Sasuke Uchiha was an asshole.
It was universally agreed upon in the office (once everybody had gotten over the guy's pretty face) that on a bad day, he could be even worse than his brother. He was cold, unamused, and if he ever said more than two words to you, there was a good chance you were about to be flayed within an inch of your life.
Sasuke Uchiha, his boss of the last four years, was absolutely an asshole—
And Naruto was about to be late for work.
As if this day could get any fucking worse.
He didn't need to raise his voice to make sure the man heard. From the way his body didn't tense at all—from the way it only sagged, instead—it came as no surprise.
He didn't look behind him as he turned back. He did, however, leave the door open—open, for the man to follow; open, for him to close.
It wasn't the first time Naruto Uzumaki was late—and he was sure it wouldn't be the last. He had certainly never been this late, however. If the man wasn't such a consistently brilliant part of the team, he would be in far more danger—but, as it was, Sasuke couldn't even play with the idea of firing him.
Of course, he didn't need to know that.
Sasuke sat behind his desk, examining his nails as he waited for the excuses to come.
"Are you gonna fire me?"
Sasuke reeled back.
"For being late." Naruto's eyes were dull—his voice quiet. It was such a far cry from the way the man usually looked that Sasuke found himself wondering if it was the same person at all. "Are you gonna fire me?"
"...No." The word escaped his mouth easily—automatically. His mind couldn't seem to move past the way that Naruto stood as if the weight of the world itself was on his shoulders, dragging him down inch by inch—the way his gaze focused somewhere past Sasuke, even as his eyes seemed to be on him—
And there was no spark of happiness in response to Sasuke's answer—no relief. Just...nothing. Naruto simply nodded.
"Alright. I'll be at my desk."
And then he was gone, leaving Sasuke to do little else but blink at the closed door.
What the hell had that been?
Naruto pulled his chair closer to his desk, straining to keep himself sitting up. He felt so...hollow. So heavy. As if if he let himself give in, if only for a moment, he would just collapse on the spot—
But, at least, Sasuke (Mr. Uchiha, whatever) didn't fire him. That was something.
Even though he couldn't bring himself to feel what he should—some happiness, maybe, or relief, at the very least—he knew it was a good thing. A job meant money and money meant food and a place to live, and all of those were good things—he knew that.
He just wished he could actually feel that.
He let out a soft sigh, eyeing the work in front of him. He had work to do. He had a crap ton of work to do, and he hadn't even begun to look at his emails. He was sure there would be more. More work—more things to do—more things to think about—
Well, maybe that was a good thing, too.
If he could just throw himself into the work—if he could just focus on that, and not think about—not think about how—how his guardian, his only family left, the closest thing he had ever even had to family to begin with—
He hissed a breath out through his teeth, viciously fighting back the burning in his eyes—simultaneously with the lump in his throat—
He had work to do.
"Ah, yes, Mr. Uchiha!" The woman jerked in place, trotting over to his office as he left the entrance.
He waited until she shut the door.
"Ah—um—if this is about the—"
"Uzumaki," he interrupted her. "What's wrong with him?"
Something in her eyes changed.
"I—um." Her back straightened, and she set her mouth into a firm line. "With all due respect, Mr. Uchiha, it isn't any of your business."
He would almost be impressed with her resolve—if he weren't so annoyed.
"Is it not?" He eyed her, tapping his fingers along the wood of his desk. "He was late this morning."
He paused, watching the woman's eyes widen.
"He gave me no reason for his tardiness. Are you telling me the same?"
Her mouth open and shut.
"I—" she heaved out a breath, swaying on her feet, "there is a reason. It's—just—really not my place to tell you it."
"I have no reason to believe you if you don't."
"It's—Mr. Uchiha, please—"
"I am also perfectly capable of being discreet," he paused for a moment, "and it is my business if one of my employees is...genuinely unwell."
"...Alright." She sighed. "Alright—okay—I'll—" she glanced towards the door, as if at any minute the blond might come bursting through it, "I'll just—someone close to him passed away. It happened—well, he—he found out about it last night. Just—"
"Why is he at work?" Sasuke could hardly think of a better reason not to be here. Why hadn't he just told him—
"I don't know. He's been…"
She shook her head, stepping back towards the door. Sasuke sighed quietly.
He couldn't focus. He could see the words—see the time, ticking by—but his mind just couldn't latch on to any of it. He just felt so…
Naruto turned towards the voice.
"The reports aren't—"
"Do you need to go home?"
Naruto blinked. Sasuke only leaned against the makeshift wall of his cubicle, watching him.
"I—I don't." Naruto straightened. "I'm fine. Sir."
Sasuke watched him for a moment longer. Naruto fought the urge to shift under the gaze.
"I will be in my office today. I will not be leaving until after six." He looked away, crossing his arms. "My brother will not be in at all."
He looked back at Naruto.
"Should you not happen to be here, I will be none the wiser."
And then he was gone, Naruto blinking after his back.
True to his word, Sasuke locked himself in his office until it was well past six. He knew his workers well enough to know that, if left to their own devices, they would leave the moment the clock struck five, which would let Sasuke avoid any questions—comments—concerns…
He hoped Naruto would be long gone, by now. At the very least, it would mean that the blond had had a thought—made a decision—stood up and decided to do something beyond sitting there, like he had been, eyes void of every aspect Sasuke had come to know as his personality...
He closed his laptop, letting out a breath.
If only the man hadn't been so obviously different. If only Sasuke hadn't been bothered so much—why had he been bothered so much—
It didn't matter.
Naruto would be gone, by now, and Sasuke could worry about this tomorrow.
Or—not that he was worried. It was none of his business.
Naruto's hollow eyes flashed in his mind again, and Sasuke clenched his fist.
It was none of his business.
"You know—" Naruto sprung awake at the sound a voice—he spun around—
"Most employees, given permission to skip a day of work, would jump at the chance." Sasuke watched him, still in that same casual, leaning position—the one where it was as if he could judge your worth from just a glance—
Naruto blearily blinked at him, realizing that it was dark, now—and that he was still in the office—why was he still—
He stared down at the grain that made up his desk.
It was as if he had woken up to a nightmare.
"I don't...want to go home," he said quietly—honestly. He didn't care either way if Sasuke knew. He didn't really care about anything right now.
He heard Sasuke sigh.
"Alright, let's go."
"You can't sleep in the office, moron. Let's go."
He didn't know what had possessed him.
It had been in the spur of the moment (when Naruto's exhausted, dead eyes had blinked up at him) that Sasuke had decided that the blond needed company. That Naruto's I don't want to go home had really meant I don't want to be alone, and Sasuke had felt something surge through him, something telling him that that look—that statement—was far, far too familiar—
"Get in," he said quietly, opening the passenger door.
"Your car won't be moved overnight." He looked away. "Get in before I change my mind."
Naruto (slowly, as if each movement was weighed down) moved up into the car. Sasuke watched him for a moment longer than he needed to before he finally closed the door.
He was going to regret this.
He was going to regret this.
Naruto watched as Sasuke (Mr. Uchiha, his boss) turned the steering wheel, eyes unwavering from the road—
He didn't know what had gotten into the guy.
He was an asshole. He should have been yelled at. Fired. Something. Not...this.
Naruto let out a quiet breath and looked away.
Somebody must have told him. It was the only real explanation. There was no way Sasuke would be acting like...this otherwise. It was weird. It was freaking him out. It was—
He turned back to stare at the Uchiha, who was still obviously pretending not to notice him—
Sasuke was doing this on purpose.