In between knocking on his brother’s door and waiting for an answer, it occurs to Sasuke that he’s probably made a huge mistake.
“Let’s go over it one more time,” he says instead of panicking. (Outwardly panicking, anyway. As it is, Sasuke’s inner panicking is being held at bay only by the knowledge that they’ve spent days preparing for this.)
Naruto rolls his eyes. Quelling the murderous instincts within, Sasuke forcefully reminds himself that Naruto hasn’t met any other members of the family Uchiha, and therefore doesn’t realize yet that what he calls ‘paranoia’ would be better described by Sasuke as ‘finely honed self-preservation instincts’.
“Rule one: Don’t eat anything Itachi cooked,” Naruto deadpans, ticking off items on his fingers. “Rule two: Don’t bring up the fifth season of Game Of Thrones in front of him.”
“And?” Sasuke presses.
Naruto squints at him. “Y’know, I still don’t get why I have to remember all these weird rules just to meet your family. It’s like you don’t trust me or something.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” Sasuke replies darkly. “Also, you’re not going to distract me with a guilt trip.”
Naruto sighs like he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“Rule three: Ignore whatever Shisui says.”
And that, conveniently enough, is when the door opens.
It’s Itachi who answers for once, which is also convenient—Sasuke’s nerves are frayed enough as it is without having to deal with Shisui right off the bat. Even if his brother does appear to have tinsel braided into his hair, which…Sasuke is not going to waste valuable brain cells thinking about right now.
“Sasuke,” Itachi greets him warmly. His eyes slide to the blond elephant in the room, and Sasuke immediately begins to sweat. “And you must be…”
“Naruto,” the elephant in question says, offering a tanned hand and a cheerful grin. “Naruto Uzumaki. Nice to meetcha.”
His brother recovers admirably, his pause barely a pause at all, but Sasuke still notices it. He sympathizes; Naruto with the charm turned on is…disarming.
(Of course then there’s the more obvious reason for Itachi’s confusion, but Sasuke is definitely not thinking about that. He needs alcohol first.)
Itachi shakes Naruto’s hand with a polite smile. “It’s good to meet you as well. Please come in.”
When they do, Sasuke’s mental state is forced to take a quick detour from low-key panic to comfortable disgust.
Sasuke rubs at his forehead. Maybe if he rubs hard enough, it will go away.
Nope. Still here.
“Why is there mistletoe over every doorframe?” he asks. This is almost worthy of congratulations; Sasuke’s pretty sure his Personal Despair level has never hit rock bottom so fast. “Aren’t you married now? Isn’t the romance supposed to be over?”
Shisui’s voice comes from the kitchen. “Boring normal-people rules don’t apply to true love, Sasuke,” he calls—and ah yes, there’s the twitch in Sasuke’s eye, right on schedule.
His brother’s insane husband makes his entrance wearing Itachi’s lurid purple oven mitts and practically drooling over the marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes in his arms. At least he sets the pot down before carrying on the conversation; Shisui has a tendency to talk with his hands.
“Good to see you, squirt,” Shisui says cheerfully. Sasuke isn’t looking at Naruto, but he’s depressingly familiar at this point with the sound of someone choking on their own laughter, so it’s a moot point.
They go through the introductions again while Sasuke is still attempting to pull the tattered edges of his dignity back into a (somewhat threadbare) whole. Shisui, as far as he can tell, isn’t batting an eyelash at Naruto’s presence—or Naruto’s gender. Which Sasuke had left purposely vague when he’d called to let Itachi know he would be bringing a guest.
It’s a hell of a way to come out to your family, by bringing a heretofore-unknown boyfriend to Christmas dinner, but Sasuke’s never been one to do anything by halves. He thinks Itachi and Shisui of all people can understand that.
“So, Naruto,” Shisui is saying, with a grin that has never preceded anything but long-lasting trauma, “are you the guy who’s going to keep my baby bro-in-law from being a grumpy bastard all the time?”
Sasuke finds himself unable to say anything in response, his face frozen in what he can only imagine is a rictus of utter horror.
