It’s Thursday, and as always, the market sits glowing on the corner.
For Sasuke, the journey home is punctuated by the stall of the train, the steam of the underground crawling up through metal grates to roll along the sidewalk beside him, beneath the flat, towering overhangs of unfinished construction like a dog at his heels. It’s a welcome warmth now, in the dreariest weeks of autumn.
He’d forgotten his subway pass at the market today, along with the keys to their apartment upstairs and Madara’s van. He could expect two tongue lashings today; one from Itachi for farehopping, and one from Madara that would be incomprehensible and only tangentially related to his irresponsibility.
A right shame, as Naruto had promised to visit him later in the evening.
Sasuke slips in through the market’s side door, moving quietly through the chill of the stockroom. He catches a whiff of something particularly coppery and wonders immediately what Madara has gotten up to now, whether he’ll ask sasuke to move laundered coins or stolen jewelry or if maybe, God willing, would let him work the evening shift in relative peace.
He wasn’t really sure what it was his uncle got up to between shifts. Madara often came home in the wee hours of the morning spattered with blood and smelling of smoke, sometimes leaving a trail of ornate looking brooches or unmarked bills in the foyer of their apartment on his short journey to the couch. Once, Sasuke had come home late to find Madara lying prone on a tarp with his side split open, Hashirama apologizing profusely for the mess as he wrenched a bullet from the Uchiha’s body, wearing the gloves they used for dishes.
Always, Itachi watched skeptically from the precipice of his bedroom, some days looking more tired than others. He was never amused by Madara’s antics. Sasuke wondered if either of them ever slept.
He shuts the stockroom door behind him and starts towards the counter, greeted by the static of the radio, the crumple of tissue paper and and fragrant smell of lamb. He revels in the relative and unusual comfort of his home for only a moment before a wooden sandal smacks him in the side of the head.
“'Ana dhahib liqatik.”
Madara comes barreling from behind the counter, the links around his neck clattering ominously as he comes to retrieve his sandal. Sasuke rubs the side of his head.
“You’re going to kill me,” he repeats, exasperated, “Why are you going to kill me?”
With a huff, Madara toes his sandal back on, folding his arms across his broad chest and glowering down at his nephew. Sasuke notices with no small amount of amusement that his sandals are emblazoned with delicate, feminine beadwork- no doubt a gift from Hashirama, but amusing to see his behemoth of an uncle in nonetheless.
Not that Madara was particularly imposing, really. Not physically, at least; Sasuke still had an inch or two on the man, even wearing his beloved platform sandals, but there was something particularly monstrous about the man’s aura and demeanour no matter how eagerly he spoiled Sasuke. Itachi speculated it was because he was a crime lord, but Sasuke tended to drown his older brother out when he launched into such conspiratorial things.
“You left me with your keys,” Madara snaps, “All day, behind the counter. Couldn’t even go out to lunch. Now you’re late, and your brother is scheming.”
“Scheming,” Sasuke repeats, “Scheming, like, how?”
Madara gestures wildly, tossing his mess of dark hair over to one side of his head in his frenzy. It makes him look younger, somehow. “Taking notes. Who taught him to do that? I’m going to kill your father too, that he didn’t teach either of you a word of Arabic. Akhi wasted time teaching you to scheme.”
“I don’t scheme,” Sasuke says flatly, “Itachi schemes.” He pats Madara’s shoulder lightly, offering him a performatively apologetic smile. “I’m sorry I’m late, Em. I was distracted.”
“By a girl,” Madara grumbles. He starts back towards the counter, sweeping his wild hair into a low ponytail that makes him look strangely intimidating, even as he wraps it in one of Tsunade’s hair ties. “Women are troublesome, ebn akhi. They trifle like Itachi.”
Sasuke scoffs. “I thought Itachi schemes.”
Madara whirls around, nostrils flaring. “He does both.”
When Naruto shows up around six, Madara is wearing gloves and counting cash beneath the counter, smoking through an open carton of cigarettes. He’s cranky, Sasuke notices, swearing beneath his breath and shoveling chocolates decorated with gold leaf into his mouth between smokes.
“Those look fancy,” Sasuke says offhandedly.
