath. "The good news is he has a sense of humor. It's, perhaps, not as dry as yours."
Sasuke smirked in a self-satisfied sort of way. "Good. I didn't really want to have to be in the debt of the Russian mafia that hangs around near Coney Island."
"Though I have this feeling I'm going to be a bit sad that I won't be able to see the two of you interacting with one another."
"Just because we live in the same apartment doesn't mean we have to interact with one another," Sasuke replied.
"Of course." Shikamaru smirked, eyes glinting with warmth and perceptiveness. "You're both workhorses, and he tends to work a later shift, so I'm sure your schedules will make it so you don't have to see each other often. If that's what you want."
"I thought you said you didn't know what his current occupation is."
"Well," his roommate said quickly, "He works a lot because he always keeps several jobs. And I'm fairly sure one of them involves working evenings."
Sasuke propped an elbow on the edge of the table and squinted. "Is there something I need to know? You make him sound like a stripper."
Shikamaru snorted. "Naruto? A stripper? No, no. I think that's one job he's never quite attempted. At least not professionally."
Sasuke ignored the latter part of the statement. His mouth thinned in contemplation. Sasuke's instincts were against this, but he'd known Shikamaru Nara long enough to trust his judgment, and though he did not trust easily, he felt that should any conflict arise, the matter would be dealt with promptly on his part.
"Really?" Shikamaru didn't even try to feign his surprise at Sasuke's agreement.
"Sure." Sasuke shrugged. "I can always kick him out."
Shikamaru chuckled; Sasuke gave him an odd look.
"It is. When you meet him, you'll see why. Naruto's one of the most easy-going, open-minded guys I've ever met. He grows on you."
"I've never heard an instance where any sort of growth has been referred to as beneficial."
"It's a figure of speech." Shikamaru sighed. "Besides, he's the best choice."
For a brief instant, Sasuke considered that he should ask exactly where and what Shikamaru would be doing over the summer, but, in reality, he had very little interest in knowing. If Shikamaru wanted to inform Sasuke of his plans, he would.
In a matter of minutes, the pizza was placed before them, and the topic of Naruto was conveniently dropped in favor of complaining about work, and when it came to his job, Sasuke had more than his fair share of, well, issues.
A week went by quickly. Sasuke had a large project at work that kept him busy. Shikamaru had offered him a chance to meet Naruto for lunch one day, but the company was keeping him swamped. Mostly because everyone on his team was incompetent and any work they did, Sasuke would then have to redo.
It was ten minutes before 5 o'clock when a head of spiky silver hair popped inside the doorway of his office.
"Yeah, Sasuke," his boss drawled. "I'm gonna need you to come in here on Saturday…"
Sasuke didn't look up from his laptop screen. "I'm already coming in on Saturday, and that's no longer funny after the 32nd time of you trying it."
Kakashi stepped fully into the doorway, chuckling as he glanced around Sasuke's barren office.
"How about you come in on Sunday, too?"
Sasuke glanced up from the screen. "Really? Is there something else that got screwed up?"
"No…I just thought we could have some donuts and chat like old times."
Sasuke stared at him. "We've never chatted. And I don't eat donuts."
Kakashi nodded. He wasn't even listening to Sasuke. He tugged at one of his suspenders. "So I hear you're getting a new roommate?"
Sasuke sat up straighter in his chair. "Who told you that?"
Kakashi glanced at him, looking rather bored with the conversation already. "Bill from accounting."
"You know," Kakashi gestured vaguely with his hand out the window as if Bill would be out there washing the glass. "Bill from accounting."
"I have a lot of work to do, could you leave now?" Sasuke ignored his boss and went back to coding. He liked coding because it didn't talk.
Kakashi glanced at his nails, looked at Sasuke, then declared he was going to go bother Kiba, one of Sasuke's team members. Probably the biggest idiot of them all.
"You do that," Sasuke mumbled as his office door closed and he was left in peace.
