When Naruto stepped into the shop, he crinkled his nose at the overwhelming smell of piss. There was very little light, and the place seemed a tad cooler than the outside. It felt like walking into someone’s basement.
He let the door shut behind him, causing all outside light to completely disappear. Precautiously, Naruto went in a little deeper into the shop.
“Well, if it isn’t the great Mr. Uzumaki. So delighted to see you here.”
A pale man with long, black hair emerged from the shadows, his eyes unnaturally yellowed and snakelike. His tone seemed far too polite. The man put his hands together and rubbed them, as if anticipating easy money from Naruto.
“It would do you well to clean and air out the place once in a while, Orochimaru. Your...inventory would be less susceptible to disease.”
Orochimaru’s lips curled in a creepy smile, the man’s eyes narrowing a bit as he replied, “It doesn’t cost much to replace lost inventory, but I will definitely consider your advice. But you must be here for some other reason than to offer me business tips, am I right? What should I do for you today?”
Naruto had turned away from Orochimaru and was looking around the shop. Along the walls, there were cells, cages for the shop’s inventory. And although his eyes had adjusted to the dim light settings, he still had trouble seeing far into the cells.
Ignoring Orochimaru for the time being, Naruto walked up to the cells and peered past the bars. Just as he moved closer to get a better look, an arm shot out and long nails scratched Naruto on the cheek.
“Shit!” he cried, startled at the sudden attack.
The shopkeeper shouted, “That’s enough from you!”
He walked over and opened the cell of the attacker. The figure inside shrank and backed into the shadows, where Naruto couldn’t see him. Orochimaru joined him in the shadows and a sick, deafening scream rang through the shop. The creepy snake-like man emerged from the cell and closed it behind him.
“Ah, I’m very sorry about that, Mr. Uzumaki. Usually they don’t misbehave, but this particular one has no sense of obedience. I’ve been trying to get rid of him for the past month.”
Naruto pressed his fingers to his cheek, then inspected them for any signs of blood. When he found none, he replied, “Not to worry. I’ve seen worse wounds on the battle front.”
He peered back into the same cell again, making sure to keep his distance. Squinting hard, Naruto was able to make out a thin figure in the back, sitting up against the wall.
“It’s a shame. He’s a pretty specimen, but most people don’t want him because he’s so rowdy,” Orochimaru said as Naruto continued to stare into the cell, “It’s costing me too much to keep him in there, too. Another week, and he’ll probably be put down.”
Naruto pressed his lips together in thought, his eyes looming over the figure in the cell.
“Actually,” Naruto said as he turned back to Orochimaru, “I can take him off your hands if you’d like, since I assume you’re offering him at a discount.”
Orochimaru’s eyes narrowed, only by a fraction of a millimeter, but Naruto noticed it. The blond stepped towards the cell and wrapped his hand around a bar.
“All right. Take him. He’s of no use to me, anyway.”
Orochimaru opened up the cell again and went back in, disappearing into the darkness momentarily. He came back out, holding onto a leash.
As the figure became illuminated from the still-dim lighting, Naruto’s eyes took in a treat.
The way his black hair fell across his eyes. And his stature! There were more than enough reasons to call him a gorgeous specimen. As if Orochimaru had heard his very thoughts, he tutted.
“It’s still too bad that he’s an elf. If he were a human, there’s no doubt he would be of royal blood.”
Orochimaru handed the leash over to Naruto, who took a hold of it. However, he approached the elf, who remained still, and undid the collar. It fell to the floor with a clink.
The black-haired elf looked down at the collar seemingly apathetic, his eyes never moving up.
But Naruto knew, despite the lack of reaction from the elf, that he was thankful that the godawful leather piece was off him.
Naruto walked out of the shop with his newly bought elf trudging behind. The blond male put his hands on his hips and turned to take a good look at him in the sunlight.
The small elf looked emaciated, as if he were just a few days from death. Naruto sighed and grabbed a small hand, perhaps a little too roughly, earning himself a hiss and a weak thwack on the hand.
“Don’t touch me,” the elf seethed.
Despite the obvious coldness from the elf, Naruto paid no attention and reached out -- this time more gently -- to grab the elf’s right hand in his.
“I’m Naruto,” the blond man said, “Naruto Uzumaki.”
When the elf said nothing, Naruto shrugged, put his hands in his pockets, and walked off. He didn’t even bother to turn around to check if the elf was following him or not.
But he heard the light footsteps of the elf behind him, and Naruto smiled to himself as he began to whistle and make his way home with an elf in tow.
“I’d say make yourself at home, but you’re filthy,” Naruto said blatantly, “I’ll bring you up a bath. Maybe then, after all the dirt’s been washed, you won’t be in such a miserable mood.”