“That’s the plan,” Naruto says (the traitor, the soon-to-be-celibate traitor). “It’s gonna take a while, though.”
Shisui fucking beams like he just got the best Christmas present ever.
“I like you,” he announces, and nods approvingly at Sasuke. “He can stay.”
“I hate both of you,” Sasuke croaks, but all that does is encourage them to make faces like he’s a fucking kitten caught in a ball of string. He used to have a reputation, dammit. He used to be respected—feared, even. But any respect Shisui once had for him seems to have evaporated ever since Sasuke gave his permission for him to propose, and Naruto has gotten suspiciously less accommodating since he and Sasuke became A Thing.
Itachi has said nothing throughout this exchange (Sasuke assumes he’s achieved a state of Zen on the level with Buddha himself at some point—it’s the only way Sasuke can comprehend someone like his brother being married to Shisui without losing his mind), but he clears his throat now.
“I am going to take the turkey out of the oven, now that we’re all here,” he says. “Shisui, the oven mitts…”
Naruto takes the opportunity to move closer to Sasuke while the couple is distracted.
“See? What was all the fuss about?” he says under his breath. “Shisui likes me already!”
The reality hits Sasuke in the head like an Acme anvil: he’s been worrying about the wrong thing. He’d been preoccupied with the possibility of Itachi tossing Naruto out on his loudmouthed ass; he hadn’t even considered what, realistically, would happen once he put Shisui and Naruto in the same room.
Sasuke is never going to have a moment’s peace again.
Shisui, seeing Sasuke’s face and misinterpreting the look of his soul vacating his mortal body, adopts a conspiratorial whisper as Itachi disappears into the kitchen.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you earlier, but I’ve finally worn him down,” Shisui says, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Itachi hasn’t snuck in like a ninja without his noticing. “Put on the puppy-dog eyes and told him I really wanted to cook, since this is our first Christmas married and all that. So you're mostly safe.”
Naruto, probably remembering Sasuke’s repeated instructions to store Itachi’s cooking in his cheeks like a squirrel and then spit it out at the nearest opportunity, nods sagely. But Sasuke, who knows all too well how Shisui’s verbal equivocating works, narrows his eyes and zeros in on the qualifier.
“What do you mean ‘mostly’?”
Shisui cringes. “He looked kind of bummed about it, so I may or may not have told him he could handle dessert.”
On instinct Sasuke cranes his neck to get a glimpse of the kitchen, which against all odds appears to be still in one piece. “What did he try to make?”
“No idea,” Shisui says grimly. “He kept chasing me out when I tried to do reconnaissance.”
“It can’t be that bad, right?” Naruto chirps, putting his arm around Sasuke’s shoulder in what he probably thinks is a bracing way. “I mean, it might taste like shit but it’s not gonna kill us or anything.”
Sasuke sees his own haunted expression mirrored on Shisui’s face.
“Didn’t you tell him about Thanksgiving?” Shisui asks in a hush.
Memories of fire trucks (four, there had been four of them) and the wailing of sirens dance uncomfortably in Sasuke’s head.
“No,” he says, and considers adding I didn’t want to scare him off that quickly before dismissing it as too suggestive that he cares what Naruto thinks. Which is bullshit, by the way. Instead he settles for, “It didn’t seem relevant at the time.”
“He said not to eat anything his brother cooked,” Naruto adds helpfully. “So, y’know, at least I was warned.”
“Sasuke gave you a heads-up about anything? Must be love,” Shisui drawls, causing Sasuke to temporarily swallow his tongue. “Now if you’ll both excuse me, I’m going to make sure Itachi isn’t trying to ‘enhance’ the damn turkey, because he’s taking way too long in there.”
“I’ll go,” Sasuke blurts, not looking at Naruto—if Shisui vanishes after making a stupid statement like that, he’s going to leave awkward silence in his wake like a dust cloud and Sasuke is a big fan of tactical retreat.
Shisui glances sideways at Naruto. “Uh—”
“Go for it,” Naruto says breezily, waving him off. “I wanted to ask Shisui about that cool sword over there anyway.”