It was near the end of May. Birds were chirping, pigeons were crapping on the windshields of cars, Times Square had officially become a hazard to walk around for the next few months, not that Sasuke would bother except that one of his favorite sushi restaurants was on 45th and 8th. He'd just come off the subway, which smelled a little less like urine than this morning. He'd left work a bit early as his new roommate should be moving in today. Curiosity had gotten the best of him, but, not only that, his mother had taught him some manners, and he thought he might offer his help in moving boxes if it was needed.
Outside the apartment complex - an older walk-up, eight stories, worn, brick exterior - there was a moving truck. Shikamaru had put his furniture away in storage. No one was inside or around the truck, so Sasuke went in through the propped entrance.
He lived on the fourth floor. The stairway was carpeted in a murky green color, and there was always a bit of a musty smell.
The apartment door was open, and Sasuke could already see several boxes stacked inside the living room. There was a considerable amount of shuffling going on as he walked in and gave a cautious look around. Not seeing anyone right away, Sasuke went down the hallway toward the second bedroom. The door was open, and he looked inside, not thinking anything of it. In the center of the room, his back to Sasuke, stood a blond-haired man. He was in the middle of taking his sweat-soaked shirt off, revealing a white wife beater underneath. Sasuke noted the visible tattoos.
He made a noise in his throat to announce his presence.
The man stilled, his shirt almost the entire way off as he slowly looked over his shoulder.
"Hey." He greeted Sasuke, grinning widely.
Sasuke greeted him with an indifferent grimace. He finished taking his shirt off and stepped forward, offering his hand, which was smeared with dirt.
Sasuke glared at the hand suspiciously and then up at his new roommate, who continued to smile. Sasuke, despite his better judgment, took the hand and shook it as briefly as possible, then as inconspicuously as he could manage, wiped it on the side of his slacks.
"Looks like you've moved in," Sasuke said, glancing around the room at opened and unopened boxes of varying sizes. "You didn't have any help?"
"Nah," the man said, scratching the back of his head. He didn't seem in a hurry to grab for another shirt, but maybe he didn't know where any were amidst the mess. "Everyone was sorta busy this afternoon, and I don't have that much stuff, so I thought I could do it on my own."
"Had I known," Sasuke said, drawing his gaze back to Naruto, frowning. "I would've left work earlier to help."
Naruto tilted his head, scratching at his chest, just below his left shoulder. "Well…thanks for the offer, but it's no problem. I haven't been able to work out a lot this week, so I needed it. No worries."
Sasuke nodded absently a few times, giving the room another glance. Naruto didn't seem as bad as he expected. He was friendly enough, maybe not the brightest crayon in the box, but personality could go a long way with Sasuke, too. That's when he noticed a guitar on the bed.
"You play guitar?" he asked.
"Ah, yeah." Naruto went toward it, stroking it tenderly. "That's my baby."
Sasuke lifted an eyebrow. "I'm sorry you had to take a day off to do this. Was it a problem with work?"
Naruto looked up at him. "No…it was…no problem. I mean, I have to work tonight, but no, I mean, work is flexible, so it's good."
"Shikamaru said you were into bonds?"
Naruto's eyebrows shot up, and he laughed. "I'm into…what?"
"Bonds," Sasuke repeated.
Naruto squinted at him. Sasuke grew annoyed at having to repeat himself a third time.
"Bonds," he growled. "Stocks and bonds, right? What company do you work for?"
Naruto started laughing at him again; Sasuke crossed his arms over his chest.
"What's so funny?"
"Shikamaru said I was into bonds did he?" Naruto asked. He reached down and, again, stroked his guitar fondly. He sat on the edge of the bed, squeezing between smaller boxes. "Hm, alright."
"You're not into bonds then?" Sasuke asked and wondered at how idiotic he sounded now.
"Oh…" Naruto smiled at him. "I'm into bonds, sure. And for a second I thought you were sort of asking quite a personal question there…Sasuke."