The elf looked around the place, his eyes slightly wider than before. He seemed amazed at the size of Naruto’s home, but it was just a normal place for a spectacular warrior.
But Naruto was right. He was absolutely filthy, covered in dirt, and who knows what other substances.
“Can you tell me your name? Or am I going to have to call you “Elf” forever?”
The elf’s lip turned upward in a snarl. He followed after Naruto but remained silent.
When they made it to the bathroom, Naruto told the elf to undress while he started up a bath. The elf took his time peeling off the dirty rags, throwing them carelessly on the spotless tiled floor. The steam from the hot water started to spread throughout the enclosed room, and it was only a matter of time before the elf’s pale skin started to gain color.
“All right, get in, Elf,” Naruto said as he ushered the thin, naked body to the bathtub.
The elf let out a low growl, which rumbled in his chest and vibrated his bones.
“I’m not ‘Elf’.”
Naruto did not say anything to retaliate, but instead continued to push the elf towards the bath. The blond let him go when the water came terribly close; the elf gingerly dipped a hand in the warm water and, without warning, hopped in, causing some water to flow unexpectedly over the rim of the tub.
Naruto stood there in shock, the front of his clothes soaking wet. The elf gulped as he lowered himself into the water.
But instead of being angry, Naruto raised his eyebrows and let out a hearty chuckle. The elf perked his ears, something he hadn’t done in some time; but he had never heard such a deep, throaty, happy sound that wasn’t sexual.
“Okay Elf,” Naruto said as he grabbed a towel from the shelf, “I’ll get you some clothes. I doubt you’ll want to wear those dirty things again.”
Without another word, Naruto left the room.
The elf looked around calmly for a window. When he found none, he sighed and got out of the tub, not even bothering to towel himself off as he opened the very door Naruto left through. He glanced left, then right, down the halls and, when he found that no one was watching, the elf tiptoed quietly to his right, towards the entrance of the house.
He was just at the front door, his hand on the doorknob, when Naruto called out from behind him.
“Oi, Elf, what’re you doing out here?”
The elf let go of the doorknob like it had burned his hand and turned on his heel quickly. He shifted his gaze to Naruto’s feet and stood there silently, muddy water dripping off his naked form.
“You’re free to leave,” Naruto said off-handedly, “but I’m not sure how long you’d be able to roam the streets until you’re caught.”
Naruto knew he was right, too. In any case, an elf roaming the streets without a master nor a collar was deemed as free to capture. Any elf in their right mind would avoid going back to the shop if he could help it.
“I didn’t ask you to buy me,” the elf said quietly as he stepped away from the door.
Naruto sighed and stood in front of the small male, his arms crossed over his chest.
“I can return you to Orochimaru’s, if you’d like. They’d be willing to take you in again, I’m sure.”
Neither one said anything, though they glared at one another with a sort of glint in their eyes; they were definitely not hitting it off easy.
The elf was the first to move. Still dripping wet, he squelched his way past Naruto, back into the bathroom, where he -- this time calmly -- sat down in the bathtub. The water was still warm, but it had cooled quite a bit since he left it.
After a few minutes, Naruto came back into the bathroom with some clothes and set them onto the shelf. He looked over at the elf, who was still sitting in the tub, still rather filthy. Naruto sighed.
“Did you even bother looking for the soap?” Naruto asked, then added as an insult, “Elf?”
The reaction was immediate. The elf stood up from the tub and lunged toward Naruto, who was standing quite close in the first place. In a matter of seconds, they both landed on the ground with a hard thud, Naruto cushioning most of the elf’s fall.
“Stop calling me ‘Elf’! My name is Sasuke!”
Naruto, despite having been tackled to the ground and sat on top of by a dirty, naked elf, grinned.
“Sorry Sasuke,” Naruto apologized half-heartedly, “I thought I would have to go through the process of naming you myself.”
The blond male maneuvered expertly with the elf sitting on his torso and lifted the small body up before setting him back into the tub. He looked down at his newly-changed clothes, which were now dirty and wet yet again. His shoulders came up and fell back down, shrugging off any worries as he rolled up his sleeves.
“Oh well. Let’s get you cleaned up first, Sasuke.”
Sasuke nearly shrieked when Naruto lathered up the soap bar in his hands and rubbed them all over the small elf’s shoulders. The effects of the soap were almost immediate; grime slid off Sasuke’s skin, revealing surprisingly pale skin. The elf blushed as Naruto nodded his head and hummed in approval.
Then Naruto moved downwards, cleaning off some of the grime on the elf’s chest and back. Sasuke squirmed as they continued to move lower and lower, until they were at his waist. The small male felt his skin flush at the contact and nearly scooted away from those busy hands.
Naruto sat back on his knees; he had been kneeling on the floor the entire time he cleaned Sasuke.
