When the hero of the country asks a favor, the people listen.
When the hero of a country begs and pleads and demands, even the elders take notice.
And when the hero of a country threatens – just a little, just the tiniest bit – a life can be saved.
Deep within one of the darkest corners of the Konoha prison, Uchiha Sasuke had been kept under solitary confinement for nearly a year.
Every day since their return, Naruto had visited whether Sasuke wanted him to or not. And it was a fortunate thing Naruto did so. Otherwise there would have been no one there to cut Sasuke down when he’d been hanging by his torn bedding from the top of the cell bars.
Following that, the prisoner never spent a moment alone, instead always kept under the watchful eyes of jounin guards.
Then, one day, Uciha Sasuke was released and put under house arrest.
The leaders of Konoha had not bothered to rebuild the Uchiha compound in the wake of destruction from the Akatsuki war. The reason given was that it was too grim a reminder of a suffering past, but Sasuke believed it was purely out of spite and nothing would convince him otherwise.
This belief was aided by the fact that the council had gone so far as to tear down what little remained and level it out until the once proud section was nothing more than a blank space. Before that, however, Nartuo had sorted through the rubble, throwing whatever he could find into a large cardboard box. This consisted mostly of clothing scraps and broken bits of pottery, a spoon, half a mirror and a strangely intact small metal box with pretty etching, which Naruto examined then tossed in with everything else.
Ultimately, Sasuke was settled into an empty house far from the center of town, where he could both be easily watched and not cause undue discomfort to lawful citizens.
In any case, the new Uchiha home needed a healthy invective of cheer and Naruto considered himself more than up to the task.
The first thing he did was give Sasuke the big cardboard box.
“Hey! Open up!” The blond yelled as he pounded on Sasuke’s front door.
Eventually, after continued berating didn’t work, Naruto simply opened the door and walked inside, inviting himself where he knew he darn well wasn’t wanted. But then, Naruto never concerned himself much with convention.
He found Sasuke sitting cross-legged in what appeared to be the living room, papers of every size and color strewn around in a half circle before him in no pattern Naruto could ascertain. Sasuke’s cool black eyes slowly rose up over his thick glasses and fixated on Naruto’s face. He narrowed them threateningly, but spoke not a word. Naruto grinned and Sasuke returned to his work, clearly dismissing the intruder from his thoughts. Unbothered, Naruto squatted down and began reaching for one of the old, hand-written sheets, but the moment his fingers touched the edge, he found himself forced on his feet and pushed back out of the room. His spine met the entryway wall with an audible thump. Naruto glanced down at the hand pressed flat against his chest and saw the swirl of black tattoo that tapered off to gray peeking out from the hem of Sasuke’s tight sleeve. The pattern stretched elegantly out to his fingers.
“Hey – “ Naruto started.
“What,” Sasuke’s dark eyes bore into Naruto’s bright ones. “Are you doing here?”
Sasuke’s eyes narrowed again and he clutched the front of Naruto’s shirt. The threat was clear but unvoiced.
Then, with his one hand still holding Naruto back, Sasuke held out his other, palm up. “Where’s my gift?”
Naruto’s gaze flicked momentarily to the open hand then back to Sasuke’s face. “Gift?”
Sasuke’s eyebrow quirked up. “It is customary when paying a visit to bring the host a gift.”
The look of sudden fear that crossed Naruto’s face could have been comical, except the edge of sincere worry to it negated much of the humorous effect. There was a mad and desperate rummage through Naruto’s pockets before he finally came up with something and slapped it into Sasuke’s hand, triumphant.
Sasuke’s eyes stayed fixed to Naruto for an unnervingly long time, before he lowered his gaze to examine the offering. His eyes returned to Naruto, one eyebrow arching over the rim of his glasses.
Naruto’s head nodded so effusively it almost got knocked clear from his body. “Cinnamon,” he’s quick to explain. “Sweet, but a little hot too.”
Slowly, Sasuke’s eyes once more go to the gum, then after a few more moments, he takes it, unwraps it, and slowly folds the long stick over his tongue, pink against pink.
Naruto smiles nervously and raises his eyebrows in silent question.
Sasuke says nothing.
Relaxing, Naruto let his guard down, which is normally on high alert when dealing with Sasuke, and settles back comfortably into the wall. He holds Sasuke’s stare for just a moment, giving him an impudent grin. Without the slightest change in expression, Sasuke turns away.
He proceeds to enter the living room as if Naruto was never there. This is behavior to which Naruto has long grown accustomed, so he’s not deterred.
“You got anything to eat?” He calls after Sasuke, feeling the familiar twinge in his stomach. “I’m starved.”