Sasuke took a step toward Naruto, glaring down at him expectantly. "So then what do you do?"
Not intimidated in the slightest, Naruto played a short chord then answered. "I'm in a band."
Sasuke almost laughed out loud, but it only resounded inside his head. On the outside, he was stone-cold serious. "You're in a what now?"
Naruto got to his feet. Sasuke caught a whiff of dirt and sweat. Naruto nodded at the guitar again.
"I play guitar and sing in a band. I have other jobs, but yeah, that's my main thing. Amps are in that box over there, but I've got a studio, don't think I'll be practicing here or anything."
Sasuke felt his eyebrow twitching. "Get out."
Naruto mistook the statement for something playful. He chuckled and scratched the back of his neck, looking sheepish.
"No it's true."
"No, seriously. Get out," Sasuke said and he brought a hand through the hair at the side of his head, ready to pull it out in panic. "There's no way I'm rooming with someone who still has delusions that they can earn a living by being in a band."
Naruto looked at him incredulously. "Are you serious? If you're worried about rent, don't."
Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "I'm as much worried about my sanity and personal hygiene than I am rent. If you're some kind of drug pusher on the side then I don't want to have-"
"Drug pusher?" Naruto's eyes twinkled, making them even more startlingly blue than before. "I think the only one doing any pushing around here is you."
Sasuke stopped scowling long enough to blink at him several times. "What?"
Naruto cocked his head boyishly, his lip curling, and he flexed his right arm in front of his body a couple times. "It…was a joke. You know, because you're pushing me out…?"
"Right." Had the wall been closer, Sasuke would've hit his head against it. "This must be the famous wit Shikamaru was referring to."
Naruto raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Huh?"
Sasuke shifted on his feet, asking in a mocking tone: "So, you play in a band, and you're how old?"
Naruto grinned. "What difference does that make? Mick Jagger's like 87, and he still tours with the Rolling Stones."
"Mick Jagger is not 87."
Naruto shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest. "Whatever. He looks it. And how do you know?"
Sasuke glared. "Common knowledge, idiot."
Naruto looked at him evenly, though his brow furrowed the smallest bit at the insult. He shook his head. "Wait. Let's try this again, okay?"
Naruto held his hand out, but Sasuke didn't take it, so Naruto withdrew it after a while.
Enthusiastically, Naruto re-introduced himself, "Fine. Hi! Nice to meet you. I'm Naruto Uzumaki. I am not into bonds, at least in the financial sense. I believe you were misinformed. I'm actually in a band. I don't do drugs…er, okay, I smoke once in a while, but I won't do that here if you're gonna narc on me."
"Narc?" Sasuke murmured in a condescending tone. "Hn."
Naruto ignored him, still remaining cheerful and upbeat, which only made Sasuke feel itchy somehow. "I have several jobs. I probably won't be in your way, and I make enough money that I can pay you up front for the three months I'll be staying here!"
"Are we cool now?" Naruto was looking at him expectantly.
"Whatever." He was too tired to argue any further, and so long as Naruto was good for the cash and he procured it by legal means, then what did it matter? He turned around, ready to head for his bedroom.
"Nice to meet you, Sasuke."
Sasuke looked over his shoulder and glared. Naruto smirked at him and gave a thumbs up. Sasuke scowled and left the bedroom, nearly tripping over a box as he walked out into the hallway.
"I'll move that in a minute!" Naruto yelled from his room, and the distinct sound of laughter followed shortly.
Sasuke grumbled, sloping toward his room, which upon entering, he promptly slammed the door shut.
Sasuke snapped his laptop closed, having grown frustrated with the amount of e-mails he'd had to respond to within the last two hours. Most had been from Kiba, a few others from clients. Since he'd been home, he hadn't even removed his shoes. After pushing the computer into the center of the bed just to get himself away from it, he vigorously rubbed the bridge of his nose. Joints cracking, Sasuke got up, noting it was 8 o'clock. He hadn't had any dinner, and for the past hour there had hardly been any noise or shuffling around coming from the hallway. He concluded Naruto was now in the process of unpacking and organizing.