“All right, stand up.”
And Sasuke obliged. Without further thought, Naruto rinsed his hands with the tub water, lathered up with soap, and proceeded to rub the elf clean in his lower regions. The entire time, Sasuke shut his eyes tight said not a word, concentrating on keeping his body under control as the gentle, but firm, hands massaged him.
At a particularly rough handling of Sasuke’s ball sac, he let out a small, strangled noise from his throat. Naruto’s hands stilled, and a wicked grin adorned his bright, tanned face. He hadn’t meant to do that, but the reaction he received was amusing.
The apology was half-hearted, and both Naruto and Sasuke knew it. The elf narrowed his eyes in a mean glare, but his face was heating up faster than he could ever imagine. He threw his hands over his private areas and frowned.
“I can clean myself now.”
Naruto shrugged and stood up straight, stretching his long torso as his arms reached upwards.
“Fine with me. Just towel yourself off after you’re done and unplug the tub. Clothes are over here. When you’re fully dressed, I’ll have supper for you.”
As he left the bathroom, Sasuke stared hard at the empty doorway and sat back down in the tub slowly. He lathered up the soap and moved his hands over his body, making sure to scrub whatever grime was left on him.
Naruto sat at the long side of the low-sitting table, his wardrobe changed to a traditional hakama. His right leg was up in an unceremonious pose, his arm balanced lazily on his knee as he held a small cup of sake.
He smiled when Sasuke stopped at the door of the dining room. The spare hakama he had given the elf was really too large for him and hung loosely on his skeletal frame.
Sasuke’s gaze was completely fixated on the table with supper sitting on it. Of course he’d be focused on that; the many different foods steamed deliciously on their plates, just waiting to be eaten.
Naruto mused a bit as he looked at Sasuke’s renewed appearance. Underneath all that grime, the elf actually had fine skin; it was pale but smooth -- as far as he could see. His hair, however, was slightly unruly from lack of care and was a bit too long. But that could be fixed later.
“You look much better,” Naruto said as he put his cup onto the table and patted the floor space to the right of him, “Come, sit. I’ll bet you’re hungry.”
Sasuke closed his mouth, realizing that he was shamelessly salivating. So he rubbed his mouth with the sleeve of the hakama, to which Naruto chuckled a bit.
However, when the elf took a step forward, he caught the hem of the hakama with his foot and fell forward. Naruto reached out in a lame attempt to save him, but he was too far from the door to do anything.
“Ouch,” Sasuke said simply as he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees.
But without another complaint, he crawled over -- the hakama dragging along with and behind him -- and promptly took a seat next to his master. His hands pressed together, he closed his eyes in a silent prayer and proceeded to reach for a strip of meat with his bare hands. He hissed when Naruto lightly smacked his hand, interfering with his supper.
“Use chopsticks, not your hands,” Naruto said as he picked up his own pair, “You may be an elf, but you’re going to be proper mannered, at the very least.”
Sasuke watched on as Naruto gripped his chopsticks and masterfully retrieved the very same piece of meat that he had been eyeing. But to his dismay, his master opened his mouth wide and stuffed it into his mouth, sucking on the ends of his wooden chopsticks.
“You’ve used chopsticks before, right?” Naruto said between chews.
The elf straightened up in his seat and replied -- as if offended, “Of course I have!”
To try to prove himself, he picked up the two sticks and positioned them awkwardly between his index finger and thumb. With all his might, he gripped them tightly and scissored them open before hovering towards the small meat plate. He slid one stick underneath a piece of meat and used the other to clamp down. But as he lifted the chopsticks up, the meat fell through the thin sticks and plopped back on to of the other pieces.
Naruto chuckled, and with no further words, wrapped his right arm around the small elf and guided Sasuke’s hand with his own.
“Here, try it like this,” he said.
The elf watched his hand, amazed when Naruto helped him successfully grab the piece of meat with no problems. But as soon as he let go, the meat fell back onto the plate.
“Practice makes perfect,” Naruto assured.
The blond male unwound his arm from Sasuke’s body and moved his own hand again, using his chopsticks to transfer the piece of meat onto the rice mound in Sasuke’s bowl.
The elf stared hard at the meat and gripped his chopsticks in determination. Like before, he maneuvered the wooden sticks so that one slid underneath the meat. The focus in his eyes seemed unwavering.
But after ten minutes of unsuccessful chopstick work, all of the food had cooled and Sasuke’s stomach was grumbling in hunger. Frustrated, he moved his head forward and picked up the meat with his teeth. He sat back and chewed hungrily, salivating extra as the flavors had time to marinate his tongue.
Naruto looked on, and his hearty laugh boomed through the room. Sasuke nearly choked on his saliva; he was so surprised to hear the sudden, happy sound again.