“You have as many as you like,” Madara grunts, “If you like them I’ll get you one hundred boxes. Itachi can’t have any unless he stops scheming.”
“I refuse to have any unless you apologize for yelling at me.”
Madara sighs and sets aside a stack of bills beneath the counter, sandwiched between two crates of hard candies. He leans over and wraps his arms around Sasuke’s shoulders, pillowing his head in the crook of the boy’s neck. It’s a strangely comforting gesture, Sasuke thinks, perhaps because it’s so genuine.
“You’re my dearest one,” Madara grumbles, “I’d burn the world for you.”
“Oh yeah?” Sasuke asks, smiling lightly, “How would Hashirama feel if he heard you say that to me?”
Madara scoffs, holding him tighter. “I don’t care. He’s on my last nerves.”
The bell at the front of the store chimes once, twice.
Sasuke perks up slightly. Naruto comes stumbling into the store, his jacket slick with rain and his cheeks flushed from exertion. He sidesteps the wooden crates of produce that jut out awkwardly into the entryway and makes his way to the counter, smiling broadly.
Immediately, and with no mind paid to Madara wrapped around him, he shoots forward to grab Sasuke’s idle hands.
“Hey,” Naruto gasps, smiling brightly.
“Hey,” Sasuke replies. He squeezes his hands lightly.
Some first date it was, Sasuke thinks, Naruto showing up to keep him company during his shift at the market.
It wasn’t that Madara was a particularly strict guardian- Itachi was far more protective of Sasuke in that regard- but Sasuke felt a strange sense of obligation when it came to his uncle. Perhaps it was because he’d spent the entirety of Sasuke’s childhood providing for him, had taken him and his brother into his care when his parents decided to return home without them, spoiled Sasuke with sports cars and designer clothes, practiced his English just to help Sasuke with his homework.
He was monstrous, yes, but he was deeply kind, even to Itachi who, for some reason, seemed to harbor a tremendous deal of resentment towards him.
Naruto is beaming up at him, only a little unnerved by Madara draped around his shoulders like a mink stole.
“Are you Uncle Madara?”
Madara grunts softly, that clever, proud smile of his creeping onto his features. “I don’t know you.” He withdraws from Sasuke, dropping to his haunches and sweeping the abandoned cash into his arms. When he stands up again, he’s smiling crookedly at Naruto, his wine-dark eyes scanning him up and down, committing every inch of him to memory. “I’ve never met you before.”
“He’s trying to be nice,” Sasuke explains, smiling apologetically at Naruto, “But he’s a big dumb commie who doesn’t speak a lot of English.”
Madara is still smiling proudly, clearly only distantly aware of what Sasuke’s said, loose bills spilling over the sleeves of his cashmere sweater. Naruto offers him a polite wave.
“I’m Uzumaki Naruto. It’s nice to meet you, Uncle Madara.”
Madara opens his mouth to say something when he hears a sports car screech to a halt outside.
The bell above the door rings twice again, and in stumbles Hashirama, still dressed to the nines in his suit from work, holding his briefcase closed as he hurries up to the counter. Sasuke grimaces.
“‘Ana ‘ukrihukum,” Madara barks, clambering around the counter and hurrying to the stockroom with Hashirama in tow, “Do you know Itachi is somewhere, scheming, and you come in here like this-”
The two of them disappear around a shelf of shampoos and bath salts and into the stockroom, leaving Sasuke with Naruto, Madara’s cigarettes, and an open box of chocolates. Naruto is smiling up at him, his hair hanging in loose coils around his face, beads of rain rolling down his dark skin.
“He’s funny,” Naruto offers.
“He sure is.”
At the back of the store, Sasuke hears a freezer fall open, and something hits the floor with a resounding plop. From the stockroom, Madara roars.
It’s Saturday, and the market sits glowing on the corner.
Naruto has a bouquet of roses folded into the crook of his elbow, is wearing a hideous, orange paisley shirt he’s done a shoddy job of ironing, and he’s buzzing with the energy of the city on the weekend, with the nervous excitement of sitting down to dinner with Sasuke in his home.
Rather than stand gawking up at the warm red and green neon glowing against the autumn sky, he hurries into the market, the screen door slamming shut behind him.