As he opened the door to head toward the kitchen, it was just in time to see Naruto coming out of his own room, wearing a pair of faded jeans with holes in the knees, a snug black t-shirt and guitar strapped to his back.
"Yo," Naruto greeted him while disentangling the wires of his MP3 player.
Sasuke stopped short of bumping into him, wearing a frown, but despite his mood, he offered a small nod of acknowledgement.
"Hey, I'll have everything out of your way tomorrow," Naruto said, apparently reading the discontent etched across Sasuke's features. He slipped his arm into the other strap holding up the guitar case. Then he hitched a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the living room and kitchen. "I've gotta run to practice. I'll try to keep quiet when I come in, it'll be late."
"Okay," Sasuke said, tone facetious. He hoped Naruto wouldn't feel the need to report in every time he left the apartment. Sasuke was his roommate now at best, not his parole officer.
Naruto scrutinized him in earnest, dirty blond eyebrows rising in concern. "You look tired."
Sasuke stared at him dubiously, considered not responding at all, but then gave a heavy sigh as he rubbed the back of his head. "Long day at work."
Shifting , Sasuke thrust a hand inside the pocket of his slacks. Again, he gazed at the guitar, feeling a strange mix of loathing and curiosity. "So, what kind of band is it?"
Naruto smiled brightly at the question and leaned against the doorframe, very casually, as if he'd always belonged there. "Why? Wanna come find out?"
Sasuke scoffed. "No thanks."
Naruto didn't seem too put out by the rejection. He simply straightened up and shrugged. "Maybe another time." He started to go but stopped, locking eyes with Sasuke. "By the way, I, uh, stopped by the drug store on the corner and got some groceries. I saw there wasn't much in your fridge, but I got enough for sandwiches. Feel free to help yourself."
Sasuke's mouth parted in surprise. Naruto noticed this, but all he did was smirk.
Very smoothly, he turned, offering a backward wave as he stuck his earbuds in, practically bouncing his way out the apartment door. Sasuke even thought he heard the sound of placid humming once Naruto was out in the hallway.
For a couple of minutes, Sasuke remained in that spot in front of Naruto's bedroom, trying to figure out what about the encounter had left him so confused. But there was some relief in being alone now, so he shrugged it off and ventured into the kitchen. There was a bowl full of fruit on the counter: oranges, apples, bananas. Inside the fridge, he found it to be stocked with orange juice, bagels, lunch meat, cheese, milk, and eggs. The only edible contents Sasuke could call his own would be the stack of three plain yogurts that had been placed on one of the side shelves.
Stomach rumbling, he stared at the food and considered how good a sandwich sounded. Which, of course, was the reason behind him stubbornly grabbing for one of his remaining yogurt containers. He slammed the fridge shut and peeled off the colored foil covering.
Sasuke ate his yogurt, standing in the center of the living room, television on mute. When he realized he was about to fall asleep standing up, he forced himself to shower, answered a few more e-mails from Kiba, and at 9.30 on the dot, he went to bed.
At 5.30 in the morning, Sasuke awoke right before the alarm on his cell phone went off. He'd had restless and strange dreams, but nothing noteworthy. A hazy morning light crept through the cracks in the blinds. He pushed the sheet away and threw his legs over the side of the bed, scratching at his right cheek. Either Naruto had kept to his word or hadn't come home last night; being a fairly light sleeper, Sasuke hadn't heard him enter the apartment.
He got to his feet, rummaging through his drawers. He felt like having a run so he pulled on some running shorts and a solid blue shirt. He had to dig through his sock drawer to find the armband so he could attach his iPod. After that, he went into the bathroom attached to his room, splashed his face with water and put on some deodorant.
As quietly as he could be bothered to do, he cracked open the bedroom door, but as he passed Naruto's room, he heard the distinct sound of giggling. It was a good guess that the higher-pitched giggles did not belong to Naruto.