“You’ll get it eventually. Here, use these for now. They’re much easier than chopsticks.”
Opening Sasuke’s left hand, Naruto handed over a metal spoon and a metal fork. The elf inspected the utensils, then put aside the chopsticks as he held the spoon in his left and the fork in his right. He reached forward, stabbed another piece of meat from the plate, and ate it with much enthusiasm. With a clumsy left hand, he scooped up some rice into his mouth.
“Have some vegetables,” Naruto said as he put some unnamed greens in Sasuke’s bowl, “You need to have a proper diet, now that you’re out of that place.”
Sasuke stared at the boiled vegetables, took a sniff or two, and ate them precariously. Within two chews, he scrunched his nose and frowned at the bitterness. His master laughed once again, then proceeded to eat some of the vegetables himself without cringing, but made sure to chase it down with a tender piece of meat afterward.
But despite the elf’s apparent dislike for the taste, he stabbed a limp vegetable, then a piece of meat, and then ate them both in one bite before scooping some rice into his mouth. His cheeks puffed out with the overload of food.
And so it went for the next half hour. They mostly ate in silence, because Sasuke was too preoccupied stuffing his mouth with all the food he had never eaten before.
Naruto finished his meal before Sasuke and was gulping down some warm chicken broth from his now-empty rice bowl. As soon as Sasuke polished off the rest of his rice, the blond ladled some broth from a small crock pot into the empty bowl. The elf looked down at the liquid, which had bits of chicken meat and fat floating around in it.
“Drink. You’ll like it, I think,” Naruto said as he grinned at Sasuke.
The elf tipped the bowl upward, allowing the broth to flow into his mouth with ease. He paused for a moment or two, smacking his lips and letting the flavor fully settle on his tongue. It was seasoned with a little salt, and the taste of the fat in the broth had him gulping down the rest of the soup. He barely even noticed it spilling out from the bowl, dribbling down his chin.
When he put the bowl down, he realized that Naruto had been watching him the whole time. Sasuke’s entire face -- and perhaps his body -- flushed with embarrassment. He pressed his shiny lips together and ran a tongue over them, tasting the remnants of the broth.
Naruto rested his cheek on his hand, propping his elbow on the table. He smiled, but it only moved a fraction of his muscles as his lips curled upward only slightly.
“Orochimaru didn’t feed you much, did he?”
Sasuke froze at the thought of the shopkeeper who had made his life a living hell for the past couple months. He gripped the cloth of the hakama tightly in his fists and stared straight ahead, not really looking at anything that was in front of him.
The blond male noticed his tensing up, and sighed before picking up his sake cup.
“Well, whatever. You don’t need to be afraid anymore; you live here now.”
But despite his reassurance, Sasuke couldn’t be any less afraid. He barely knew his new master, and to be quite frank, he was not so willing to give in so easily to the blond’s easygoing demeanor. For all he knew, Naruto could be faking it. He could be a cruel master, who lulled his slaves into a deeply false sense of security before really breaking him in.
It had happened once before, and he was not ready to get his hopes up again.
Ten minutes after supper, Sasuke had started to feel his body tire from his excessive intake of food. He rubbed his eyes as he yawned; Naruto kept him by his side as he went about cleaning up the dishes on the table. Sasuke helped as much as he could, of course.
By the time the table was cleared and cleaned off, Sasuke’s eyes were watery from all the yawning he was doing.
When Naruto guided the sleepy elf to an empty tatami room, the elf half-expected him to jump his bones and ravage him, even against his will. The other elves back in the shop, they had told him horrible things: being forced to have sex with their masters in just the first night, getting beaten if they refused -- those were the things that he worried about the most his first night in his new master’s home.
The blond had gone over to the wall, slid a well concealed closet open, and brought out a futon. He laid it out, tucked Sasuke in, gave him a kiss on the forehead, and simply left the room. It seemed that Sasuke was given his own room, with his own futon, much to his great surprise.
The elf sat up from the comfortable bundle of sheets, though his body nearly begged him to lie back down and rest his weak muscles. It was strange to be treated as if he were a guest in the house. Hadn’t Naruto paid for him? Why was he being almost waited on, like a princess?
For the first time since being captured into slavery, Sasuke was wearing proper clothing that covered all of his body. His belly was comfortably full. He had his own place to sleep, with a comfortable futon, even. His master was, undoubtedly (and so far), a godsend.
But he couldn’t think about anything anymore; Sasuke was starting to finally feel all the bodily strain he had accumulated since the time he was sold to Orochimaru. The futon he was sitting on was a welcomed luxury that he had experienced once upon a time, but never in the shop.
As he lied back down and his eyelids fluttered shut, Sasuke could only think that this was, perhaps, the most fortunate he had ever been in his life.