Sasuke feels a sudden and embarrassing rush of—something, something he refuses to call fondness because he’d never hear the end of it. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he says, and makes his way over to the kitchen as Naruto begins to loudly interrogate Shisui about the heirloom katana on their bookshelf.
Itachi is standing in the tiny kitchen wearing an apron and those hideous purple mitts, and he’s staring down the turkey on the oven like he thinks it’s going to pounce.
“There is something questionable about this turkey,” he says gravely, which at least saves Sasuke from having to ask.
“Everything to do with Shisui is questionable by association,” Sasuke replies on automatic before getting to the point. “Is that why you’re lurking in here?”
Itachi looks surprised. “I am not ‘lurking’.”
“Yes, you are. And you’ve been lurking since we got here.”
His brother is quiet for a second.
“Naruto seems…nice,” he says at last, but there’s a question in it, and Sasuke’s heart drops to someplace in the vicinity of his socks.
Not that he’s ever going to admit it, but this is exactly what he had been afraid of.
“Nice,” Sasuke repeats, flatly. “That’s great, Itachi. That’s a ringing endorsement. If you’re going to lie to me can you at least put some damn effort into it?”
Itachi frowns. “I was not—”
But Sasuke’s nerves have been raw for days, ever since he blurted that he might, you know, not actually hate it if Naruto came over for Christmas, and now it’s like all the stress and the second-guessing he’s expertly compressed is exploding all over the kitchen walls.
“I’m not an idiot. You’ve been making yourself scarce since we showed up, and if you’re got a problem with the fact that I have a boyfriend then could you please just spit it out already? Even if it’s hypocritical bullshit, because you—” Sasuke notes despairingly that he’s starting to flail. This is not going well at all. “You are married to our cousin, okay? Which means you don’t get to judge my love life. At all. Ever.”
By the time Sasuke’s finished with his word vomit Itachi has stopped looking confused and instead adopted an expression Sasuke remembers well from his early years. It’s the patient look of an elder brother waiting out a younger sibling’s tantrum.
“Are you finished?” Itachi asks lightly, and takes Sasuke’s glare for assent. “I wasn’t judging anyone, Sasuke. Least of all you. I was merely taken aback because you had never mentioned a boyfriend.” He tilts his head. “Or boys in general.”
Sasuke swallows hard.
It doesn’t seem right somehow that his genius brother could have such a shitty gaydar, especially when Sasuke’s high school career had involved joining a mixed martial arts club largely for the purpose of beating the shit out of the assholes who kept spray-painting slurs on his locker (a form of passive-aggressive bullying that had been a) unoriginal as hell and b) a pain in the ass to clean, at least until he earned his black belt and they wised up and knocked it the fuck off).
But then again, he’s never really had to keep secrets from Itachi, so maybe Itachi just hadn’t thought to consider the possibility. Sasuke’s heart sinks through his socks and slumps right through the flooring; if he listens carefully, he imagines he can hear it hitting the floor of the apartment below.
“I wasn’t trying to hide it from you or anything,” he mumbles. “And this whole thing with Naruto just…happened.”
(Actually, Sasuke’s still not a hundred percent clear on how Naruto had convinced him to go out in the first place. Naruto probably took advantage of him when he was weak after another double shift; that’s what Sasuke likes to tell himself, anyway.)
“Well, I like him.” Itachi smiles a bit when Sasuke looks up in surprise. “Is that a better endorsement for you?”
“You talked to him for all of two seconds,” Sasuke protests.
Itachi shrugs. “I am an excellent judge of character.”
There’s a thud and a yelp from the living room, followed by a succession of smaller thuds and more yelps that sound extremely Shisui-ish in pitch. Itachi closes his eyes as if praying for patience—maybe he hasn’t gone full-on Bodhisattva after all.
“Not a word,” Itachi warns, eyes still closed. Sasuke allows himself a smirk.
“I didn’t say anything.”
His brother sighs. “Should we bring out the food before either of our significant others manage to significantly injure themselves?”
“Probably.” Sasuke hesitates. “Sorry I bitched at you.”
