Sasuke scooped out a large spoonful of a rather questionably smelling minestrone soup for the umpteenth time this evening. This was his second week working in the St. Magdalene's soup kitchen, and by all means, it had not grown on the Uchiha. The people smelled funny, his "coworkers" were obnoxious, and he wasn't getting paid a cent. His face clearly spoke for him: I don't want to be here. And if he had any choice in the matter, he'd be out those doors in a heartbeat.
However, as the situation stood, he had not the slightest choice in the matter. After a rather bloody altercation at school, he had been suspended for two weeks and appointed with court-ordered community service. It was either this or juvenile hall. The steely judge made it clear that if Sasuke so much as jay-walked, he wasn't leaving that ugly grey building for quite a while. He could thank his brother, an aspiring lawyer and a prodigy, for garnering him such a merciful verdict.
The room was large with off-white walls, decorated with ads for church musicals and a schedule for weekend services. There were seven large circular tables around the room. As their parents conversed, children zoomed between the tables, playing with a couple cheap plastic toys. The elderly would smile at them, or perhaps stick to themselves and mutter to themselves over a salad. The denizens chattered loudly, and the mood was cheerful.
An elderly man in a stained sweatsuit shuffled up to Sasuke, humbly holding forward his bowl in supplication. His outfit contrasted keenly with Sasuke's neat and meticulous appearance. With a flat face, Sasuke poured him a bowl. The man's gratitude was received with a curt nod as the worker next to him offered him a chicken breast.
The turkey-necked coworker to his left nudged his arm, smiling at him widely.
"You wouldn't be interested in coming to service on Sunday, would you?"
"Oh, but Sasuke… We worry about you. Have you accepted Jesus into your heart?"
Sasuke's responses were becoming increasingly icy. The woman prattled on, Sasuke tuning her out adeptly. He expected this much, volunteering in a soup kitchen owned by the church. He didn't want to hear about God. He didn't want to humor any of these people. He just wanted to do his job and go home.
His eyes scanned the room. It was an especially busy night. It was then that he took note of the scrawny boy several people down the line. He remembered this kid. Just like last week, he had been one of the first patrons to enter, loudly shouting "Soup's on!" the instant he cleared the doorway, children giggling. Never mind the fact that they hadn't even served soup last week. He wondered if the kid said the same damned thing every week.
Even aside from his noisy entrance, Naruto caught Sasuke's attention. It wasn't often that he saw people his age in the kitchen. He couldn't have been older than 16, and he appeared to be alone. An oversized grey Led Zeppelin T-shirt contrasted with his wirey frame, a pair of (unintentionally) ripped, faded blue jeans completing the picture. He had wild blond hair, rather intense blue eyes, and scarred cheeks. Sasuke momentarily wondered how the boy had come by such peculiar scars. They made him look almost fox-like. He was bouncing in his spot, a wide, dopey smile on his face as he excitedly waited for his fill.
As his turn came, he trotted up to Sasuke, stumbling over his shoelace in his eagerness.
"So, chef, what's on the menu?"
He unceremoniously plunked the sludgy substance in Naruto's bowl.
"Mmm, this smells delicious! Like if God were to eat a garden of tomatoes and the tastiest vegetables on earth and shit them all out, it would be this soup right here."
Sasuke twerked an eyebrow at the blond, appearing rather unamused. The kid's spirit seemed boundless. The wheat-colored head of hair looked back into the line, which stared back impatiently.
"Right. Well thanks for the grub, sourpuss!"
The sky began to darken, and the number of diners slowly began to dwindle. Sasuke glanced at the clock, eagerly awaiting cleanup time. He noted that the teenager remained even after finishing his meal, chatting it up with strangers and entertaining the children. He seemed to thrive on it, beaming as he imitated voices for the kids with plenty of dramatic hand movements, joking with their parents. They seemed familiar with each other. Naruto must have been a regular.