It’s quiet, the only sound the soft turning of pages and the hum of jazz on the radio.
There’s a frail looking boy at the counter Naruto doesn’t recognize, his nose buried in a scientific journal, his hair swept back in a low bun, dark curls framing his face.
Naruto rests his forearms on the counter, the cellophane rustling around the roses. The boy at the counter looks up and smiles politely.
“Can I help you?”
His voice is surprisingly, almost unsettlingly cold. Naruto swallows thickly.
“I’m looking for-”
Immediately, the boy shoots up to his feet, his eyes going wide.
“You’re looking for Madara?”
Perplexed, Naruto smacks his lips and narrows his eyes. The boy looks like he’s vibrating, practically, his dark fingers splayed open on the counter, the set of his wide eyes hard and imploring.
“Actually,” Naruto clears his throat, “I’m looking for, er- Sasuke. Madara’s nephew? He invited me to dinner, I’ve assumed he lives in the upstairs apartment.”
“Oh,” the boy looks rather crestfallen at that, and he sinks back into the stool behind the counter. “You’ll have to go around the side of the building and ring the bell, then.” He crosses his legs on the counter and returns to his scientific journal without another word. Naruto grimaces.
“Hn. Don’t corrupt him any further.”
They eat dinner by candlelight, sitting cross-legged on the couch and holding their plates over an ornate looking coffee table affixed with a mirror. Sasuke looks striking as ever, his eyes smudged with last night’s eyeliner, his short, dark hair swept back and held in place with a pastel hair clip, light green and emblazoned with a plastic flower.
It’s incredible, Naruto thinks, how comfortable Sasuke must feel around him to not primp like he usually does. Though it makes Naruto feel strangely overdressed, he feels flattered- and, more than anything, endeared to Sasuke.
The door to the balcony is cracked slightly, letting in the familiar sounds of the city. It’s a symphony of sorts, Naruto thinks, the holler of businessmen barrelling down the sidewalks, the bellowing of the taxis, the distant roar of the ferry’s horn. It’s a welcome cacophony, intimate and ever-changing, and once he’s cleaned his plate, Naruto sets it aside and leans back, resting his head along the top edge of the futon and drinking it in.
“It’s like a night at the opera, huh?” Sasuke comments, as if reading his mind, “Loud, dirty city.”
“I love it here,” Naruto says absently. He looses a sigh, stretching his arms out across the length of the couch and resting his ankle on his knee. After a beat of silence, Sasuke slots himself against Naruto’s side, pillowing his head on his shoulder after he’s abandoned the last third of his dinner on the coffee table.
Without thinking, Naruto reaches down and drags a hand through the loose curls tucked behind Sasuke’s ear. “You’re an incredible cook,” he murmurs, kissing his fingers with his free hand, “I wish you’d cook for me every day.”
Sasuke snickers. He pulls himself up slightly, turning to kneel, pressing his thigh against Naruto’s. He cocks his head slightly. “You’d like to keep me as a housewife?”
Naruto shrugs. He leans forward slightly, tilting his head to the side and letting his eyes fall shut, smiling expectantly. “Maybe. That could be nice.”
With a soft smile, Sasuke leans forward a bit further, just enough to close the distance between them. Naruto lets out a breathy laugh. “I like you. A lot.”
Sasuke is close enough now that Naruto can feel the breath he looses against his lips in a quiet laugh, and he reaches up to press his palm against the other boy’s cheek.
“I like you t-”
The front door to the apartment slams open with such force it tears off the top set of hinges, and Sasuke goes streaking from Naruto’s side like a cat startled from it’s perch, leaving the blonde grasping at his chest in abject horror.
Madara stands in the doorway, his bare chest smeared with dirt and blood. He’s barefoot, wearing nothing but a pair of shuttered sunglasses as a headband and a pair of fleece pajama bottoms ripped open at the knee. Sasuke glowers at him.
“You’re lucky to see me wearing anything at all,” Madara snaps. He raises his clenched fist, loosely gripping bloodstained strings of pearls and diamonds. “I have jewelry for Naruto. I worked very hard to get it. Where is your scheming brother? Naruto, welcome to our family. These are for you.”