Itachi just smiles at him, and Sasuke knows he’s already been forgiven.
Of course Itachi is still Itachi, and along with his affection inevitably comes his overprotectiveness. Tonight he chooses to strike while scooping out portions of mashed potatoes.
“So, Naruto,” he says in a deceptively casual tone. “How long have you been dating my brother?”
Sasuke twitches. “Itachi, can we please not.”
His brother looks at him innocently. “I was only making polite conversation.”
“Besides,” Shisui puts in, “it’s good to get some practice in if you’re planning on introducing him to the parents. Your dad’s way scarier than either of us.”
Sasuke privately disagrees, but as Naruto doesn’t appear to be shriveling up in fear yet he decides to leave it alone.
“Couple of months,” Naruto answers, helping himself to the potatoes. “An’ then I screwed up with rent and couldn’t get home for Christmas, so Sasuke asked if I wanted to come and meet the famous brother and his husband.”
(That hadn’t exactly been the way Sasuke put it—he’s pretty sure the words ‘come and see the circus’ had left his mouth at one point—but he has to give Naruto grudging points for going with ‘husband’ instead of the twitch-inducing ‘brother-in-law’ or somewhat messy ‘cousin’.)
Shisui looks impressed. “So he talks about us, huh? Funny, Sasuke, I would’ve sworn you’d try to pretend I didn’t exist outside of these walls.”
“Oh sure,” Naruto says cheerfully. “He’s always goin’ on about his perfect brother and his pain-in-the-ass c—oh.”
Any feeling of relief Sasuke might have felt goes right out the window. Sasuke imagines he’ll be following it shortly.
He doesn’t need to look to see that Naruto’s gone bright red, his brain catching up to his mouth at last. Sasuke wonders, mournfully, how long it would take to seek sweet death in the arms of the mashed potatoes.
But suffocation is messy, and they just splurged on a new (which is to say, non-moldy) carpet. Sasuke sighs quietly and resigns himself to life once more.
He looks apprehensively at the happy couple on the other side of the table.
Shisui is shaking his head. “You punk,” he grumbles. “Years of awesome birthday presents and this is the thanks I get? Pain in the ass? You didn’t even mention handsome?”
“Such a ringing endorsement,” Itachi says in the driest of voices. His eyes are sharp. “And yet you still came.”
“Well, yeah,” Naruto says sheepishly. “’Course I did. He asked.”
Sasuke blinks and turns. Naruto is meeting Itachi’s eyes, red-faced but resolute. And Itachi…
Itachi is smiling.
“Of course,” he says, and whatever weird tension there had been in the room before is gone. Sasuke sighs.
“Dolt,” he mutters, smacking Naruto in the arm. Naruto glares and opens his mouth to retaliate, but Shisui—predictably—gets there first.
“Wow,” his cousin says with mock gravity. “He’s still this bitchy with you even after he put out?”
Itachi and Naruto both emit choking noises at the same time, which would be a lot funnier if Sasuke weren’t suddenly preoccupied with not launching himself across the table and throttling Shisui. But it’s Christmas, so he pastes a smile on his face.
“I hate everything about you,” he says sweetly.
Shisui tsks. “Quoting Three Days Grace at me, squirt? I thought your emo phase ended years ago.”
“His what?” Naruto sounds far too gleeful at the prospect of Sasuke’s retrospective humiliation. Sasuke scowls across the table.
“Are you going to carve your damn turkey or not?” he snaps.
“You ruin all my fun,” Naruto informs him while Shisui contemplates the turkey. “You’re a fun ruiner, Sasuke.”
“At least I don’t have a big mouth,” Sasuke retorts. Naruto looks unimpressed.
“You never complain about it when—”
Itachi pointedly clears his throat. Sasuke reconsiders the mashed potato option.
“Bird’s served,” is all Shisui says, but the shit-eating grin on his face is enough to tell Sasuke that he heard too. Yes, suffocation is beginning to look more appealing by the second.
But of course Naruto has no such shame. He says a bright “Thanks for the food”, and they all dig in.