Sasuke stops in his tracks but doesn’t turn around. Naruto stares at him, unsure how to deal with Sasuke at the best of times –not that there are many of those. Creeping up from the back of Sasuke’s dun-colored high collar are the telltale curving black lines of his tattoo seal. They blend up seamlessly into his hair and disappear into the black strands. The curse seal on his shoulder has been completely covered up by this new one.
Then Sasuke’s head makes an almost slow little jerk to the side. The edge of his chewed gum peeks out between his lips before he swallows it back. “All I have is gum.” He states without a hint of emotion.
Naruto laughs uncomfortably and, after an awkward moment, heads out the door.
Sasuke could very clearly hear the incessant knocking at his door as well as the accompanying string of demands. He just chose to ignore them. He carefully finished what he was doing, washed his hands and only then went to attend the ensuing “crisis”.
He opened the door in his usual attire of loose pants and tight high-necked shirt. This time however, he also had the addition of a stained blue and pink check apron and a bright red bandana tied around his forehead, which caused his hair to stick up high from the fabric like a group of antennae.
Naruto had opened his mouth to speak but stopped midway, so that he stood speechless and goggle-eyed. He stayed motionless and silent for the full count of ten seconds.
Then he burst out laughing.
Sasuke slammed the door.
This time he remembered to lock it.
“C’mon! I said I was sorry!” Naruto shouted through the uncaring door. He pounded on it with both fists as though that would help anything. He’d come everyday just like he always did, but it had been three since he’d actually laid eyes on Sasuke. He would’ve broken the door down long before now if he hadn’t been certain Sasuke was still up and moving around within. “You can’t stay mad forever!”
But Naruto knew that was a lie, Sasuke was very adept at staying mad forever. Naruto pressed his ear to the door. He could still hear faint noises on the other side, so he could see there was no point in barging in and angering Sasuke further.
On the other side of the door, Sasuke stood wearing the same outfit he had that last time Naruto saw him, arms crossed, head lowered, and scowling at nothing.
“Sasuke!” Came the whine from outside. “Please. I swear I won’t . . . I’ll behave.”
Sasuke bit the inside of his cheek and narrowed his eyes even more.
“Please . . .” Naruto pleaded like a supplicant to a holy order.
Naruto rested his forehead on the wooden door and let out a long, weary sigh. Then he turned his head to look behind at the jounin guard, standing quiet and unmoving, on duty. Naruto sighed again and stood up straight. He picked up his package and turned to leave.
The door opened.
Naruto whirled and gave the silent, staring man a sheepish grin.
“I brought a gift.” Naruto lifted the plain paper bag from the ground in offering. The smell of meat and spices rose up to meet Sasuke’s nose.
“Ramen?” He asked blandly.
“No.” Naruto raised a dubious eyebrow. “Barbeque.”
Sasuke’s eyes twitched smaller then returned to normal. The afternoon sun glinted bright off the corner of his glasses.
Naruto waited a moment. “Can I come in?”
In response, Sasuke took a deliberate step back into the recesses of the house. Naruto took his own, if hesitant, step forward. After finally crossing the threshold, he titled his head back a little and sniffed.
“Is something burning?”
Sasuke glowered at him, turned on his heel and strode quickly, almost running, to the kitchen at the back of the house. Naruto instantly followed.
Smoke billowed out in small dark tendrils when Sasuke opened the oven door. It invaded both teens’ throats and eyes and Naruto coughed but Sasuke scarcely noticed the effects as he snatched up a set of potholders. Using them, he pulled out the baking sheet and ferociously threw it, and the little circles of charcoal on it, into the sink wholesale. He violently dashed the two potholders to the ground, but as they are fabric the effect was not very satisfying.
As he ineffectually fanned smoke away with his hand, Naruto asked, “What was that?”
Sasuke whirled on him and a small container flies from his hand. It beans Naruto in the head, ricochets off, hits the wall and lands on the floor.
“Hey! That hurt! What did you do –“ But Sasuke is gone.
Somewhere at the other side of the house, a door slams.
Still rubbing his head – though more out of anger than pain since he has a thick skull – Naruto heaves a sigh and puts the barbeque in the refrigerator. Then he bends down to retrieve the square projectile.
He lifts the small plastic lid of the sturdy, still intact container. The contents have not fared well after the impact with his head and are mostly crumbs now. But he takes the time to carefully sift through them and finds a few which have been saved, likely cushioned by those on the edges. Naruto removes one. It looks like a cookie, but delicate, a circle that has been curved on the sides to form a sort of lens shape. After turning it one way and another a few times, Naruto takes a bite.
It is only a little sweet with a hint of vanilla, thin and crispy at the rim, but thicker and just slightly soft in the center.
He lets the last crumb of it slowly linger on his tongue as he squats on the floor, thinking.
Just before he is about to leave, he remembers that Sasuke never actually turned off the oven.
So he does the man a favor.
Recipe 1 -Tuiles