Sasuke ignored it and went through the living room and into the kitchen to fill up a bottle of water. While he was finding interest in the way the water streamed in through the narrow opening, the bedroom door opened with a squeak. He heard the sound of footsteps padding across the wood flooring in the living room. Naruto appeared around the corner of the kitchen, a white sheet draped around his waist, tucked in at the hip.
Their eyes met in an odd moment that at any other time might have proved embarrassing, but Naruto didn't seem to have a problem with it, so neither did Sasuke. But it was the first opportunity Sasuke had to check out the tattoo on Naruto's left shoulder. No color. Only black. There was a circular shape on the shoulder and a repeating pattern of long, vertical marks that started under his armpit and went mid-way down his side. They looked tribal. It was also quite clear he must work out often. Sasuke was in shape, but he had a slimmer, runner's build, whereas Naruto was a bit wider in the chest. The muscles of his arms, stomach, and legs were well defined.
Sasuke set aside the observations and physical comparisons to his own body in order to turn off the faucet and cap his bottle.
"Mornin'!" Naruto greeted him cheerily, leaning against the fridge. He had a hand on his hip, holding onto where the fabric of the sheet was gathered.
Sasuke cocked his head, amused at how chipper Naruto was in the morning hours. He tried to refrain from noticing the glow surrounding his new roommate, but sex could do that to anyone.
"…Good morning," he eventually responded.
Naruto grinned wider at him, if that were possible. He edged closer and stuck his hand in the bowl of fruit. He ripped off one of the bananas from the bunch he'd bought last night. Sasuke didn't really know how to respond when Naruto kept looking at him like that, with this dopey grin. If he expected Sasuke to ask about his conquest or complain that he'd brought someone home already, it wasn't going to happen.
Sasuke cleared his throat when neither of them spoke.
Naruto held up the fruit near his face, glanced sideways at it and then at Sasuke. "Banana," he said, nodding at it. "Awesome."
Sasuke blinked at him.
"You going for a run?" Naruto asked.
Sasuke nodded slowly, and, for whatever reason, he smirked.
Naruto smirked right back. "Have fun. Think it's supposed to rain this mornin', so don't go out for too long!"
"Right," Sasuke replied awkwardly. "…Thanks."
"No problem." Naruto leaned his head against the side of the fridge. "S'pose I should get back in there." He hoiked the banana over his shoulder as if there was some hidden meaning in the gesture.
Sasuke pressed his lips together and nodded, looking at Naruto as if he were some kind of freak. Which he was, and he didn't want to know what he was going to be doing with that banana since he hadn't started eating it.
"Alright then. I'm going to go run." Sasuke hoped the man would get the hint.
Naruto leaned away from the refrigerator and gripped his sheet. "By the way, I don't usually, y'know, uh…hm, well, I just wanna say, in a normal state of mind, I wouldn't have brought someone home after the first night of living here, but her apartment was being fumigated, and, yeah…fun girl…so, it just happened."
Naruto nodded. "Okay, cool. But, really, it won't happen often. I don't wanna give you the wrong impression. And yeah. Don't forget it may rain."
With that, Naruto left. The bedroom door opened and closed, and there was a bark of laughter, then the sound of Naruto's voice trying to shush the woman who apparently couldn't stop laughing.
Sasuke shook his head. He reached for his bottle of water, went to the front door and grabbed his sneakers out of the basket of shoes near the entrance. Had anyone else pulled something like this, Sasuke was fairly sure he would have been pissed. But, maybe because he'd gotten a full night's rest or maybe because Naruto had come across as a decent guy so far despite Sasuke having hoped for the opposite, it all… amused him.
Even so, he was still going to give Shikamaru a call on the way to work in order to harass him.
Sasuke slipped out of the apartment, locking it behind, and on the way down the stairs he tried to keep himself from thinking on all the various things one could do with bananas.