Or, more accurately, they all take one bite and stiffen in their seats.
Sasuke has a second where he thinks it’s just him—maybe God deciding to take his halfhearted pleas for death seriously after all. But then he sees Shisui’s mouth twisting, his brother’s face going unnervingly still and Naruto—well, Naruto is turning green.
As delicately as he possibly can, Sasuke spits the offending bite into his napkin.
“Shisui,” he says calmly, “what the actual fuck?”
He can pinpoint the moment Shisui swallows, because his cousin’s eyes begin to water. “I’m not this shitty of a cook!” he protests. “I swear! I had to get good, it was a matter of survival—ow!”
Itachi smoothly withdraws his elbow. “Did you follow the recipe?” he asks.
“Obviously, I’m not a total dipshit!”
“Are you sure about that?” Sasuke says, maybe more sharply than he normally would because Naruto’s face is still an abnormal color and it’s starting to freak him out. For fuck’s sake, if he’d wanted to off his boyfriend, there were easier and subtler ways to do it.
“Can it, shrimp, I didn’t see you offering to cook—”
“Because I stupidly thought you had it under control!”
“Shisui,” Itachi interjects. “Did you wash the turkey beforehand?”
Shisui looks affronted. “Yes.”
“Did you defrost it first?”
“Are your teeth still in your head?”
“Did you remember to remove the organ bag?”
Naruto gags. Sasuke wordlessly offers his (soon-to-be-ex, the way this evening is going) boyfriend an extra napkin.
Shisui rolls his eyes. “Yeah, ‘tachi, I remembered to take out the damn organ bag, it’s not exactly something I was going to forget—”
“But did you check both ends?”
There’s a very heavy pause.
In a quieter voice than Sasuke’s used to hearing from him, Shisui says, “You’re supposed to take the organs out of both ends?”
Itachi sighs. Sasuke leans back in his chair, abruptly exhausted.
“‘Matter of survival’ my ass,” he mutters. “Congratulations, Shisui, you just joined my brother in the pantheon of Uchihas who can’t fucking cook.”
“Hey! At least I didn’t almost burn the whole complex down!”
“No, you just almost poisoned us all with bird organs.”
Shisui is scowling, but any further retort is cut off by Naruto apparently choking on whatever bits of bird organ he hasn’t yet spat out (and incidentally, Sasuke is going to murder Shisui for creating a situation in which that sentence makes sense). Sasuke turns to him and tries not to name the feeling curdling in his gut. He reminds himself that it’s no skin off his nose if Naruto decides to run and not look back, but he’d still rather not watch the idiot die in his brother’s apartment.
Naruto, the realization dawns, is laughing. Laughing so hard he’s practically shaking with it.
“Holy shit,” he croaks. “Is it like this all the time with you guys? Is this an Uchiha thing?”
Sasuke thinks about protesting, but it’s been a long-ass night and quite frankly he’s tired, so he shrugs instead.
“Never a dull day,” Shisui says, sounding way too cheery for someone who nearly committed manslaughter via Christmas dinner. He coughs. “So, um, not to draw attention to my pretty spectacular fuckup, but this turkey’s inedible now, right?”
“Correct,” Itachi answers, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Another silence as they stare morosely at weeks of turkey sandwiches that will never be.
Then, hesitantly, Naruto speaks up. “Do you have any noodles?”
Itachi looks up again. “Yes. Why?”
Naruto gulps. “I can, uh…I mean, I make a pretty damn good bowl of noodles. It’s basically the only thing I know how to cook, so if you guys want…?”
Sasuke raises his eyebrows. He looks over at Shisui, who turns to Itachi.
Itachi stares at them all for a long moment before letting out a huffed laugh.
“Why not,” he says. “Would you like to borrow some oven mitts?”
Thankfully for whatever is left of Sasuke’s sanity, the rest of the night passes without major incident. (Although to be fair, Sasuke thinks, it would be really fucking hard to top near-death-by-turkey.) Naruto makes good on his word and comes up with a ramen dish that actually isn’t half bad, not that Sasuke’s going to tell him that or he’ll never eat anything else when he stays over. The only other hiccup comes when Itachi produces his previously unseen mystery dessert, a complicated hybrid of fruitcake and English Christmas pudding—which, to the surprise of absolutely no one, turns out to be a combination man was not meant to make.