The lead volunteer then stood, announcing, "Thank you so much for coming, everyone. It was a joy to have you for dinner. We're closing up for the night. I hope you join us next week."
All of the guests left… That is, except the blond. He walked up to Sasuke.
"Hi! I'm Naruto."
Sasuke rolled his eyes, "Didn't you hear her? We're closing."
"What's your name?"
Sasuke was tired. He just wanted to clean his dishes and go, not entertain some imbecile. Naruto scrunched his nose in distaste, speaking in a tone of mock hurt. "Go home? Geez, you really know how to make a hobo feel loved."
A tan finger raised up to his eye to rub away an imaginary tear, sniffing playfully. Sasuke inwardly cringed at his choice of wording. He should've anticipated that Naruto might be homeless. He sighed, feeling like a bit of a dick now.
"My name's Sasuke."
Naruto gave a toothy grin.
"Well nice to meet ya, Sasuke!"
He reached out his hand for a shake, which Sasuke grabbed limply. He stared back dully at Naruto as he moved their hands up and down for far longer than was socially appropriate. Sasuke pulled his hand away.
"So, can I stay while you guys clean up? I'm really booored."
But Sasuke was interrupted by the same woman who tried to convert him earlier.
"Of course you can, dear! The more the merrier!"
The woman had to open her trap, yet again...
"Wow, thanks, ma'am!"
Naruto began to grab the plates around the dining room, handing them to Sasuke as he took them to the sink against the wall. Naruto's excess enthusiasm was quickly getting on his nerves.
"So Sasuke, what made ya wanna work in a soup kitchen?"
"The California legal system."
Again, Sasuke made no pretense of wanting to be there. Naruto paused as he grabbed at a plate, failing to catch Sasuke's implication.
"It's court-ordered. It was here or juvie."
Naruto scrunched his nose innocently in the same motion he had made seconds ago.
"Oooh. What'd ya do? Are you a thief? A drug dealer? A hardened criminal with a surprisingly soft interior and a heart of gold?"
Sasuke rolled his eyes.
"All I did was break someone's nose."
"I broke my nose once! See, look… If you stare really hard, you can see it's a little crooked to the left."
Sasuke grunted as Naruto leaned towards him, pointing to his nose. Naruto's face lit up, apparently enthralled by the coincidence. God, this kid was both odd and absolutely starved for social interaction. Sasuke tried to ignore him, hoping that the boy would become discouraged and finally leave. However, his eagerness didn't waver for a second.
After finishing the dishes, Sasuke wrapped around to wipe down the tables. Naruto picked up a rag and joined Sasuke. The Uchiha couldn't say he minded… It just meant he'd get to leave earlier. It wasn't long before they'd finished cleaning up. Sasuke walked out the door, Naruto following him closely. The shorter male practically begged for eye contact as Sasuke willfully looked in the opposite direction. Itachi's Toyota waited for Sasuke by the curb.
"This is my ride."
Naruto frowned, dramatically gesturing his hands out towards Sasuke.
"Welp, I guess this is goodbye. Sasuke, I will always remember you fondly. Farewell, dear friend."
"Bye," he answered flatly, sitting down and closing the door behind him.
A knowing smile rested on his brother's lips, and dark circles rested under his eyes. Working thirty hours every week while going to law school had been no easy task for Itachi. It was rare not to see a look of deep fatigue on his face.
"So, you made a new friend today?"
Itachi seemed pleased. He'd worried about Sasuke for a while now. After the event that turned their worlds upside down, he had become very withdrawn and moody. It was nice to see him shake out of it.
"That guy? He's not a friend. He just won't stop following me."
Itachi shifted the car into drive, chuckling softly.
"It's interesting to see you talk to pretty much anyone new."
Sasuke scoffed, looking out of the passenger window.
"As if I had a choice in the matter…"
Itachi shook his head goodnaturedly.
"Whatever you say, Sasuke."