Itachi takes one look at their faces post-bite and lets out a sigh of defeat.
“There is ice cream in the freezer,” he says, and that is blessedly the end of that.
So now they’re eating vanilla ice cream topped with whatever Shisui could dig out of the fridge, ranging from maple syrup (Shisui) to crumbled bits of candy (Sasuke) to chopped fruit (Itachi and, bizarrely, Naruto).
It hasn’t been that long, Sasuke realizes, since he was sitting at this very table for another Christmas dinner and silently flipping his shit over the thought of Shisui proposing. It hasn’t been long at all, actually, because Itachi was terrifyingly efficient even when it came to his own wedding.
Those early days are almost weird to think about now that he’s accepted Shisui as a permanent fixture (mostly because the reality was forced on him, but still). It’s like so much has changed, but at the same time, nothing feels that different. He supposes there’s something to be said for that, even if it does mean he still feels like strangling Shisui on a weekly basis.
Naruto tries to help with the cleaning up, but Itachi stops him with a firm, “We will get the dishes.”
Shisui groans, holding his stomach. “We will? Shouldn’t we be rewarding the kid’s initiative or—”
“Shisui,” Itachi interrupts. “We will get the dishes.”
Something about his tone gets Shisui moving without any further protest; Sasuke is suspicious but decides not to think about it too hard. He’s learned to take blissful ignorance wherever he can get it.
Once they’re gone, Naruto immediately turns to Sasuke.
“So, did I pass?”
Sasuke looks at him blankly. “Pass what?”
“Hurricane Uchiha,” Naruto explains. “Y’know, I figured I was being tested or something. And you brought me to meet your brother before your parents, so I’m guessing he’s the harder sell, right? But I think this went pretty well. I mean, considering.”
Considering the Griswold-level comedy of errors we’ve just been subjected to? Sasuke thinks, but as everything seem to have worked out for the best, he lets it go.
(At least for now. Obviously Shisui is never going to live this fiasco down; Sasuke’s going to be bringing it up in birthday cards for years to come.)
“So,” Naruto presses, “did I pass? Or is your brother gonna make me disappear for defiling your virtue or whatever?”
Sasuke rolls his eyes. “You passed with flying colors,” he admits—it’s Christmas, he figures he can afford to cut Naruto some slack.
He still tacks on a “Moron”, though. It won’t do either of them any favors if he lets Naruto’s head inflate too much, because at some point Sasuke would have to murder him and hiding a body just sounds like a massive pain in the ass.
Naruto is beaming now, which is kind of like staring into the sun. Sasuke coughs and hunts for a different topic of conversation. “What the hell are they doing in there, anyway?”
“Why don’tcha just look?” Naruto demands, and before Sasuke can warn him the idiot is practically climbing on the table in an effort to see into the kitchen.
He withdraws pretty fast, though.
“Huh,” Naruto says. “So—”
Sasuke holds up a hand. “Does it involve mistletoe?”
“Yep. Lots of it.”
“Great,” Sasuke mutters. “We'll be lucky if they remember we’re here sometime in the next hour.”
Naruto shrugs. His eyes have caught on something over Sasuke’s head, and he’s grinning again. Sasuke narrows his eyes.
“Your brother-in-law is really thorough,” Naruto tells him, which clarifies exactly nothing. Sasuke’s already looking up as he replies.
“Why does nothing you say ever make any sen—oh.” There’s a giant sprig of mistletoe dangling over his head, because of course there is. Shisui might as well carpet the ceiling in the stuff next year; Sasuke is opening his mouth to grumble something to this effect, but suddenly he’s got an armful of blond and a warm mouth pressed rather insistently to his, and complaining about Shisui is promptly moved to the back burner of his mind.
Hell, Sasuke might even end up thanking him for going overboard. Now that would be a Christmas miracle if he ever saw one.